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Intrinsic good

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Swallow
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I am a bit confused over what Objectivism holds to be intrinsically good. I have seen two answers, "life" and "one's own self interest", and I am wondering which Rand considered to be of ultimate importance. I a new here, having just been introduced to Objectivism through a friend. I am an atheist and (in some sense) a Naturalist. Thanks!

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Objectvism holds that nothing is intrinsically valuable. For something to be of value, its has to be a value to someone, and for a purpose. Life makes value possible, and the purpose of values are the furthering of our life qua human being. To say that something is intrinsically valuable is to say its good apart from any context, ethical norms to Objectivists are absolutes, but contextual absolutes.

reading this back, it seems all over the place, but hopefully it helps...

j..

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Just to re-arrange the ideas in JayR's reply a bit, the idea of an "intrinsic" good is that something might be good always, for everything. It's clear that there are no intrinsically good things, for example fresh water is both bad and good depending on what kind of fish you are, oxygen if both good and bad depending on that kind of bacterium you are. So goodness and badness means good for a specific being and for a specific purpose. Given that we're talking about man as the "for whom", then we have to come to grips with the "what purpose" question. There is where the question of "axiomatic choice" becomes relevant. You have made the fundamental choice of existing (living), and that fundamental choice defines the standard by which other choices are evaluated, as either good or bad. If a choice supports your ultimate choice, it is good; if it contradicts that choice, it is bad.

To choose, which is something that only a volitional consciousness can do, boils down to selecting between two courses of action which the consciousness will pursue, and therefore all choices are "choices of what you will do". It makes sense to say "I choose that I do X" and it makes no sense to say "I choose that you do X". You can wish someone else to do something, but you cannot choose that someone else do something.

There is no real difference between "life" and "one's own self interest". One's own primary interest is one's life. Whether or not "one's own life" and "life, generically speaking" refer to different things depends on how they could conflict. The egoist (Objectivist) holds that every man should put his life at the top of the hierarchy of values; the altruist holds that every man should put his life at the bottom of the hierarchy of values. When faced with the choice of advancing your life, while respecting the life of others, then the egoist will advance his own life -- he acts in his self interest. When faced with the choice of advancing the life of anyone else at the expense of his own life, the altruist will act against his own life, ostensibly in order to advance abstract "life". (Clearly, though, since the cost is your own life, the implication is that your own life is of little significance compared to the life of anyone else, hence the altruist value hierarchy puts you at the bottom).

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Thank you! That helps a lot. I found this quote: "An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means — and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism's life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil" by Ayn Rand.

So... furthering my life... what about anyone/thing else? Is there really nothing to it but "me"?

Edited by Swallow
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So... furthering my life... what about anyone/thing else? Is there really nothing to it but "me"?
You don't exist in a vacuum, so other things to contemplate are your mother, a pretty flower, a waterfall, an Iphone, a good looking man or woman, etc. In all cases, though, the question that you should answer is their relationship to you. An Iphone isn't an intrinsic good, and you should not seek to gain or keep an Iphone if it is not good in relationship to your life.

Usually, the most difficult next step for people is really about "life". There is a tendency to think "Anything that doesn't kill me instantly is okay", and, on the opposite end of the error-scale "Anything that could possibly reduce the number of seconds that my heart beats and I'm technically non-dead is evil". Living is not simply "failing to be dead", it is an active process -- flourishing, as Tara Smith puts it.

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So... furthering my life... what about anyone/thing else? Is there really nothing to it but "me"?

Dealing with others is simple, use the trader principle. Dont sacrifice a higher value for a lesser one, and dont expect or demand that others do either. On a similar note, heres a good explanation from a while back that discusses the need for a "standard" of value.

j..

added on edit: Rands essay "The Objectivist Ethics" in her book "The Virtue of Selfishness" is where to begin, that or "Atlas Shrugged" if you havent read it already.

Edited by JayR
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