Choice Control Is Self-Control

A moral lesson can be gleaned from the NY Times report summarizing the final days of Steve Jobs. His life, at its end, exemplifies a principle of applied ethics, that the measure of how one values something in life is in the amount of time one devotes to it. Since action occurs across time, the choice to do something (i.e., to achieve a goal, to attain a value), when enacted, makes visible and active the hierarchical status of the value in relation to all other values: 

Mr. Jobs spent his final weeks — as he had spent most of his life — in tight control of his choices. He invited a close friend, the physician Dean Ornish, a preventive health advocate, to join him for sushi at one of his favorite restaurants, Jin Sho in Palo Alto. He said goodbye to longtime colleagues including the venture capitalist John Doerr, the Apple board member Bill Campbell and the Disney chief executive Robert A. Iger. He offered Apple’s executives advice on unveiling the iPhone 4S, which occurred on Tuesday. He spoke to his biographer, Walter Isaacson. He started a new drug regime, and told some friends that there was reason for hope.

But, mostly, he spent time with his wife and children — who will now oversee a fortune of at least $6.5 billion, and, in addition to their grief, take on responsibility for tending to the legacy of someone who was as much a symbol as a man.

“Steve made choices,” Dr. Ornish said. “I once asked him if he was glad that he had kids, and he said, ‘It’s 10,000 times better than anything I’ve ever done.’ ”

“But for Steve, it was all about living life on his own terms and not wasting a moment with things he didn’t think were important. He was aware that his time on earth was limited. He wanted control of what he did with the choices that were left.”

Mr. Jobs’s biographer, Mr. Isaacson, whose book will be published in two weeks, asked him why so private a man had consented to the questions of someone writing a book. “I wanted my kids to know me,” Mr. Jobs replied, Mr. Isaacson wrote Thursday in an essay on Time.com. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

Through his choices and actions, Mr. Jobs knew what he wanted, measured their worth, and achieved a fulfilled, complete life.

Notes

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