Creating a life is (normally) a perfectly voluntary action with well known consequences, and hence the people involved are morally responsible for the result. But, what are the arguments for that the act of "remaining alive" is a voluntary action (and hence something you are responsible for) or an involuntary action (you can fall back on your instincts and you will survive) and therefore not something you are responsible for?

I tend to the latter, mainly because we are "biologically programmed" to survive: heights make most people uncomfortable, breathing is handled by the autonomous nervous system, you have a lot of defence mechanisms against e.g. food poisoning (vomiting), there is a high mental threshold to commit suicide etc. Our biology is not neutral between die and survive.

  • Clarification needed: What is it you call instinct ? If it is our reflects, like breathing or vomiting, I can see why one would not hold people responsible for having them, but survival goes far beyond having reflects. Is getting up and finding food to eat part of what you call instinct? It is certainly not an involuntary action.
    – armand
    Apr 17 at 22:25
  • @armand It is a gray zone with breathing (very hard to control more than briefly) at one end of the spectrum and eating and visiting the toilet at the other end (easy to control for hours but after a while it is going to be the only thing you think about. And if you start hallucinating from hunger - do you really control what you are doing?)
    – d-b
    Apr 18 at 8:12
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    Many philosophers accept the doctrine of acts and omissions:"it makes an ethical difference whether an agent actively intervenes to bring about a result, or omits to act in circumstances in which it is foreseen that as a result of the omission the same result occurs", a.k.a. the doctrine of double effect. Since in most circumstances it is ending the life that requires action, not ending it is an omission. Most living runs on autopilot, but at times the choice is openly confronted, so it is a voluntary omission.
    – Conifold
    Apr 18 at 8:39

Remaining alive is not an action. We all have a survival instinct, we try to remain alive by choosing our actions wisely.

We are only responsible for what we actually do, not for something that we want.

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