Report Is life truly the standard of value? in Ethics Posted April 28, 2010 The discussions of the concept value, of the particular values proper to man, etc are quite extensive in the Objectivist literature. There are a few things to consider. First, Rand starts laying down her ethical system by examining the concept "value." It is therefore important to understand that in her epistemology, concepts are formed as abstractions of concretes; they are formed from observations of reality. From observing reality, therefore, Rand came to the conclusion that values ("goal-directed action" can be used synonymously here) are inherently tied to the phenomenon of life. Life, because of the way that it is, inherently requires that values exist, because life is something that has to be upkept and maintained by the organism which is doing the living, and this always and everywhere requires acting to gain or keep things (values). So we have that the concept of value is inseparable from the phenomenon of life. All living things pursue values (it's part of staying alive). From observation, we can also see that only living things pursue values. Nothing else that we've observed in this universe is capable of acting for goals, except living things. The closest thing to a counterexample would probably be sophisticated man-made machines and computer programs, but we'll leave aside those in this discussion. Value is always and everywhere a biological phenomenon. The particular part which values play in life is, generally, to further the life of the organism. Plants and animals act towards goals which are important for them to stay alive. Even in the example of animals, we can already think of instances where values (in the sense of what the animal actually pursues) are not actually life-furthering. A dog eats a piece of chocolate as part of goal-directed action, but the result is that the dog becomes ill. Values are generally oriented towards life, but the orientation is not perfect, and there is nothing that the animal can do to change it. It cannot even consciously recognize the end to which its actions are oriented. However, this example does not refute the fact that values are required to sustain life; it merely shows that only certain actions will work towards that goal, while others will not. The concept of value is still intimately related to the concept of life. Man, in addition to automatic values, must hold conscious values. Again, the particular things a man pursues can be life-furthering or life-hindering. However, it is still true that if he wants to further his life, he needs values. It simply must be added that he needs the correct values, which is why he needs ethics to tell him what those are. The Objectivist claim that value and life are intimately connected is not refuted by the presence of goal-oriented behavior, by animal or man, which is detrimental to the actor. Rather, it is precisely this possibility that gives rise to the need of ethics in the first place. Thank you for elucidating this subject for me. Your explanation was enormously helpful.