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Man's Life as His Moral Standard

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Life is the process of self-sustaining and self-generating action. Life requires action, and action requires values. Philosophy in general, and ethics in particular, attempt to answer the questions, "What do I do?" and "Why?" People study philosophy so they can know how to live their life.

So that you can live life successfully and happily, you must learn which values to hold and how to achieve them -- this is your life as your moral standard. All moral questions (questions of right action) are questions of how to live happily and successfully, and all moral principles must be measured against how they promote and benefit your life and happiness. Your life as your moral standard holds all things promoting your life as the good.

To every living thing, there is one primary choice, and that is to live or not -- to engage in the action required to further its own life or to engage in action that destroys its own life. The only other alternative is death. Choosing life as your standard of value is a pre-moral choice. It cannot be judged as right or wrong; but once chosen, it is the role of morality to help man to live the best life possible.

The opposite of choosing life is altruism: the moral doctrine that holds death as its moral standard. It holds sacrifice as the only good, and all things "selfish" as evil. According to altruism, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as it does not further your life it is considered good. The more consistently a person is altruistic, the closer their actions are to suicide. The consistent altruist will give up every bit of food he owns to other people because that is what he considers good, and die because of it.

Your life as your standard does not mean Hedonism -- the spur of the moment instant gratification, doing whatever you feel like. Your life as your standard means acting in your rational self-interest. Rational self-interest takes into account the long-term effects of every action.

Your life as your standard does not mean trampling on other people to get what you want. This is not in your rational self-interest. It is in your interest to be benevolent.

Nor does your life as your standard mean cheating people to get ahead, even if they don't realize it and you never get caught. Fraud is not in your rational self-interest because you lose your independence and you sacrifice honesty to an unreality that you have to maintain to perpetrate your fraud. This is self-destructive in the long run.

In order to know what is good, which actions are objectively in a person's self-interest, we develop virtues which are principles of action.

Edited by Luke77
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5 hours ago, Luke77 said:

Your life as your standard does not mean ...

 

 

Hi Luke77:

If "your life is your standard"[of value] ... by what standard is that to be held, by an individual?

Do you see that this rendition becomes circular and/or subjective?

I.e. My own life is the standard of my own standard of value ... ?

Which in itself does not preclude e.g. hedonism or trampling on others.

One first requires an abstract standard by which to judge and choose *which* are one's own standards and *why*..

"Man's life" - living as "man" and all that entails -  provides that standard (or "gauge") of value for each of us.

Now we have an objective standard of value dedicated to the purpose of one's supreme value.

The rest is accurately said.

Edited by whYNOT
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On 9/11/2020 at 2:59 AM, whYNOT said:

Hi Luke77:

If "your life is your standard"[of value] ... by what standard is that to be held, by an individual?

Do you see that this rendition becomes circular and/or subjective?

I.e. My own life is the standard of my own standard of value ... ?

Which in itself does not preclude e.g. hedonism or trampling on others.

One first requires an abstract standard by which to judge and choose *which* are one's own standards and *why*..

"Man's life" - living as "man" and all that entails -  provides that standard (or "gauge") of value for each of us.

Now we have an objective standard of value dedicated to the purpose of one's supreme value.

The rest is accurately said.

No I don't follow. The objective criteria of valueing oneself and pursuing ones happiness, does not include subjectivity and whim whatsoever. Acting in one's rational self interest does not include spur of the moment hedonism and trampling on others liberties.

It follows from first principles of reason to act benevolent in ones trades and to always plan ahead for long term benefits.

This implies controlling ones emotions and self-control not being some one of loose morality and brutish behavior.

Edited by Luke77
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Also my morality is not subjective. So I don't know what you're getting at.

One of the consequences of subjectivism is the belief that values are subjective. This means that values are whatever we choose to pursue and whatever we desire. It means there is no such thing as good or evil, except what you think is good or evil. If you believe something is evil, that's just your own personal preference. It is not, and cannot be, a statement about reality.

The idea of values being subjective is a denial of the need or possibility of morality. Since any values can be accepted without consequence, there is no guide to determine which values should be accepted. Since there is no objective moral standard, reason cannot be used to determine how one should act. Emotions are all that is left to make the decision, and subsequently, one is ruled by one's emotions.

A second consequence to espousing subjective values is a demand for no moral judgment. Since morality is subjective, and right or wrong are not real, it makes no sense to judge others by your own personal moral whims. And when moral judgment is not practiced, justice is impossible. Crimes cannot be punished. The innocent cannot be protected. It is easy to see who benefits from this policy.

 

Moral subjectivity is morally bankrupt and evil period.

 

Edited by Luke77
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4 hours ago, Luke77 said:

No I don't follow. The objective criteria of valueing oneself and pursuing ones happiness, does not include subjectivity and whim whatsoever. Acting in one's rational self interest does not include spur of the moment hedonism and trampling on others liberties.

It follows from first principles of reason to act benevolent in ones trades and to always plan ahead for long term benefits.

This implies controlling ones emotions and self-control not being some one of loose morality and brutish behavior.

Do you require an objective base for the ethics?

Simple as that.

How do you know that the "criteria of valuing oneself" and pursuing happiness is objectively good, or just what one feels like, subjectively?

 Is it revealed - intrinsic - knowledge? Or informed by one's instincts? On whose authority? The proposition of rational egoism must be justified exhaustively, and that Rand did. Concluding:

"The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the ~standard~ of value -- and ~his own life~ as the ethical ~purpose~ of every individual man".

If you see the distinction between "man's life" and an individual-- and between "standard" and "purpose", you'll get what Rand meant. Terms which she carefully explained in that passage. Only then, with that precept - man's life the standard of value - established, does self-value, reason etc., come in. By virtue of what the nature of "man" and "life" is (also carefully explained).

Back to the point, one's own life cannot be the *standard* of value for one's own life. This is self-referencing and no measure (or standard) to hold to and base one's standards and virtues on, therefore is subjective.

"I decided to do this therefore it is good"? By what standard?

Edited by whYNOT
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5 hours ago, whYNOT said:

Do you require an objective base for the ethics?

Simple as that.

How do you know that the "criteria of valuing oneself" and pursuing happiness is objectively good, or just what one feels like, subjectively?

 Is it revealed - intrinsic - knowledge? Or informed by one's instincts? On whose authority? The proposition of rational egoism must be justified exhaustively, and that Rand did. Concluding:

"The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the ~standard~ of value -- and ~his own life~ as the ethical ~purpose~ of every individual man".

If you see the distinction between "man's life" and an individual-- and between "standard" and "purpose", you'll get what Rand meant. Terms which she carefully explained in that passage. Only then, with that precept - man's life the standard of value - established, does self-value, reason etc., come in. By virtue of what the nature of "man" and "life" is (also carefully explained).

Back to the point, one's own life cannot be the *standard* of value for one's own life. This is self-referencing and no measure (or standard) to hold to and base one's standards and virtues on, therefore is subjective.

"I decided to do this therefore it is good"? By what standard?

It cannot be subjective. Ayn Rand's objective basis for morality is not a subjective morality. It is not based on a mere opinion, it is based on what one should do in accordance to reason. Not on what one feels. 

Choosing to live is a pre-moral choice, after which, the question becomes "How?" This is the same as "What do I do?" One can either go about it randomly or with a methodology designed for success. That methodology is called morality.

An explicit morality allows one to choose rationally among values. It makes the selection of values rational by providing a method to evaluate them. Values are compared to a moral standard, and prioritized according to how well they promote that standard. To make decisions easier, we develop virtues which are moral habits which tend to help gain values.

Historically, the concept of morality has often been used negatively as a list of thou shall not's in check against ones actions. The stance taken is often that it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you don't violate any moral edicts; but the source of these moral edicts is often mystical or arbitrary.

A list of prohibitions, even if founded in reason rather than mysticism, is not a sufficient outline for success. Morality should be positive rather than negative. Not What shouldn't I do? but What should I do?. The problem with defining morality negatively is that pretty much anything goes provided one avoids a few problem areas. This is not useful because within the sphere of pretty much anything goes, there is no methodical way to choose which action is best, whereas positive morality sets forth habits which lead to the achievement of values and methods for choosing what to value which is the way to live and thrive.

With ones own life as the standard of value, morality is not a burden to bear, but a prudent and effective guide which furthers life and success. 

If you say that Ayn Rand's morality is subjective. You are not a Objectivist, at least not by the estimations of her ethics is concerned. 

Man's interest is defined as that which benefits his life. It is an evaluation of the facts of reality. Since the nature of man's life has particular, objective requirements, determining whether something promotes his life is a statement of fact.

One's interests should not be confused with one's desires. A desire is that which you wish to achieve or acquire. A desire can be subjective or irrational. One's interests, though, are objective facts of reality. They don't state what you want to achieve. They state what you should achieve to promote your life.

A proper morality is based on man's self-interest. It is based on what allows him to live and flourish. Identification of his interests allows him to decide how to act, and what values to pursue. It is the measure of right and wrong.

Its also the best moral system for happiness on earth. 

Edited by Luke77
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2 hours ago, Luke77 said:

It cannot be subjective.

You said that "your life" is the standard of value, which isn't what Rand believed, because it would be subjective. "Life" is the standard. 

The majority of your posts are summarizing Rand, so it's important to be precise. 

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Miss of the point, Luke77.  It's your rendition which will turn to subjectivity, I have said, not Rand's.

You've made a misinterpretation of Rand, replacing or conflating man's life with "my" life. And - mistaken the metaphysical abstraction for a concrete.

Read that section in VoS again and show where she wrote "...one's own life as the standard of value..."

 I think it could be put that man's life is the bedrock of value - "the source of and capacity to value" - from which each individual's value-in-himself is derived and gauged by.

Without that metaphysical foundation you have unjustified moral statements and imperatives.

Putting this your way, if each individual's life is his/her own *standard* of value - then whose standard of value is moral and true? One must then logically conclude that these ethics are subjectively egotist, and maybe end with moral relativism.

"Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man..."[p.25]

(I.e. Man's life: the standard of value...)

"Man's survival qua man" is to live and act by that proper standard, not simply, physically 'survive'.

Please read again her definition of "standard" where this confusion began.

 

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10 hours ago, whYNOT said:

Miss of the point, Luke77.  It's your rendition which will turn to subjectivity, I have said, not Rand's.

You've made a misinterpretation of Rand, replacing or conflating man's life with "my" life. And - mistaken the metaphysical abstraction for a concrete.

Read that section in VoS again and show where she wrote "...one's own life as the standard of value..."

 I think it could be put that man's life is the bedrock of value - "the source of and capacity to value" - from which each individual's value-in-himself is derived and gauged by.

Without that metaphysical foundation you have unjustified moral statements and imperatives.

Putting this your way, if each individual's life is his/her own *standard* of value - then whose standard of value is moral and true? One must then logically conclude that these ethics are subjectively egotist, and maybe end with moral relativism.

"Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man..."[p.25]

(I.e. Man's life: the standard of value...)

"Man's survival qua man" is to live and act by that proper standard, not simply, physically 'survive'.

Please read again her definition of "standard" where this confusion began.

 

Ok I see. So "my" life is not a life. I don't exist objectively. Makes sense not. I am not a subjectivist. And you are irrational.

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You said that "your life" is the standard of value, which isn't what Rand believed, because it would be subjective. "Life" is the standard. 

The majority of your posts are summarizing Rand, so it's important to be precise. 

Your life is the standard means life is the standard. Life is the standard, your life is the standard. Life is the standard. That is not a subjective pladitude. You are both irrational.

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12 minutes ago, Luke77 said:

 

There is nothing in any of my statements above that talks about living according whimsical desires. I said nothing of the sort. Quit putting words in my mouth that were not said. The word "your" does not imply subjectivity and cannot imply "subjectivity" in this context, because I am not talking about how I personally feel. I am talking about life being the standard, I am saying that life is the standard of evaluation. I am not saying people should live according to whimsical desires and irrational urges. I am saying a person should control their life according to reason and objective reality, to pursue their rational self interest not their irrational drives.

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Gentlemen,

I’m all in favor of accuracy and precision, but I also favor focus, and things are a little unfocused here. The focus should be on the word standard. 99% of the discussion is beside the point. This is a simple epistemological question: what is a “standard”? Tony correctly caught that, but unfortunately didn’t focus on that issue. So someone please explain why the notion of “objective standard” has to be stated in terms of “man’s life” and not “one’s own life”. How do we not end up with the disasterous conclusion that every man should so value the life of every other man that… something bad?

There is this question:

Quote

I decided to do this therefore it is good"? By what standard?

The answer is, “my life is the standard for my choices of action”. Every man can apply this standard. The question adds in an irrelevant distractor, that merely “deciding” to do something does not cause something to be good (note the word “therefore”). What matters is whether a choice actually is good by the standard, a fact that has to be recognized by rational means. The assertion "I decided to do this therefore it is good" is unlikely to lead to a recognition of the real problem, because it’s laden with multiple false premises. Surely y’all can clean this up a bit, with a bit more focus.

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9 hours ago, Luke77 said:

Your life is the standard means life is the standard.

I don't think it is. I don't think Rand thought it was either. I don't think they mean the same thing. 

Taken another way, this is how you should frame it instead:

9 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

So someone please explain why the notion of “objective standard” has to be stated in terms of “man’s life” and not “one’s own life”. How do we not end up with the disasterous conclusion that every man should so value the life of every other man that… something bad?

I have a pretty complex argument in mind, and I didn't want to write out an essay about it (I appreciate you weighing in, DO). For the most part, Luke, you repeat Rand correctly, but based on your posts here, I'm not sure you understand yet what a standard means epistemologically speaking. As far as standards go, I don't think concrete things (i.e. you specifically) ever do as well as abstract things (i.e. you in general, based on the things we have in common).

If you want to read more about it, try this somewhat recent thread: 

 

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Consider what Rand did NOT write:

1. Life is the standard of value.

2. A man's (or woman's) life is THE value.

3. The individual's life is his OWN standard of value.

They are each erroneous and misleading or insufficient: and arbitrary, intrinsicist, or subjective, I maintain.

Rather, she expanded upon and substantiated this precise version: "The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the *standard* of value - and *his own life* as the ethical purpose of every individual man".

[- and woman, I'd suggest, to be painstakingly clear].

So, this bears little relation to any old ethics of "virtue egoism" which a self-aggrandizing individual may seize on because he/she has a yen for being egotistical--this one is radical. It requires that an individual live up to the objective nature of "man qua man", and employs that standard to his specific purpose/s.

"...that which is proper to man..." Rand repeated. There's the essence of the abstraction "man's life" that is the standard of value for one to gauge by.

A proper life to man (stress on MAN's life) by which one recognizes and chooses to act by man's nature - to rationality, reason and objective values and virtues, none of which comes automatically or instinctively.

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On 9/13/2020 at 5:42 PM, DavidOdden said:

Gentlemen,

 

I’m all in favor of accuracy and precision, but I also favor focus, and things are a little unfocused here. The focus should be on the word standard. 99% of the discussion is beside the point. This is a simple epistemological question: what is a “standard”? Tony correctly caught that, but unfortunately didn’t focus on that issue. So someone please explain why the notion of “objective standard” has to be stated in terms of “man’s life” and not “one’s own life”. How do we not end up with the disasterous conclusion that every man should so value the life of every other man that… something bad?

 

 

 

Why it must be stated so David, is that Rand traces the ethics from its metaphysical base, i.e. from existence and consciousness, the nature of all life and man's nature. "Radical", in short. The O'ist principle stated by Rand is the essence of all that, as you know from Rand's comprehensive preamble in VOS.

What value one places in another man is of course by one's own standards (virtues) one derived from the *standard* of value, man's life.

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What looks minor, even semantical quibbles over phrasing, is like setting off on a boat voyage with a faulty compass bearing. The further you progress the farther off course you go - you aimed for Ireland and ended up in Portugal.

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On 9/13/2020 at 4:57 PM, Luke77 said:

Ok I see. So "my" life is not a life. I don't exist objectively. Makes sense not. I am not a subjectivist. And you are irrational.

I suggest to read what's in front of you in the book to understand better; I asked where you see "MY life is my standard of value ..."

Can you?

Otherwise mere repetitions of the error get you nowhere.

 

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[By Barbara Branden; thanks to Peter Taylor]

 

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: what's wrong with 'solipsistic' egoism? Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 09:14:22 EST.

Luka wrote: "What is wrong, logically, with the claim that the standard of value for any given person is the type of life that he wants for himself? For those of you who disagree with this claim, I'd like to hear a non-duty based reason to reject that standard".

A lot is wrong with the idea that the standard of value for any given person is the type of life that he wants for himself. First and foremost, it is utterly subjective. If, for instance, I decide that I value idleness, then it is perfectly legitimate for me to mooch off other people in order to have the money to be idle. If I decide that I value being thought an innovator, then it is perfectly legitimate for me to lie and cheat about my accomplishments and to steal other people's work, in order to achieve this goal. And there go rights, and reason, and objective values.

As Ayn Rand stated, with which I agree -- and for which she gave a lengthy and important validation in Galt's speech -- *man's life,* not subjective preferences, is the standard of value. If survival is the good, then man's life (according to his nature as a rational being) is the only defensible standard of value. May I suggest, Luka, that you reread this section of Galt's speech. I consider it probably the most important and innovative identification in her philosophy: the proof that values arise from facts; that man's life is rationally his highest value because he requires the acceptance of that value in order to survive. Barbara

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On 9/12/2020 at 11:37 AM, whYNOT said:

If you see the distinction between "man's life" and an individual-- and between "standard" and "purpose", you'll get what Rand meant.

I think this is the hold up because purpose is a subspecies of standard (in a certain context). Standard and Purpose, both give guidance. (but with Rand the primary difference seems to be that one is abstract, the other concrete)

The difference between “standard” and “purpose” in this context is as follows: a “standard” is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose. “That which is required for the survival of man qua man” is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. The task of applying this principle to a concrete, specific purpose—the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being—belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own.

Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

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On 9/15/2020 at 8:11 AM, Easy Truth said:

I think this is the hold up because purpose is a subspecies of standard (in a certain context). Standard and Purpose, both give guidance. (but with Rand the primary difference seems to be that one is abstract, the other concrete)

The difference between “standard” and “purpose” in this context is as follows: a “standard” is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose. “That which is required for the survival of man qua man” is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. The task of applying this principle to a concrete, specific purpose—the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being—belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own.

Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

What Rand shows, here and elsewhere, is required - presupposed - of one, is to be able to comprehend the chain between man and an individual, also, between standard and purpose. Or else, either one may soar into a free-floating abstraction in which man/standard is the ethical ideal, unattainable in practice by each man - or, into solid empiricism, by which man-individual, standard-purpose are identical concretes with no conceptual distinctions. The one route likely resulting from rationalism, the other method leading to moral subjectivity.

Conversely: what is "proper to man", the standard, is turned by him/her to the individual's purpose. Another angle - man, the nature and life of, is the epistemological abstraction induced from the reality (metaphysical) of all men, ever. What one does, I suggest, is then to deduce-apply this principle to one's (very) concrete life.

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