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Is life truly the standard of value?

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Nicko0301
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I just have one brief question concerning the subject of value.

According to Objectivism, "An organism's life is the standard of value: that which which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil." (OPAR pg. 212) Initially--after reading the arguments in support of this conclusion--I found this statement to be incontrovertible. However, after some deliberation, a question arose in my mind: If life is the standard of value, why do people often value things which are inimical to the preservation of life (e.g., drugs, alcohol, etc.)? It seems to me that many people often value things, not because they are conducive to the maintenance of life, but because they engender momentary pleasure (as in the case of drug addicts). Can anyone offer any insights? Does this in some way refute the Objectivist theory of value?

As always, thanks in advance.

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According to Objectivism, "An organism's life is the standard of value: that which which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil." (OPAR pg. 212) Initially--after reading the arguments in support of this conclusion--I found this statement to be incontrovertible. However, after some deliberation, a question arose in my mind: If life is the standard of value, why do people often value things which are inimical to the preservation of life (e.g., drugs, alcohol, etc.)? It seems to me that many people often value things, not because they are conducive to the maintenance of life, but because they engender momentary pleasure (as in the case of drug addicts). Can anyone offer any insights? Does this in some way refute the Objectivist theory of value?

The term 'value' is used in two distinct ways in the Objectivist literature -- a generic sense, and a consistent sense. Generically, a value is simply that which one acts to gain and/or keep -- a goal towards which one's actions are directed. In this sense people obviously work towards goals whose achievements are inconsistent with the requirements of their lives. The entire point of Rand's meta-ethical argument is to analyze this generic sense of value and by identifying the connection between goal-directed action and life, to validate the conclusion that if one wishes to consistently engage in goal-directed action then one must choose goals which are consistent with the maintenance of one's ability to keep pursuing goals. This is the consistent sense of value as that which contributes to the survival of a living organism.

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I'm not sure much more needs to be said other than such values are (probably) irrationally held. Long term consequences are sometimes ignored. Still, one does not automatically know whether something is objectively valuable or not. It requires the use of reason, and mistakes can be made. Life being the standard of value is how one judges something as objectively valuable. It does not mean irrational values are not possible.

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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.

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I just have one brief question concerning the subject of value.

According to Objectivism, "An organism's life is the standard of value: that which which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil." (OPAR pg. 212) Initially--after reading the arguments in support of this conclusion--I found this statement to be incontrovertible. However, after some deliberation, a question arose in my mind: If life is the standard of value, why do people often value things which are inimical to the preservation of life (e.g., drugs, alcohol, etc.)? It seems to me that many people often value things, not because they are conducive to the maintenance of life, but because they engender momentary pleasure (as in the case of drug addicts). Can anyone offer any insights? Does this in some way refute the Objectivist theory of value?

As always, thanks in advance.

You are equating the fact that something is done with the idea that it's right. You should know very well that that's not how things work. Just because someone lies, steals, and murders people, does not mean that it's proper for him to do so.

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You are equating the fact that something is done with the idea that it's right. You should know very well that that's not how things work. Just because someone lies, steals, and murders people, does not mean that it's proper for him to do so.

I never asserted that an action is moral because one has the desire to perform aforementioned action; please don't distort what I said. I simply wanted to explore why, given that life is what makes possible the concept of value, people purposely and consciously value things which are manifestly opposed to the furtherance and sustenance of life.

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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.

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I never asserted that an action is moral because one has the desire to perform aforementioned action; please don't distort what I said. I simply wanted to explore why, given that life is what makes possible the concept of value, people purposely and consciously value things which are manifestly opposed to the furtherance and sustenance of life.

The reason, when it boils down to it, is that those people are not being rational. They are pursuing "values" (though, it's hard to call something a value if it harms you) that do not serve their life, that are not rational. That does not mean that life is the true standard of value - it just means that some people are irrational about what they pursue as "values."

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The reason, when it boils down to it, is that those people are not being rational. They are pursuing "values" (though, it's hard to call something a value if it harms you) that do not serve their life, that are not rational. That does not mean that life is the true standard of value - it just means that some people are irrational about what they pursue as "values."

Values are simply that which man seeks to acquire and keep. So things like alcohol and drugs can definitely still be values. The point is that they are not objective values, because when one hold such things as values, they are using a standard of value other than life. Any other standard of value besides life is subjective, since life is the value that makes all other values possible (i.e. is the only possible ultimate value). Nearly anything can be a value, but the purpose of morality is to guide you to choose the right objective values. I think you agree with me on this point, but I wanted to clarify for the OP's sake that the main distinction is between subjective and objective values.

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Good values further an organisms life, evil values threaten it.

On earth, humans are the only organisms with the ability to decide whether or not to further their lives. All other organisms automatically pursue good values and the furtherance of their life.

Therefore when a human chooses to use drugs or support socialism, they are pursuing evil values and ultimately their own destruction. The use of drugs or socialism is still a value to them which they have a right and ability to choose for themselves, despite its evil consequences.

These people value death rather than life, by their own choice.

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Therefore when a human chooses to use drugs or support socialism, they are pursuing evil values and ultimately their own destruction. The use of drugs or socialism is still a value to them which they have a right and ability to choose for themselves, despite its evil consequences.

These people value death rather than life, by their own choice.

Implicitly, maybe. A person pursuing irrational values does not neccesarily value death. Happy socialists exist, Im sure if you asked them, their altruistic ethical beliefs would lead them to assert strongly that they value life, all the while not understanding the logical ends of their moral code. Most people simply hold mixed premises.

j..

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Two observations.

1.) Man has volition, and thus that which man values will be nearly limitless. Which values are conducive to a proper life is a different story.

2.) The English language is a poor language when it comes to the term life. Tara Smith correctly identified Aristotle's use of the term eudaimonia to denote where a proper ethics leads you-for the purpose is not merely life, or not merely to live, but to flourish, to increase and grow. Sometimes a plant can be hardy enough to make it through the winter, but it is during the spring that they "flourish", growing, expanding, constantly. This is because life constitutes actions, and as such can never be static.

The problem of hedonism is a different story, and stems largely in part due to whim-worship or range-of-the-moment thinking. In essence, a hedonist enjoys the pleasure of the moment with no conception of the future. That donut looks tasty and will surely be a pleasure to eat! I am going to eat it!. The next day: my, that donut looks tasty to eat! Five years and 100 pounds later: my, that donut looks tasty to eat! The essence of ethics, however, remains the same. Actions, actions, actions.

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