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Darkside

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  1. A while ago I read Rand's The Fountainhead, and I was impressed enough by the character of Howard Roarke to read more about the philosophy behind it, so I am now reading through Peikoff's Objectivsim: The Philosophy of Any Rand . I'd like to use this thread to post questions as they come up if that's alright. My first question concerns the section of Chapter 7 subtitled "Life" as the Essential Root of "Value." First a couple of quotes from the book. "The conecpt of value presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative... Goal-directed behavior is possible only because an entity's action, its pursuit of a certain end, can make a difference to the outcome." (Peikoff, p. 208) "Ayn Rand describes the alternative of life or death as fundamental... The alternative of existence or nonexistence is the precondition of all values. If an entity were not confronted by this alternative, it could not pursue goals, not of any kind." (Peikoff, p. 209) I am having difficulty accepting the statement that "The alternative of existence or nonexistence is the precondition of all values." I am tempted to read on and put this issue aside for now, but I don't think I can do that since it seems that it will form the foundation of the rest of the chapter. To illustrate the point that all values are conditioned on the alternative of existence or nonexistence, Peikoff offers Rand's example of an immortal robot; supposedly such a being would have no values since it does not have any alternative to existence. Even psychological values such as the acquisition of knowledge would be irrelevant since knowledge would not help it to achieve its ends, since it has no ends. It seems to me that the assumption that the immortal robot has no ends is begging the question, i.e. by assuming the robot has no ends, the argument assumes that existence itself is the only thing worth valuing in order to prove that existence is the only thing worth valuing. Peikoff gives an example on p. 210 that because the robot is not required to be on time for anything, it would therefore not value a Rolex, but I think that's demonstrably untrue; nobody buys a Rolex so they will be on time for their meeting; a Seiko would do just fine for that. They buy the Rolex for their own pleasure, even though it doesn't enhance their ability to exist. We could go a step further and look to heroin use, which involves people valuing pleasure as a goal in itself even though it decreases their ability to exist. How can it be said of such an individual that he "[does] not exist in order to pursue values. [He] pursue value in order to exist?" (Peikoff, p. 211) I don't see why even an immortal robot, for whom non-existence is impossible, could not place value on things such as knowledge or wealth for their own sakes, or for the sake of some goal other than existence. Any insight you all have would be appreciated.
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