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Critique of Ayn Rand’s Ethics

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8 hours ago, Eric D said:

Could someone here who knows Rand's ethics well put Rand's argument for the claim that life is the standard of value in a succinct and clear form (ideally with the premises and conclusions clearly tagged)?

Premise 1: Your life is your ultimate value.

Premise 2: Your ultimate value is your standard of value.

Conclusion: Your life is your standard of value.

Which premise do you reject?

Usually these arguments end in a dispute over the concept of "life" or "standard" or "value." So you should probably define these concepts for us.

Maybe you don't agree that your life is your ultimate value. What, then, is your ultimate value?

Maybe you don't agree that your ultimate value is your standard of value. If so, why should a lesser value be the standard?

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42 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Which premise do you reject?

This is making things more confusing because you are talking about premises that Rand doesn't have. He's asking about Rand's view, not yours. I know you and I have talked about before, so my point isn't that you are wrong, but that you're answering the wrong question. Man qua man is a level of abstraction it's supposed to be on. 

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What Eioul said. Also I think it's an entirely reasonable task to want to reconstruct, logic book style, what exactly Rand's argument is because Rand's style is to make sweeping statements that require much more explanation that she didn't provide, and that it takes work for a philosopher interested in Rand to build the bridge from her intellectual context to contemporary philosophy. Just recognize that this is as much a metaphilosophical task that a bridge that has to be built, you're not going to read it off of Galt's speech. Rand's attitude sometimes at least comes off as, in effect, "I've written Atlas Shrugged what more could you need?" while in her letters to John Hospers are a little more circumspect.

I think to get started with what her premises are one could begin with something like "the biological teleology thesis," "the fundamental alternative thesis," and the "choice to live thesis," combined with something like Aristotelian essentialism gets us close to what she's trying to do. But to what Dreamweaver was saying, each one the those itself can be broken down into three or four sets of related claims, and so you don't really end up with a neat little bullet point format anyway. But it's clear that what she's trying to do is very similar to the projects of Anscombe, Foot, Hursthouse, Annas, and others in virtue ethics.

What may interest you is the ARS put out this book particularly Wright and Khawaja's chapters will probably give you better answers than anyone on this forums.

Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Rand's Normative Theory https://g.co/kgs/uGFnJs

Tara Smith at UT Austin also put out a book on Rand's metaethics that is designed to sketch through these claims too:

Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality https://g.co/kgs/QSo7Ku

And then there is the "Aristotelian Alternative" interpretation taken by Wheeler, Rasmussen, Den Uyl, and others explained also by Long and Badhwar in her Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry that the cogency of Rand's can only be made sense of as a version of teleological eudaimonism:

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand https://g.co/kgs/Le2Kei

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ayn-rand/#Ethi

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2 hours ago, Eric D said:

here's my question: what work does this do in the argument for the conclusion that life is the standard of value? At most, as far as I can tell, it shows that life is a necessary condition of value (or, that being alive is a necessary condition of valuing). But there are a host of additional necessary conditions of valuing, and none of them are the standard of value. So precisely what work does this bit of Rand's argument do to help establish the conclusion that life is the standard of value?

It is not that you have to be alive to value, you're right that you can't deduce an ethics from that.

There are two pieces of work it's supposed to be doing. One, the epistemic part, is establishing the arbitrariness of selecting values apart from the question of why they are needed. The second, the psychological part, the issue of selecting values could not even arise for us if we had nothing at stake in it, that is to say, if our value-selection had no value-significance for us.

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4 hours ago, Eric D said:

No, they're intimately related goals.

Related, but not the same. I can read a philosopher then see a line that inspires thoughts that help me find out what's true, without necessarily sorting through with a fine comb every detail. I also can read a philosopher to figure out what they are trying to convey, in which case the details matter a lot, even the individual words of a sentence sometimes - sorting out their thoughts so you can fully understand them as a philosopher.

4 hours ago, Eric D said:

Again, we do this sort of thing in philosophy all the time, so it doesn't seem to me to be an unreasonable request in a philosophy forum.

I agree. But none of us are Rand scholars here, so I don't see the point of constructing an argument for something you already read. It sounds like you're saying that Rand isn't as precise as you would like, not that you don't actually understand. If you want an in-depth discussion, take a look at the recommendations from 2046. Since this is a forum though, I don't see why you wouldn't just construct the argument yourself, then ask if any of us think you got it right. 

4 hours ago, Eric D said:

This leads to a general criticism of Rand - she's a very sloppy writer, as philosophers go, so it's very difficult to reconstruct her arguments.

It can be difficult because her writing style often assumes you've read her other stuff, but I don't think sloppy is the right adjective. People who don't like Nietzsche usually think of him as sloppy, because his style is so literary and deliberately poetic. That style makes them hard to interpret. Heidegger made up words a lot, and wrote a lot of that stuff about those words, and that can come across a sloppy because he doesn't convey information plainly. I'm using those phosphors as examples because they are closer to how Rand wrote than someone like Leibniz. On some level, you just have to do the work yourself, and consider the totality of a given essay, and better yet, the totality of all the work of hers that you know. If something is weird or confusing, it requires thinking about what the philosopher is getting at, rather than deconstructing a sentence to find the exact logical breakdown of each proposition. Works great for Kant or analytic philosophy, but you'll be much more limited if you try to analyze Rand's own words that way.

4 hours ago, Eric D said:

The first sentence is confused, if we read it in the most natural way, for we could imagine having the concept 'value' without having the concept 'life'.

You could imagine anything you want. The quote is about the soundness of the concept value, not the validity of connecting one concept to another. It's more like the concept value is empty of meaning unless and until you have something about life conceptually speaking to build on. Is it correct to say that the concept life must come first? That part is left open, and would require some interpretation. Why is there a developmental order to concepts? Why isn't it good enough to the concept death instead for the logical relationship? Does Rand really have an argument in mind, or is she just saying what sounds true to her? If you want to ask questions like that, I can tell you how I would think about it and where in her work I would look for some insights. You need to be more specific though, what exactly don't you understand, and is that you don't understand, or just didn't like her style? 

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5 hours ago, Eric D said:

So here's my question: what work does this do in the argument for the conclusion that life is the standard of value? At most, as far as I can tell, it shows that life is a necessary condition of value (or, that being alive is a necessary condition of valuing). But there are a host of additional necessary conditions of valuing, and none of them are the standard of value. So precisely what work does this bit of Rand's argument do to help establish the conclusion that life is the standard of value?

Eric, I suppose I do not understand that objection per se. What would be the “host of additional necessary conditions of valuing”? Life is the fundamental  condition. Conceptually, in order to understand any condition we must understand that life is the basis and perquisite for any other condition to exist. What can exist without life? Life (fundamentally speaking) is what gives rise to the need for values at all. 

What would be something equal to or greater conceptually than the concept of life that one could derive the concept of value from?

Edited by Veritas

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"Usually these arguments end in a dispute over the concept of "life" or "standard" or "value." So you should probably define these concepts for us."

That's not how this works. You presented the argument, using the terms you chose, so you're obligated to tell me how you define them; I'm not obligated to tell you how the terms you're using in your argument are defined!

That said, I appreciate your attempt at putting the argument, as you understand it, clearly, so thanks. (I realize there is some dispute among your fellow Objectivists about whether this formulation accurately represents Rand's argument as it's presented in TVoS, but since you did what I asked, I'll respond to your formulation.)

"Premise 1: Your life is your ultimate value.

"Premise 2: Your ultimate value is your standard of value.

"Conclusion: Your life is your standard of value.

"Which premise do you reject?"

I would reject premise 1.

Let's begin by considering what a chief good or ultimate value is. Aristotle is as good a guide as any here, I think, and I suspect that Rand would agree. So he argues that the chief good or ultimate value is that for the sake of which we do all that we do. This is a purely formal definition - if there is something such that all we do, we do for its sake, then that, whatever it is, is the chief good or ultimate value.

Next, let's consider some Aristotelian criteria for the chief good or ultimate value.

First, it must be complete or perfect, i.e. it must be desirable only for its own sake and thus never for the sake of anything else.

Second, it must be self-sufficient, i.e. it on its own must make life choice-worthy and lacking nothing.

We can now apply these criteria to life qua value.

So, is it complete, or can we desire it for the sake of something else? It seems clear to me that we can desire life for the sake of something else, viz. happiness. Some people choose to die when life becomes unbearably painful, but choose to live up to that point. Why? Often, they live, or choose life, as long as by way of it they can be happy. That is, they choose life for the sake of happiness. Since this is possible - indeed, it happens frequently enough - it follows that life, qua end or value, is not complete, since it can be chosen for the sake of something else. And since the ultimate value is complete, life is not the ultimate value.


That alone (if the argument works) suffices to show that life cannot be the ultimate value, and hence gives us reason to think that premise 1 is false. But we can briefly consider the other criterion.

Is life qua value self-sufficient? It's difficult to see how. Life on its own cannot make life-choice worthy and lacking in nothing. Even Rand seems to grant as much insofar as she concedes that there is a fundamental choice between living and not living. Thus, life qua value is not self-sufficient, and since the ultimate value is self-sufficient, life is not the ultimate value. Thus, we have reason to believe that premise 1 is false.
 

 

Edited by Eric D

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"Eric, I suppose I do not understand that objection per se. What would be the “host of additional necessary conditions of valuing”? Life is the fundamental  condition."

I'll try to make my point clearer.

First, note that the relation 'is a necessary condition of' is transitive. That is, if A is a necessary condition of B, and B is a necessary condition of C, then A is a necessary condition of C.

Second, let's grant that life, or being alive, is a necessary condition of value, or of valuing. It follows, via the transitivity of the necessary condition relation, that anything that's a necessary condition of life is also a necessary condition of value. And life has a host of necessary conditions, e.g. the value of the strong nuclear force. But then the value of the strong nuclear force is as much a necessary condition of value as life is, and it's not clear why one necessary condition, viz. life, is the standard of value while the other, viz. the value of the strong nuclear force, is not. 

N.b. this is an objection, not a refutation; that is, I'm just pointing out that the fact that life is a necessary condition of value does little to no work to establish that life is the standard of value, given the sundry other necessary conditions of value that we could invoke.

Does that make the objection clearer?

Edited by Eric D

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9 minutes ago, Eric D said:

"Eric, I suppose I do not understand that objection per se. What would be the “host of additional necessary conditions of valuing”? Life is the fundamental  condition."

I'll try to make my point clearer.

First, note that the relation 'is a necessary condition of' is transitive. That is, if A is a necessary condition of B, and B is a necessary condition of C, then A is a necessary condition of C.

Second, let's grant that life, or being alive, is a necessary condition of value, or of valuing. It follows, via the transitivity of the necessary condition relation, that anything that's a necessary condition of life is also a necessary condition of value. And life has a host of necessary conditions, e.g. the value of the strong nuclear force. But then the value of the strong nuclear force is as much a necessary condition of value as life is, and it's not clear why one necessary condition, viz. life, is the standard of value while the other, viz. the value of the strong nuclear force, is not. 

N.b. this is an objection, not a refutation; that is, I'm just pointing out that the fact that life is a necessary condition of value does little to no work to establish that life is the standard of value, given the sundry other necessary conditions of value that we could invoke.

Does that make the objection clearer?

I think I see your reasoning here.  Here are some statements that could be made.

1. A strong nuclear force is a fundamental for binding together matter.

2. Matter is required for life to exist.

3.  Matter is a necessary condition to life

You are concluding then that in this sense that matter could be a standard for value equal to a strong nuclear force equal to life and that if life could be said to be the standard then any of the above mentioned (matter or strong nuclear force) could be said to the the standard as well.  From this you might also ask why not just say “existence is the standard of value”.

I want to make sure I completely understand what you are saying before I respond.

Is this correct?

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5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Premise 1: Your life is your ultimate value.

Premise 2: Your ultimate value is your standard of value.

Conclusion: Your life is your standard of value.

Which premise do you reject?

Just echoing Eiuol that this isn't Rand's argument. He asked what Rand's argument was. Also just in the face of it, this is a really bad argument for life because it begs all of the relevant questions to this discussion which is just about why life has this foundational status in ethics.

Edited by 2046

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2 hours ago, Eric D said:

"Usually these arguments end in a dispute over the concept of "life" or "standard" or "value." So you should probably define these concepts for us."

That's not how this works. You presented the argument, using the terms you chose, so you're obligated to tell me how you define them; I'm not obligated to tell you how the terms you're using in your argument are defined!

Oh, please. I didn't ask you to define my terms for me.

I did what you asked, and you didn't do what I asked, and this is not my first time on this merry-go-round. So I'll just leave you with this. Feel free to challenge my theory on that thread.

Edited by MisterSwig

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2 hours ago, Eric D said:

Aristotle is as good a guide as any here, I think, and I suspect that Rand would agree.

I'm not sure about that. I think there's a lot to be said for Aristotle's approach, but his approach here as you've lifted from NE isn't addressing the foundation of values question that Rand is asking ("Does man need values at all and why?") Aristotle's NE (not without controversy) is likely lecture notes addressed to young men going into politics, who are supposed to be familiar with the general presuppositions of NE (through conversation and other works.) Asking what kind of thing happiness is and answering various questions about it, including engaging with the endoxa and aporia of the day, is not exactly what Rand is trying to do. She also criticized Aristotle's ethics (not very well if you ask me) as opposed to his overall philosophical approach which she liked. In any event, Rand's approach does not take goal-directed action for granted or presuppose anything about morality's form or content, and she's not trying to achieve some kind of reflective equilibrium about our beliefs about ultimate values, so at least one can say their discussions are just about different things. Criticizing one by adopting the framework of the other just isn't going to be very helpful.

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Eric D: "Could someone here who knows Rand's ethics well put Rand's argument for the claim that life is the standard of value in a succinct and clear form (ideally with the premises and conclusions clearly tagged)?"

MisterSwig: "Premise 1: Your life is your ultimate value.

"Premise 2: Your ultimate value is your standard of value.

"Conclusion: Your life is your standard of value.

"Which premise do you reject?

"Usually these arguments end in a dispute over the concept of "life" or "standard" or "value." So you should probably define these concepts for us." (emphasis added)

Eric D: "That's not how this works. You presented the argument, using the terms you chose, so you're obligated to tell me how you define them; I'm not obligated to tell you how the terms you're using in your argument are defined!"

MisterSwig: "Oh, please. I didn't ask you to define my terms for me."



 

That's not what the exchange above, read in its most natural way, reveals.

I asked for an argument, and you graciously supplied one (and I thank you for that).

In your argument, you used the terms 'life' and 'standard' and 'value'. You did not define them either before or after presenting your argument. But you did go on to ask me to define them. I then pointed out that it's your argument, so it's up to you to tell me how they're defined, it's not up to me to tell you how the terms in your argument are defined. It's your argument.

You then denied asking me to define your terms for you. But as the direct quotes above reveal, that is, on the most natural reading of the exchange between us, precisely what you did.

 

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"You are concluding then that in this sense that matter could be a standard for value equal to a strong nuclear force equal to life and that if life could be said to be the standard then any of the above mentioned (matter or strong nuclear force) could be said to the the standard as well.  From this you might also ask why not just say “existence is the standard of value”.

"I want to make sure I completely understand what you are saying before I respond.

"Is this correct?"

Hi Veritas, it's very close, but not precisely right.

I'm not saying that matter or etc. could be the standard of value, but that as far as the reasoning goes (as I understand it), we have just as much reason to conclude that it's matter or etc. that is the standard of value as we do to conclude that it's life. So the claim is that life is a necessary condition for value, and that this claim - life's being a necessary condition for value - is somehow relevant to life's being the standard of value. My point was that there are plenty of necessary conditions of value, and so there's no reason to pick this one necessary condition - life - over the others. That is - and this is important - there's no reason given by the argument (viz. the argument from life's being a necessary condition of value to its being the standard of value). Now of course we could come in and then, post hoc, adduce all sorts of reasons to conclude that it's life that is the standard of value, and not any of the other sundry necessary conditions. But then it's not at all clear what argumentative work identifying life as a necessary condition of value did to move the reasoning closer to the conclusion that life is the standard of value.

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"Asking what kind of thing happiness is and answering various questions about it, including engaging with the endoxa and aporia of the day, is not exactly what Rand is trying to do."

I agree. It seems to me, though, that Aristotle's concept of the chief good, and Rand's concept of the ultimate value, are one and the same. For instance, in TVoS, Rand wrote:

"
An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means — and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. . .Without an ultimate goal or end, there can be no lesser goals or means: a series of means going off into an infinite progression toward a nonexistent end is a metaphysical and epistemological impossibility. It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible."

This seems to accord almost perfectly with Aristotle's account of the chief good. That's why I concluded that Aristotle's criteria, which strike me as eminently plausible, would apply to it as well. Indeed, Rand herself endorses the completeness criterion here (the ultimate goal is an end in itself, a final goal, a goal towards which all other goals are means). She also uses Aristotle's argument against an infinite series of goals in the above quote. So while I agree that Rand would not endorse Aristotle's method, she does seem to be using the expression 'ultimate value' as Aristotle uses the expression 'chief good'. (Sorry, I can't seem to get rid of the shading that came along with the quote above when I copy-pasted it!)

Edited by Eric D

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44 minutes ago, Eric D said:

In your argument, you used the terms 'life' and 'standard' and 'value'. You did not define them either before or after presenting your argument. But you did go on to ask me to define them. I then pointed out that it's your argument, so it's up to you to tell me how they're defined, it's not up to me to tell you how the terms in your argument are defined. It's your argument.

You then denied asking me to define your terms for you. But as the direct quotes above reveal, that is, on the most natural reading of the exchange between us, precisely what you did.

I'll do this once, because you're new and clearly not equipped to do it yourself. But if this doesn't work, I'm absolutely finding something better to do.

Let's analyze what happened. You asked someone to condense Rand's argument into a simple, essentially syllogistic form. I did it. I then noted that these arguments typically end in a dispute over certain concepts, and I asked you to define them. A normal person would retain the context that I'm using Rand's definitions and that I just expressed a concern that we might end up disputing certain concepts. So why would I want you to tell me how I define them? Do you think that I want to have a debate with myself? Just tell me if you agree with Rand's definitions or not--and if you don't, how do you define these terms? Or do you not use such concepts in your own philosophy?

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Quote

I'll do this once, because you're new and clearly not equipped to do it yourself.

Hmm, sounds like you're more familiar with the anonymous to and fro of internet forum pissing contests than you are with serious philosophical discussions.

I asked for an argument, and you kindly provided me with one. Again, I sincerely thank you for that. However, no serious student of philosophy would provide an argument and then note that since discussions often get bogged down in debates about terminology used in the argument, perhaps the person requesting the argument should supply the definitions of those terms. Surely you can see how patently ludicrous this is (in the context of a philosophical discussion).

Rather, here's the normal pattern: I've supplied this argument, which I'm defending, and since subsequent  discussion of the argument usually concerns the definitions of the key terms it uses, let me define them here so we can see if we're on the same page.

Doesn't that obviously make far more sense? 

 

21 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

A normal person would retain the context that I'm using Rand's definitions and that I just expressed a concern that we might end up disputing certain concepts. So why would I want you to tell me how I define them? Do you think that I want to have a debate with myself? Just tell me if you agree with Rand's definitions or not--and if you don't, how do you define these terms? Or do you not use such concepts in your own philosophy?

First, if I'm not clear on the argument - as I said, it's been some time since I read Rand, and I read her before I had any philosophical training - then why on earth would you think I'd be clear on the (technical) definitions?

And second, anyone who has done any serious philosophy knows that it's never a matter of reading off definitions from the page, especially when we're dealing with a writer like Rand, whose foremost aim wasn't exactly clarity. That is, there will always be issues of interpretation. Heck, your fellow Objectivists don't even think that you've represented her argument accurately, so why would any reasonable person conclude that there's a set of non-controversial definitions of key terms to which we can appeal?

Anyway, if you want to forego a discussion of the definitions and focus on my criticisms of your argument, then that's fine with me. But if you think that my criticisms fail because they depend on erroneous interpretations of the key terms, then perhaps you should define them for me after all, and show me why my criticisms fail in light of those definitions. I'm fine with either move.

 

Edited by Eric D

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24 minutes ago, Eric D said:

First, if I'm not clear on the argument - as I said, it's been some time since I read Rand, and I read her before I had any philosophical training - then why on earth would you think I'd be clear on the (technical) definitions?

You're not clear on what Rand wrote, so you're going to rely on Internet strangers to explain her arguments to you? I suppose this is your great "philosophical training" put into action. I can't say I'm very impressed with this second-hand approach to gaining knowledge. But I'm certainly not surprised by it.

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11 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

You're not clear on what Rand wrote, so you're going to rely on Internet strangers to explain her arguments to you? I suppose this is your great "philosophical training" put into action. I can't say I'm very impressed with this second-hand approach to gaining knowledge. But I'm certainly not surprised by it.

Wow.

Again, your fellow Objectivists don't think that you even represented Rand's argument accurately; why think that there's some set of non-controversial definitions of its key terms to which we can appeal?

I'm not writing an article or a book on Rand. I'm not researching Rand. I'm discussing Rand with avowed Objectivists. For that purpose, relying on the take of avowed Objectivists, coupled with my own memories of what I read in the past (which, though it was some time ago, was most of Rand's corpus) is sufficient, I think.

I was asked to come here by Veritas. We began discussing the topic of Rand's ethics in another forum, and he thought it would be more productive if we discussed it here instead. I agreed, and thought it would be helpful to get the input of other Objectivists. Veritas has been great, as have 2046 and Eiuol and Dream_Weaver. But the fact that you think that the notion that you're obligated to define the terms in an argument you adduced is unreasonable, but think it reasonable to ask others to define the terms in your argument for you - and the fact that you can't be moved to concede that that's manifestly ludicrous - says all I need to know. Thanks again for supplying the argument I requested. 

Edited by Eric D

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On 11/9/2019 at 8:07 PM, Veritas said:

I definitely agree with this. My life shouldn’t be taken as “my life” in a subjective way as if it something other than “the life” that I am living. I see how in talking with people that this gets taken incorrectly. 

Well, okay. Has one's life objective existence and objective value? Unpacking "man's life" matters, I think - before one gets to defining "standard" and "value". Or, above all, an individual life . I've taken man's life to be Rand's metaphysical base for what follows and matters most -- the individual's existence. Man is not just the biological entity. "Man", like everything, has a metaphysical nature due to his distinct consciousness (and self-consciousness), and ~that~ has a specific identity. It's not given to man's consciousness to have the advantages of automatically instilled codes of behavior, instincts, like the moth, in Eioul's eloquent mention (and look what happens to a moth when its normal instinct to orientate itself by the sun goes haywire, circling towards the candle flame). So saying, man has a limited nature, in some respects lesser to animals - but what it IS, must be acted upon (if one wants man's and the individual's 'good'). Second, "Life" refers to existence, reality, in which man exists and is a part of. He and the moth share the identical need of "self-generating, goal-directed action" fundamental to all life. (Unconscious on the moth's part).

Knowing reality and controlling it to man's ends, requires cognitive and physical action. So we get back to the inseparable abstraction - man's life. Does man's life and one's concrete life have value to the individual? (Value to whom and for what purpose?) If he decides yes, then he will derive his objective standard of good/bad from his identity-existence - man's life - as the basis for how he should act, *what* he should do. Self-directed by his accepted code of value and towards his particular purpose(s).

 

Comes up often: "life" - taken as the standard of value. Call it semantics, everyone knows what they mean by it and I'm being too fussy, but I believe this also is important to correct. Like with mistaking one's "own life" for the standard ...etc., I think this isn't trivial; one's habitual expressions will have consequences in one's thinking and so in actions. 

The existence of biological, organic life is of course the pre-requisite for mankind's life, this in turn, the prerequisite for each individual's existence. The magnitude of that fact hardly needs reminding anyone. However, as a code of ethics, it's not "life" per se which is the standard of value, it's *man's life*. I think we need to make that distinction. Metaphysics is the science 'above' biology, ethics is the active branch of philosophy. 

Edited by whYNOT

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4 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

So why would I want you to tell me how I define them?

This is kind of ridiculous. Rand in particular talked about defining your terms. If you are presenting an argument to someone, you need to define the terms of the argument. Eric admitted he didn't quite understand what Rand means by life and standard of value. Not to mention your argument was confusing and provided no context. It would make more sense to ask: "would you first explain what you already understand? What do you think Rand means by life and standard of value?"

3 hours ago, Eric D said:

Veritas has been great, as have 2046 and Eiuol and Dream_Weaver.

Thanks, I appreciate that.

The only reason I'm not getting into the nitty-gritty here is because I've talked about this topic many times over the years. I'm not as interested anymore. But I'm always glad to point people in the right direction for doing philosophy when reading a philosopher like Rand. It's easy to pass her off as a weak thinker because her essays aren't necessarily self-sufficient. When we think about life, and the standards in which we choose our values, and what may or may not be more important than life, there's a lot to consider. She doesn't write a 30 page essay because she thinks that's all that could be said, but because she is providing an outline. If you need to fill in the blank, don't be afraid to do so, and don't be worried about getting it wrong. Sometimes more analytical philosophers are nice to read because they are exhaustive and leave little room for interpretation. Rand lays out the concepts for you, and arranges them for you, but all the counter arguments are left as an exercise for you.

If the concept life is a pre-requirement of forming the concept value, what would this have to mean? Take a charitable stance, assume that Rand has an actual point to make. I think when you reflect on it, is pretty straightforward, and if you read her other work, I'm sure you understand it fine. Now, if you have objections, bring them up. Just because Rand didn't preempt your objection in writing doesn't mean there is no response, or that her writing was incoherent. 

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"The only reason I'm not getting into the nitty-gritty here is because I've talked about this topic many times over the years. I'm not as interested anymore."

I totally understand that. I feel the same way about certain topics.

Perhaps this is the question I ought to have posed initially (to those who are still interested in discussing the issue): Why think that the sentence, 'life is the standard of value' is true? 

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Man's life. Not "life". (Eric D)

Interesting, I don't know if it applies to anyone's views here, but what I think - often -  is the root cause of disagreement debating the objective ethics, is lingering and/or implicit mysticism and neo-mysticism. One party in the original belief that "man" is a supernatural being, outside of reality; and its apparent (at first) obverse: a forceful opposition to a metaphysics, or the fact that consciousness has a metaphysical identity. (Metaphysics = "mystical" - to many secularist thinkers, I've noticed, and the "brain" is just meat, after all).

Both false alternatives come from the same place and lead to the same result. An antagonism to rational selfishness. The first by intrinsicists who hold to intrinsic value, the other by philosophical skeptics (with 'subjective value').  Both parties don't admit to the reality of the independent, individual mind.

Without an *objective* metaphysics, conceptual epistemology and *objective* value, Objectivist ethics won't fly. With them, it's logically inarguable. You might say, self-evident. 

Edited by whYNOT

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On 11/10/2019 at 9:25 PM, MisterSwig said:

 

Premise 1: Your life is your ultimate value.

Premise 2: Your ultimate value is your standard of value.

Conclusion: Your life is your standard of value.

Which premise do you reject?

 

Circularity.

"Ultimate" does not equal "standard". 

"Your ultimate value is your standard of value" - translates to: Your good is what you choose to be good.

By what standard?

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