Goal-Directed Action, Alternatives & Value in Metaphysics and Epistemology Posted July 14, 2010 · Report reply Distinguish between inanimate objects and living beings on the basis of the union of 'goal-directed' and 'self-generated' applying to the same actions. The term 'self' is derivative from the entity perspective, so it is epistemological. 'Self-generated' is internal causation as opposed to external causation. Entity-based causation certainly applies inside among the parts of an organism as well as outside between organisms, so this is no violation of causality. Values are necessary for living organisms to continue to exist, where 'exist' means remaining an active process as opposed to inertly disintegrating. The alternative is located in the relationship between the organism and the environment. A simple organism does only one or a very few actions. Those actions may or may not be suited to the environment it finds itself in, 'suited' meaning they result in obtaining what is necessary for continued existence. The way an organism will necessarily act if it fails to obtain the values it needs is to die. Life and death are equally necessary as far as causation is concerned and yet they are different states, different arrangements of the multiple internal parts of certain entities, or in other words alternatives. I think you stated most clearly what some other posters were driving at. Can you expand a bit on the distinction between internal causation and external causation? That is, how do we distinguish empirically between the two, identify processes as products of one or the other? The reason I'm interested in this is that given the way Peikoff articulates the nature of value in OPAR, these questions about life appear epistemically prior to ethical reasoning. Rand's ethics is grounded on some level in a philosophy of biology, in a series of propositions about the nature of life its relationship to agency.