Report Pleasure and Value in Ethics Posted January 9, 2017 · Edited January 9, 2017 by KyaryPamyu The editor is turning my text into all-italics Despite Rand's insistence that she made her point as clear as humanly possible in Galt's Speech, there are a lot of diverging views about what she really meant. One writer actualy lists five different camps: Quote 1. Life-Happiness Correspondence - pursuing life necessarily renders the attainment of happiness. 2. Survivalism - life is the "standard." All other values, including happiness, must be instrumental to life. 3. Life-Happiness Duality - both life and happiness are seen to be independent sources of value. 4. The Happiness Ethic - happiness is the "standard," and all other values, including life, must be instrumental to happiness. 5. Man-Qua-Man Deontology - life as constrained by deontological rules is the standard I have to say that I completely agree with everything DonAthos has written in the main post. It is my personal view, and I also believe it was Rand's. Plenty of examples come to my mind. When Francisco asks Dagny what she would say if he asked her to leave her railroad, she answers: "What would I say if you asked me to consider the idea of committing suicide?". The famous John Galt quote about killing himself over his top value (Dagny): "If they get the slightest suspicion of what we are to each other, they will have you on a torture rack — I mean, physical torture — before my eyes, in less than a week. I am not going to wait for that. At the first mention of a threat to you, I will kill myself and stop them right there." Work and Sex have almost deity-status for certain Objectivist thinkers. When Ayn Rand used the term 'highest values', she was literaly referring to those two. Leonard Peikoff goes as far as comparing them to your left eye and right eye. Notoriously, Peikoff also said that he would not condemn people for commiting suicide over, say, losing their ability to enjoy sex or even a career in ballet (can't find the ballet one, but if my memory is correct it was about suffering an accident that prevented you from pursuing your dream of being a ballet dancer). --------------- My own view is that the standard of value is indeed pleasure, but definitely not in the Epicurean sense. Rand's revolution in the field of ethics was her concept of rational self-interest. This means that, as Tara Smith puts it in a lecture available for free on the ARI Institute Campus, selfishness is not transparent. It requires a lot of thinking, including: choosing pleasures that do not kill you in the long run, finding ways to secure them over long spans of time, comparing different choices and so on. I also disagree with any pretense at moderation for its own sake when it comes to pleasure, and I would only justify any moderation if excess would lead to negative consequences. So I regard the 'happy life' as a standard of value, not merely 'Life'. Regarding Rand's view: If by 'Life as standard', Ayn Rand meant the happy/pleasurable life, then our reverence for romantic love, sex and even child rearing makes sense (she did not have children but a mother is present in Galt's Gulch, and she said many things about parenting). But if Rand regarded love, sex and children as stemming from the standard of survival/survival of consciousness, then she is wrong, but on scientific grounds not in her intention. Reproduction is a key source of pleasure in living beings. I'm always stunned to turn on the TV and see male Praying Mantises getting their heads eaten during mating, or female polar bears making extraordinary sacrifices for their offspring. Regarding the role of reproduction in ethics, Harry Binswanger covered this in a PhD thesis that has probably the most boring title ever, which is on my reading list for a long time. I'm curious about what he has to say about reproduction. Bottomline, if there wasn't any pain-pleasure mechanism built in humans, or if the things that helped us survive gave us pain rather than pleasure, I would echo Peikoff's spirit from a lecture in which he talked about whether staying in focus - the precondition of morality - requires 'excruciating effort'. His answer was something like: "if that were the case, then to hell with morality!" If life would be a painful or emotionless affair, the proper reaction to it would definitely be: to hell with it!