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Notes on "Ayn Rand's Conception of Valuing"

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Notes on "Ayn Rand's Conception of Valuing" by Greg Salmieri

Philosophically significant observations about valuing can be had by revisiting the fiction.

16 pages of significant quotes are avilable in a supplemental handout. In these notes the appropriate quote sometimes will be pasted in where referenced. Not all quotes are referenced and so form background reading.

These notes paraphrase the speaker's points and are not accurate quotes unless in quote tags.

“What Is Capitalism” on the objective (vs. subjectivist or intrinsic) theory of the good:

There are, in essence, three schools of thought on the nature of the good: the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective. The intrinsic theory holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors and subjects involved. It is a theory that divorces the concept of “good” from beneficiaries, and the concept of “value” from valuer and purpose—claiming that the good is good in, by, and of itself.

The subjectivist theory holds that the good bears no relation to the facts of reality, that it is the product of a man’s consciousness, created by his feelings, desires, “intuitions,” or whims, and that it is merely an “arbitrary postulate” or an “emotional commitment.”

The intrinsic theory holds that the good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man’s consciousness; the subjectivist theory holds that the good resides in man’s consciousness, independent of reality.

The objective theory holds that the good is neither an attribute of “things in themselves” nor of man’s emotional states, but an evaluation of the facts of reality by man’s consciousness according to a rational standard of value. (Rational, in this context, means: derived from the facts of reality and validated by a process of reason.) The objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man—and that it must be discovered, not invented, by man. Fundamental to an objective theory of values is the question: Of value to whom and for what? An objective theory does not permit context-dropping or “concept-stealing”; it does not permit the separation of “value” from “purpose,” of the good from beneficiaries, and of man’s actions from reason.

"Value" is a noun but A.R. put great emphasis on "valuing" as a verb, and "valuer" a person that acts. Refutation of intrincism follows.

Valuing derives from consciousness in an identifiable way. Refutation of (arbitrary) subjectivism follows.

Bad example of an objective value: "health", and "healthy diet". A health food nut tries to foist upon you unpleasant unpalatable foods justified by "health is an objective good". If you don't understand and agree with the diet then it cannot be a value.

Aristotelian ethics is unable to justify its theory of the good beyond "its your nature".

Objectivist ethics requires a conscious "choice to live" to which valuing is relative. But are there people who do not choose to live? Who are they?

Roark- What you feel in the presence of a thing you admire is just one word—'Yes.' The affirmation, the acceptance, the sign of admittance. And that 'Yes' is more than an answer to one thing, it's a kind of 'Amen' to life, to the earth that holds this thing, to the thought that created it, to yourself for being able to see it. But the ability to say 'Yes' or 'No' is the essence of all ownership. It's your ownership of your own ego. Your soul, if you wish. Your soul has a single basic function—the act of valuing. 'Yes' or 'No,' 'I wish' or 'I do not wish.' You can't say 'Yes' without saying 'I.' There's no affirmation without the one who affirms. In this sense, everything to which you grant your love is yours."

single basic function is a strong and significant statement.

A.R. states there are people who do not know how to value:

Little Street notes (1928): [Most people] do not hold anything to be very serious or profound. There is nothing that is sacred or immensely important to them. There is nothing—no idea, object, work, or person—that can inspire them with a profound, intense, and all-absorbing passion that reaches to the roots of their souls. They do not know how to value or desire. They cannot give themselves entirely to anything. There is nothing absolute about them. They take all things lightly, easily, pleasantly—almost indifferently, in that they can have it or not, they do not claim it as their absolute necessity.

(Journals of Ayn Rand, 28)

Wynand describes himself this way:

Wynand to Dominique: “I’ve never really wanted anything. Not in the total, undivided way, not with the kind of desire that becomes an ultimatum, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and one can’t accept the ‘no’ without ceasing to exist. [ . . . ] I’ve never felt that before. Dominique, I’ve never known how to say ‘mine’ about anything. Not in the sense I say it about you.”

(The Fountainhead, 502)

Kira using the "know how to value" language

Kira to Andrei: “Now look at me! Take a good look! I was born and I knew I was alive and I knew what I wanted. What do you think is [alive] <living> in me? Why do you think I’m alive? Because I have a stomach and eat and digest the food? Because I breathe and work and produce more food to digest? Or because I know what I want, and that something which knows how to want—isn’t that life itself? And who—in this damned[, endless] universe—who can tell me why I should live for anything but for that which I want? Who can answer that in human sounds that speak for human reason? [No one, not even you!] < . . . > But you’ve tried to tell us what we should want. You came as a solemn army to bring a new life to men. You tore that life you knew nothing about, [quivering,] out of their guts<—>and you told them what it had to be. You took their every hour, every minute, every nerve, every thought in the farthest corners of their souls[,]<—>and you told them what it had to be. You came and you forbade life to the living. You’ve driven us all into an iron cellar and you’ve closed all doors, and you’ve locked us airtight, airtight till the blood vessels of our spirits burst! Then you stare and wonder what it’s doing to us. Well, then, look! All of you who have eyes left—look!”

(We the Living, 481/376)

Keating and Dominique converse:

“You’re not real. You’re only a body. […] You understand what death is? When a body can’t move any more, when it has no . . . no will, no meaning. You understand? Nothing. The absolute nothing. Well, your body moves—but that’s all. The other, the thing inside you, your—oh, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking religion, but there’s no other word for it, so I’ll say: your soul—your soul doesn’t exist. No will, no meaning. There’s no real you anymore.”

“What’s the real me?” she asked. For the first time, she looked attentive; not compassionate; but, at least, attentive.

“What’s the real anyone?” he said, encouraged. “It’s not just the body. It’s… It’s the soul.”

“What is the soul?”

“It’s—you. The thing inside you.”

“The thing that thinks and values and makes decisions?”

“Yes! Yes, that’s it. And the thing that feels. You’ve—you’ve given it up. [ . . . ] Dominique. You’re not alive. Where’s your I?”

“Where’s yours, Peter?” she asked quietly.

  • valuing is an action
  • valuing is not an action performed by all people
  • valuing is something one has to "know how to do"
  • valuing is associated with being alive
  • the extent to which you value is the extent to which you have a self
  • only valuers are passionate

These attributes of the concept of valuing are not merely symptomatic of the early Ayn Rand but carry on to Atlas Shrugged and beyond. In quotes 7, 8, and 9 (as numbered in handout) Dagny and Rearden learn that the villains do not in fact value their lives, and Galt describes himself as having "taught men how to love life".

To Lorne Dieterling notes (1957): “The issue ‘to think or not to think’ takes actual form, existentially and psychologically, as the issue: ‘To value or to conform.’”

Valuing in we the Living

Consider the title "We the Living". 'We' references just some of the people (Kira, Leo, Andre, Stepan Timonshenko), 'living' is this idea of valuing.

Kira equated being alive with valuing- Why do you think I’m alive? Because I have a stomach and eat and digest the food? Because I breathe and work and produce more food to digest? Or because I know what I want, and that something which knows how to want—isn’t that life itself?

character Ivan Ivanov (quote #13) contrasts with Kira. His is an accidental life. picks wife on some nonessential like 'she was plump', had to marry her because he got her pregnant without intent, drafted into army, lice races in the trenches, wounded but doesn't care about living or dieing. Also, Pavel's first night w/ Comrade Sonia praising her for being soft and hefty.

There are many people of no discernment and they are in an important way not alive.

Kira - airtight till the blood vessels of our spirits burst! (Airtight was working title of WtL)

"blood vessels of our spirits" establishes a biological metaphor for spirituality (!) The way the metaphor works is: Spirits exist like an organ. The action spirits perform is wanting/knowing how to want. Spirits have an identity and requirements to continue to exist, the 'blood vessels' satisfy the spirit's needs and without them spirit dies.

Andrei's speech: marked up w/Mayhew convention: [cut]<inserted> indicating how Rand edited the reissued version

We came as a solemn army and forbade life to the living. We thought everything that breathed [could] <knew how to> live. [Can it?] <Does it?> And aren’t those who [can] <know how to> live, aren’t they too precious to be sacrificed in the name of any cause? [We’ve killed thousands. In those thousands—were there three who could have lived? Is there any battle worth the life of one good soldier?] What cause is [worth more] <greater> than those who fight for it? And aren’t those who [can] <know how to> fight, aren’t they the cause itself and not the means?”

After Atlas, Rand is inserting even more "know how to value" language into WtL. Reason is that original language about capability was metaphysical and could be read as determinist. Edited language injects epistemology and consciousness and therefore volition.

Q: (Betsy) Andre progresses from an intrinsic valuer to an objective valuer because of his relation to Kira.

A: No. Subjective valuers exist (heroin addicts), Intrinsic valuers do not. One can be an intrinsicist but there are no intrinsic values. and Andre always is supposed to be a character who knows how to live.

Q: Why not substitute "choose to live"

A: "Knowing how" says more than the mere choice and is more consistent with Atlas. If you choose to live but don't know how, then you still can't live.

Q: What does "know how to value" mean? Means and hierarchy?

A: Neither. Both of those are needed in valuing but the emphases here is the ability to care, which is enabled by knowledge.

Q: Does "not know how to value" mean having the wrong standard of value?

A: No. They don't value at all, have a bovine indifference to them. Renee Slottern doesn't care or value by any standard.

Renée Slottern sat curled up on a footstool, munching peanuts. Once in a while she reached up to the crystal dish on a side table and took another. She exhibited no further exertion. Her pale eyes stared placidly out of her pale face.

...She merely felt a vapid wonder about how it felt to have a man one really wanted and how one went about wanting.

more themes from Andrei's speech (quotes #14 and #15)

  • valuing makes one effacacious, able to make things happen
  • valuing is connected to morality, any morality

Leo and Stepan Timonshenko are valuers who made the revolution happen. Having accomplished that, they get kicked out of the party in favor of louses. Both associate what they have with sight. Leo doesn't want to see too much. Timonshenko - "we didn't lose our sight and conscience when the Czar lost his throne, the sight and conscience that made him lose it."

Q: Keith: If values are objective and communism is not a value then how are the "valuing communists" possible?

A: Intrinsic/Subjective/Objective are theories of the good but values are broader and can be actual or normative. An actual value that is not an objective good is thus a subjective good. It is wrong but still counts as a morality and as valuing.

Q: Andrew: Can't do something if you don't know how, but also can't do something if you don't choose to do it. Is one of these more fundamental than the other?

A: What is relationship between the choice and the knowledge? Answer will emerge over the course of the lectures. There are degrees of this. Choosing a value motivates learning to get it, and then new values are chosen, larger scale values. Choice and knowledge ratchet each other up and life gets bigger in scale and stakes as one gets older.

Q: Do mistaken and correct valuers go through the same thinking process?

A: Some process goes on in the valuers, analogized to a biological process w/blood vessels and to vision and is characterized in WtL only by its results. WtL can't answer that question so lets go on to Fountainhead.

Summarize what is taken out of WtL:

there exist people who value and are alive and those who don't and aren't

valuers are effacacious and idealistic/moralistic

valuing is self-assertive and egoistic, even if you are a communist

Communism interferes with the process of valuing and is fundamentally incompatible with it. ref. Onkar Ghate's "Breaking the Metaphysical Bonds of Dictatorship" in the Essays on Athem

Fountainhead is a presentation of egoism, defended on grounds that morality is inherently egoistic and so should be consistent with that fact.

end of lecture questions:

Q: Betsy: Is "knowing how to value" information or skill?

A: Both. It is know-how and Galt can talk about it for three hours over the radio.

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Bad example of an objective value: "health", and "healthy diet". A health food nut tries to foist upon you unpleasant unpalatable foods justified by "health is an objective good". If you don't understand and agree with the diet then it cannot be a value.

How, exactly, is health not an objective value? Of course, a health food nut may want to foist certain foods upon you. But not everyone who cares about their health will do that. Nor is all "healthy food" unpleasant. You can't just "be healthy", to be healthy requires choice and action. If you don't understand and agree with a diet, then it cannot be of value. That is true of anything, though. If I don't understand my own life, how could I value it? I think I know what you're getting at, it's just that the wording here is a little unclear.

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How, exactly, is health not an objective value?

If you don't want it, if your consciousness is not participating in this scenario, then it cannot be a value. Value derives from a combination of fact and consciousness regarding that fact.

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If you don't want it, if your consciousness is not participating in this scenario, then it cannot be a value. Value derives from a combination of fact and consciousness regarding that fact.

I still don't see how that indicates health being a bad example of an objective value. Some people may claim that health is intrinsically good, sure, but to say it is a bad example seems to say "your health can never be valued objectively". To me, valuing your health is related to valuing your life. Being alive allows you to value things. Being healthy is usually conducive to living (but not always conducive to valuing).

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Notes on "Ayn Rand's Conception of Valuing" by Greg Salmieri

Philosophically significant observations about valuing can be had by revisiting the fiction.

16 pages of significant quotes are avilable in a supplemental handout. In these notes the appropriate quote sometimes will be pasted in where referenced. Not all quotes are referenced and so form background reading.

These notes paraphrase the speaker's points and are not accurate quotes unless in quote tags.

{my own comments in curly brackets}

Lecture 2


  • is an activity, an action of the soul
  • not everybody does it, or not enough or not at all
  • not everybody can do it, they lack the means
  • requires a knowledge or skill to perform
  • is inherently individualistic/egoistic
  • corollary is being moral/moralistic/idealistic
  • makes one effacacious

Valuing in Fountainhead

Expands on the prior in that self-consciousness of one's own individuality is prominent.

Roark: “To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.’”

and also

Roark: You can’t say ‘Yes’ without saying ‘I.’

The idea of the Fountainhead is that most moral codes are opposed to the egoism which is inherent in valuing, and this is wrong.

There is more epistemological laanguage compared to WtL. quote #18:

Roark: To stop consciousness is to stop life

New to Fountainhead is the idea of standards. From quote #19 regarding The Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset

Isn’t it a terrible generalization—that can be interpreted in too many different ways—to say that a “noble” man strives to serve and obey, and the ‘mass’ man to do as he pleases?

If what is meant is the noble man’s servitude to his own standards and ideas—is that to be called servitude? If the standards are his, isn’t he precisely obeying himself and doing what he pleases?

No truly noble man is going to obey standards set for him by someone else. That is the action of the mass man. It is the mass man who cannot do as he wishes, because he has no wishes; he has to have his standards—or the nearest to that word that he can come—dictated to him.

This leads to another question—my question of the “supreme egoism.” There exists that body of ideas which represents all the so-called intellectual and spiritual values: ethics, philosophy, etc. (This requires a better definition and analysis—which has to be done later.) My “supreme egoism” consists of the right to apply these values to oneself and to live them. For example: if a man is convinced that religion is wrong, he has to be and profess to be an atheist. The vile, dangerous habit of today is to admit, for instance, that religion is valuable to the majority and, therefore, go to church, profess to be religious, etc., in order to gain something by playing down to the masses. As a consequence, the horrible paradox of our time is that intellectual values are left only to the masses, that they become a special, exclusive privilege of the masses, who not only have no right to them, but lack completely even the elementary organ for anything approaching intellectual ideas. It is as if one left sight only as a privilege of the blind. The so-called “selfish” man of today uses “ideas” only as means to attain his own end. But what is that end? What is accomplished if the man attains power and prominence at the cost of playing down to the masses? It is not he that triumphs, it is not his ideas and standards. It is only his physical frame. Essentially, he is only a slave to those masses. This explains my meaning when I consider the “selfish,” ambitious man of today as essentially unselfish, or rather selfless. The true selfishness is that which demands the right to its own higher ideas and values. The “supreme egoism” is that which claims things for their essential, not their secondary values.

An example from my own experience, which, at the present time, affects me most, is the fact that few men have the ability or the desire to judge literary work by its essential worth. To most men, that work becomes valuable only after it has been recognized as such by someone else. They themselves do not have any standards of their own (and they do not feel the lack). The same is true of any other field of mental activity: scientific, philosophical, etc. This is the great unselfishness of today. As a matter of fact, unselfishness is merely selflessness. The true, highest selfishness, the exalted egoism, is the right to have one’s own theoretical values and then to apply them to practical reality. Without that self there are no values. Here again—ethics based on self, not on society, the mass, the collective, or any other form of selflessness.

Other uses of "standards" which is prevalent in Fountainhead and not found in WtL in this usage:

Roark's meeting with the Dean (quote #24)

Kent Lansing dialogue with Roark (quote # 25)

description of Wynand's art collection chosen by "standards of his own" (quote #26)

(long quotes 20-23 are all Rand strategizing about what The Fountainhead will accomplish)

Also new to Fountainhead is idea that there are people who reverse means and ends (quote #22)

second-hander is animated by other people's valuing.

Question to be settled is: is a second-hander a non-valuer because of his wrong relationship to other people or does being a non-valuer make him a second-hander? What comes first?

Two way this could be answered:

1) wrong relationship to others prevents development of his faculties or

2) doesn't perform valuing action so a void develops, filled by others

There is evidence pointing both ways.

“The issue ‘to think or not to think’ takes actual form, existentially and psychologically, as the issue: ‘To value or to conform.’”

Yet Wynand thinks and his life course is refuted as second handed. He valued yet made a mistake. {he tried to value conformity deliberately at The Banner}

So, the two new things in Fountainhead flesh out "knowing how to value" a bit more

* appraise values against a standard

* don't mistake means for ends (or don't drop context)

still unstated but implicitly present in these two is the abstraction "values are hierarchical"

Valuing is demonstrated in Roark performing architecture, and architecture's place in Roark's life

Parthenon critique (quote #28): copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood.

The act of selection is not being performed correctly. Selection should be made consistent with a central principle, the principle becomes an integrating idea.

Architectural problems are defined by site, a purpose, & a material. They are solved by projecting a central idea and deciding details according to that idea. A "central idea" is a "standard of value".

If you ask Roark why this house has its roof slanted at a certain angle he will not reply "because of architectural principles" but in terms relating the roof to the central idea of this particular house.

{an answer in terms of nonspecific, rationalistic architectural principles would be conformist, second-handed}

Central ideas are new, originated by the creator where the second-hander conforms to someone else's idea. {conformity as abdication of responsibilty to decide and select}

Central ideas and details are both values. Values in lecture 1/WtL were huge metaphysical issues, life altering "big deals". Now even small things can be values. When Dominique is married to Keating, and has monastically forsworn all valuing she deliberately doesn't do things like pick her own favorites for clothing, meals etc. A continuum of values implies a hierarchy based upon the ordering criteria.

Small values and big values are the results of the same process of valuing, which becomes a habit in a valuer. quote #21:

The thing which is most "wrong with the world" today is its absolute lack of positive values. [There is a lack] of moral standards (not merely the old-fashioned "Victorian morals," but of anything approaching morals, anything that values, differentiates and says "yes" or "no"), a lack of honor, a lack of faith (in a philosophical, not a religious meaning, faith as a set of certain principles, as a goal, aim or inspiration, as a life-system). Here again, it is not the absence of a certain type of values that I mean, but the very act and habit of valuing and selecting in one's mental life. Nothing is considered bad and nothing is considered good. There is no enthusiasm for living, since there is no enthusiasm for any part, mode or form of living.

No investment of self in a decision (what to wear) leads to no emotional response to the result (indifference to style)

"Standards", which are first illustrated in work, can also be applied to life as a whole. The Fransisco-Rearden dialog moves from work to life with the question (quote #27)

But what I wonder about, Mr. Rearden, is why you live by one code of principles when you deal with nature and by another when you deal with men?

Rearden and Roark are similar in that Rearden's purpose was his central idea.

Rearden's came up with a new idea.

Productive work is the process of bringing values into existence.

Two Observations Relating back to "Knowing How to Value"

Keating in quotes #35, 36, 37 shows he is unsure, he cannot value in architecture, he cannot care. He has no architectural standards so cannot assign value. Because he has no sense of efficacy he lacks any reason to think of himself as a value, he has no ethical standard.

1) Standards are knowledge, they can be learned. That is what architecture school is supposedly for, and Cameron teaches Roark in quote #39.

2) It is actually too late for Keating to learn. quote #38 and Roark commenting "Its too late" after Keating shows his paintings. Not because he is too old, he isn't. Keating has done irreparable damage to himself. An artist must have a strong soul, an intense valuation of things. Keating has spent a lifetime repressing his own values, he has nothing to say. There is no redemption for Keating, or Jim Taggart or any Rand villain.

Q: Evan: Meaning of "Wynand not born to be a second hander?"

A: Rand started off merely observing differences between people, not so much explaining why they are different. Rand later integrated free will into her philosophy. Fountainhead rejects determinism by having it come out of the mouths of villains: "The Gallant Gallstone" thesis people are determined by their glands, and Toohey's saying about everyone is a product of society.

In unpublished notes on psychology Rand makes a matrix of combinations of subconscious and conscious philosophical premises, and draws character sketches for the combinations. This was perhaps a useful exercise for a novelist but speculative psychology and determinist as philosophy.

Rand's ideas on free will solidified between the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, so fate in the form of "Wynand not born to be a second hander" comes from an idea she later rejected. Francisco is an updated handling of free will vs. heritability.

Place of Work in Life:

Roark's meaning of life quote #40 “Now I can make what I want of it: a bow, a spear, a cane, a railing. That’s the meaning of life. [ . . . ] Your work.” He tossed the branch aside. “The material the earth offers you and what you make of it. . . .”

Life is valuing.

Productive work is the process of reshaping your world in the image of your values.

Life has to be centered around bringing your values into existence, being productive.

Being centered, having a center, the center is purpose.

"What to do with my life" is like an architectural problem that everyone faces. A context is given, select/project a central idea and integrate details around it.

A building with a central integrating idea is like a living thing, but you are a living thing. To live is to project a central purpose as in a career and set your life details around it.

contrast with people in quote #43. "voices shrieking without purpose over the roar of the motor, and overstressed hiccoughs of laughter.." "release from the work and the burdens of the days behind them; they had worked and carried the burdens in order to reach a goal—and this was the goal." Priorities here are wrong, means-ends reversed. In Kira-speak, these people "breathe and work and produce more food to digest" at their picnic.

{When Roark goes on a vacation he can actually relax because there is no need to frantically (due to shortness of vacations and parties) seize his critical values to prove himself efficacious, he "gave at the office".}

The partiers lives are not organized around a creative purpose. What values they have are pathetic, lame, sad, don't integrate, are an escape from drearyness.

{Summary statement:

What it means "to live" is to integrate the details of your life with a central purpose by practicing the act and habit of valuing by selecting and producing your own values. Enthusiasm for life comes from the fact they are your own values, not conforming to someone else's.}

Production of values is also man's means of survival in that all material requirements of life are satisfied by this same process.

Valuing is what makes us efficacious, worthy of survival (self-esteem), and achieve life in both the spiritual sense and the survival sense. The two senses of life are achieved by the same means.

From Kara Zavarella's course on "The Timelessness of The Scarlet Letter" there are values that are existential/ material and values that are character traits found in self and others. Literature can be regarded/graded as to its seriousness based on whether it illustrates/emphasizes both types of values, only one type or neither.

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Notes on "Ayn Rand's Conception of Valuing" by Greg Salmieri

Philosophically significant observations about valuing can be had by revisiting the fiction.

16 pages of significant quotes are avilable in a supplemental handout. In these notes the appropriate quote sometimes will be pasted in where referenced. Not all quotes are referenced and so form background reading.

These notes paraphrase the speaker's points and are not accurate quotes unless in quote tags.

{my own comments in curly brackets}

Lecture 3


  • there are valuers and nonvaluers, not everybody does it, or not enough or not at all
  • valuers are moralistic/idealistic/effacacious
  • nonvaluers are zeroes/of the mass
  • values evoke immediate emotional responses
  • values/valuing is a result of a process/skill/knowledge
  • valuing and thinking are nearly the same thing
  • valuing requires standards
  • standards of value impose hierarchy on values
  • means-ends relations impose hierarchy on values
  • valuing is inherently self assertive/individualistic/egoistic
  • there exists such a thing as second handedness - action in the absence of values, it causes evil

Atlas presents a full moral theory and validation to it.

Rand decides proper order is to say why we need a code of values at all and build from there

In incomplete work "Moral Basis of Individualism" life and free will together motivate the need for a code of values

Life is the standard and establishes the need for values

Free will establishes the need for a code

Atlas goes deeper via her idea of "values for weeds".

formerly a value was defined as "that which one seeks to gain or keep" thus inherently of consciousness and excluding plants.

new definition "that which one acts to gain or keep"

Rand made this change while writing Galt's speech

new definition

  • makes human life continuous with other species
  • makes objectivity of values easier to see
  • unites "living as survival" and "a moral life"
  • enables a validation

'seeking to' - the end is found via introspection

'acts to' - the end is in the world, out vs. in. No longer requires consciousness but still retains quality of directedness

Value presupposes a purpose and context, an actor and alternative

Only living beings act in the face of an alternative

Only life is an end in itself, action aimed at more action

Valuing is what living things do and what living consists of in its moment-by-moment activity.

Ayn Rand's villains are in an real sense not living because they are not valuing. This is NOT a metaphor. Blood and breath continue but those are subsystems, parts not a whole person so long as a central integrating purpose is absent.

Previous format of Rand's argument was: we all want to live, how do we go about it? It was axiomatic that "Man exists and his survival is desirable."

New realization is that the desire to survive is not automatic, there is no built-in direction.

Ethics derives from 2 things:

* Identity as human being

* Choice to live

Objectivity of Values (term objective does not appear in Atlas, later description of same ideas)

Value presupposes a valuer acting to stay in existence.

Humans hold values in consciousness (not built-in as for plants and animals)

Therefore Values/the Good do not exist independently of their minds, nor independently of being consciously chosen.

Not just anything chosen and pursued is a value, it must also satisfy an ethical standard.

Questions/Confusions about the "choice to live"

Is this choice arbitrary, subjective?

Does choosing not to live, or choosing something other than life enable bad guys to opt out of morality?

A wrong answer: "All values presuppose choosing to live. Suicide bombers are choosing to live but are acting contradictorily to the choice to live".

If a suicide bomber is not a paradigmatic example of choosing not to live, who ever could be? If everybody always chooses to live then it is not really a choice. It is equivalent to psychological egoism, the claim that people always act selfishly.

In what form does the choice to live present itself?

Opens to audience discussion

Q: 9/11 suicide pilot is fostering his ideals and therefore still choosing life.

A: No. True, prompt death is not proof of a death choice. But suicide bombers and pilots are not making a desperate last stand in an emergency situation. There is a whole subculture of suicide bombing. Also, this psychological egoism means there is never such a thing as a sacrifice. {If whatever you are pursuing is automatically at the top of your hierarchy of value, hierarchy is useless}

Q: What does James Taggart want?

A: To be without the necessity of being anything in particular, to be and not to be.

Q: Because life is the standard it dictates the choices you make. {Isn't this rationalist?}

A: The argument for that has the premise that valuing anything at all presupposes choosing and accepting life as a value and the ultimate value.

Value is that which one acts to gain or keep.

'To act' is acting in the face of an alternative: life or death

If acting is construed as promoting life always, then how is it ever possible to have an incorrect or immoral value? Back to psychological egoism.

Q: (Christina) Suicide bombers don't just kill themselves, they kill others.

A: Their motivation is different. We class them as evil because they act in ways detrimental to us. They are choosing in way, being selective but doing it in an evil, undead, nonvital way.

How does the choice to live present itself, what are examples both ways?

positive example: Rearden after the Equalization of Opportunity Act has been passed contemplates giving up. (quote #49) Rearden imagines a new bridge design, and chooses that instead of giving up. The bridge idea arose from a context. One can push back further and ask where did the context come from?

When do people choose to live? What does that mean?

Imagined mentality of a tiger while getting hungry, hunting and eating, and getting horny, pursuing and mating.

In a way it is true that tigers mate to reproduce, but tigers don't plan ahead about reproduction or leaving legacies. Tigers don't even know they can die. Tigers act on range of the moment stimuli to achieve the values that are rigged to enter its life through evolution in its environment.

Humans have to do their own rigging. {Choosing to live is choosing to value, which is choosing a value a particular value}

Children start off not much better than the tiger.

Children integrate short range values into longer range values.

Range of a moment; range of a minute; range of an hour; dealing with distractions; scheduling/dividing time over multiple goals

Theory: big values come from small values integrated together

Choosing life is selecting things and putting them together, endorsing and automating the things chosen as a standard of value. Choosing life at any moment is acting with fidelity to the projected & automatized ideal of your life.

This is Ayn Rand's conception of valuing (not Salmieri's) in Journals of Ayn Rand pg. 554

The progression of a man’s mental (and psychological) development. (The progression of a man’s consciousness.)

1. He acquires factual knowledge of objects around him, of events, and therefore concludes that a universe exists and that he exists (through the evidence given to him by his senses, grasped and put in order by his reasoning mind). Here he gets the materials to grasp two things: objective reality and himself, consciousness and self-consciousness.

2. He discovers that he has the capacity of choice. First, he grasps objects, entities—then that these entities act, i.e., move or change. (It may seem to be almost simultaneous, but actually he must grasp “entity” before he can grasp “acting entity.”) The same [applies to] himself: first he gains self-consciousness, then he learns that this self can act (or must act) and that he must do it through choice. (Such as: if he is hungry, he must ask for food, or cry for it, or go and get it, but he must do something, choose what to do, and choose to do it.) Why does he get the conception of the necessity to act? That is his nature as man—he must preserve his life through his own action and that action is not automatic; he must preserve his life through conscious choice.

The basis of his choice will be self-preservation; this will form his first standard of values, and give him his first conception of such things as “value” and “a standard of value.” This is his first conception of “good” and “evil.” His physical entity will give him the first evidence and the start toward it—through physical pain and pleasure. He feels pain when he is hungry; he has no choice about this; but he discovers that he must exercise choice if he wants the pain to stop—he must get food; the food isn’t given to him automatically. If he finds pleasure in eating, he learns that he must choose to act in order to get that pleasure, and choose right.

This is the basic pattern, and as he grows and discovers other fields of activity, the same holds true: he learns that he must choose and act on his choice; he forms desires according to the standards of value he has established (his own pleasure, satisfaction or happiness—this grows in complexity as his mind, experience, and knowledge grow) and he acts to [satisfy] these desires according to these values.

His first desires are given to him by nature; they are the ones that he needs directly for his body, such as food, warmth, etc. Only these desires are provided by nature and they teach him the concept of desire. Everything else from then on proceeds from his mind, from the standards and conclusions accepted by his mind and it goes to satisfy his mind—for example, his first toys. (Perhaps sex is the one field that unites the needs of mind and body, with the mind determining the desire and the body providing the means of expressing it. But the sex act itself is only that—an expression. The essence is mental, or spiritual.)

Essentially, and most basically, his standard of value will always be pleasure or pain, i.e., happiness or suffering, and these, essentially, are: that which contributes to the preservation or the destruction of his life. (This applies to his most complex, abstract desires later on.)

(Note: “life” and “self-preservation” are actually synonyms, in the sense that the last is implied in the first. Life is a process, an activity, which the living thing must perform—that is what makes it a living thing. Man must do it consciously—the essence and tool of his life is his mind.)

This stage, then, is the discovery of choice and values, i.e., of free will and morality.

3. Now that he knows that he can choose (and must choose), can have desires and can achieve them—he is ready to start forming his conscious convictions about the universe, about himself and about what he intends to do. (These convictions, or basic principles, are already implied in the above process. But now he must state them.)

These three steps are the essence of the process. But now man must remain convinced consciously of the validity of what he’s learned in that process. It implies: free will, self-confidence (confidence in one’s own judgment), self-respect (the conviction that the preservation of his life and the achievement of his happiness are values, are good), and a benevolent universe in which he can achieve happiness (if he remains realistic, that is, true to reality observed by his reason). If his desires are derived from and based on reality correctly observed—they will be achievable in this universe. All his desires come from reality, but the wrong ones are due to his mistakes in judgment; if he realizes the mistake, a contradiction or an inherent impossibility, he will not continue to desire these objects; he won’t damn the universe for not giving him the irrational or impossible.

Roark chooses life by choosing "Howard Roark: Architect"

Q: Keith: ISO trichotomy, it seems to be an error that we choose things ex nihilo then go research the means to the end and then value those means.

A: Agree. The basis of any chosen value is already formed values. Infants work off pleasure/pain

Basis is not a standard but a context or situation a la' the architectural problem. A chosen value is a solution to a situation/problem.

Peikoff paraphrase: there is no reason to live in the form of a prior standard, but there is a reason to live in the form of all of reality.

Formulating a standard out of material. Choosing to live is in action equivalent to induction.

Forming values is inductive. Pursuing values in means-ends terms is a practical syllogism/deduction.

The way induction follows from its observations is different from the relation between a deduction and its premises.

The value of life is based on things, but not the way the value of other things are based on life.

(Still working on formulating this idea.)

The End until next year's OCON.

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Grames, I wonder: What made you buy this course? Did somebody recommend it? If so, what did he say? I am only wondering because I think the notes are extremely interesting and illuminating.

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Because I was dissatisfied with my understanding of value and valuing. Tara Smith's Viable Values does not exhaustively present the metaethical argument. Knowing where values come from will color understanding of the virtues and all of ethics.

This is a new course, so it had no one to recommend it.

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