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Is there ever a case where we should help another

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marotta
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You seem to be missing the point, Stephen.

I'm missing the point?

Let me get this clear:

(1) In a letter to Hospers Ayn Rand responds to Hospers' distinction between "instrumental good" and "intrinsic good."

(2) In reference to "intrinsic good" Ayn Rand makes a statement in which she clearly states that she is responding "in your sense of the term."

(3) We do not have Hospers' letter but using Hospers' book Human Conduct," written just about the same time as the letter, I provide explicit definitions of the "sense of the term" "instrumental good" and intrinsic good" as written by Hospers.

(4) I connect (1), (2), and (3) together and state that it is reasonable to assume that the "sense of the term" Hospers used in the letter was the same "sense of the term" which Hospers presented in his book, the same "sense of the term" which Ayn Rand referenced when she responded.

(5) You reject (4) and claim that I am missing the point!

I'm flabbergasted.

Nevertheless, since my focus is always on the facts and the truth, I just finished a long phone conversation with John Hospers. Unfortunately, Hospers no longer is in possession of his and Ayn Rand's correspondence; the letters were stolen several years ago, and a police report was filed. However, from his own remembrance of what he wrote in his letters, he said there is every reason to think, and no reason to doubt, that his description in his letter of the terms "instrumental good" and "intrinsic good" were the same as I quoted from his book. That the "sense of the term" written in the letter, the one to which Ayn Rand responded, was the same "sense of the term" written in his book, seems like a reasonable assumption to me.

Is that clear, or am I still missing the point?

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[1] I would love to know which evidence you drew upon  to come to the conclusion that most Iranian's are Islamofascists.

[2] I am also curious as to why you would not assume that he could not be recruited/convinced  to support your cause.

1. Iran is a militant Islamic theocracy. Therefore, I believe it is fair to assume that most of the people in Iran are Islamofascists, as I understand this newly coined term. To be precise, I would say that the drowning stranger is most likely a supporter of the militant Islamic theocracy of Iran. Thus, he is most likely my mortal enemy.

2. I would think that, given the political context, it is highly unlikely that the stranger is not an Islamofascist, and by saving his life I am more likely saving my enemy than a potential friend. Thus, the chance of me recruiting him is slim, and not worth the risk involved--the risk being helping the enemy.

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Ayn Rand argued strongly for objective values, not intrinsic or inherent values.

Yes, that is true. Values are contextual. But Ayn Rand also identified life as belonging to a special category, the only thing which was an end-in-itself.

"Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself." [The Objectivist Ethics, p. 18.]

"... the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself." [The Objectivist Ethics, p. 32.]

Ayn Rand also made clear that the very notion of value is dependent on life.

"It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible." [Atlas Shrugged, p. 931.]

And, specifically, "Man's Life is its standard of value." [Atlas Shrugged, p. 932.]

Peikoff sums all of this up in OPAR (p. 212):

"Only the alternative of life vs. death creates the context for value-oriented action, and it does so only if the entity's end is to preserve its life. By the very nature of 'value,' therefore, any code of values must hold life as the ultimate value. All of the Objectivist ethics and politics rests on this principle. An ultimate value, Ayn Rand observes, is the end-in-itself 'which sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated'."

And, finally, as Ayn Rand states to Hospers further on in her letter (Letters, p. 562.)

"Do you remember the answer you gave to a student in your seminar, with which I agreed most enthusiastically? You said that one cannot ask: 'Why should I be rational?'—because by accepting a 'why' one has already accepted reason, because 'why' is a concept belonging to rationality. Well, on the same grounds, by the same logic, one cannot ask: 'Why should | choose my own life as my ultimate value ?'—because one has already accepted it by accepting the concept 'value,' because the concept 'value' has no other source, base, meaning or possibility of existing."

This is the sense in which Ayn Rand said that life is the only good which she would hold as "intrinsic," and this is the sense in which I meant life has inherent value.

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You seem to think that I am somehow personally attacking you, just to be clear I am not.

You also seem to be drawing a lot of inferences from what I have said that are not there: "you reject (4)..." and the like. Let me quote (4):

(4) I connect (1), (2), and (3) together and state that it is reasonable to assume that the "sense of the term" Hospers used in the letter was the same "sense of the term" which Hospers presented in his book, the same "sense of the term" which Ayn Rand referenced when she responded.
I do not reject (4) at all (although I appreciate your willingness to call John Hospers on the phone to prove it, such proof was unnecessary). In fact, my entire arguement relies on the validity of (4); it requires that Hospers used the term in the same sense as you have (which is as you have quoted from his book, unless I am mistaken). It requires that Rand drew a distinction between your usage of the term "intinsic" and some other usage. To quote myself:

The point is that Rand drew a distinction between Hospers' usage of the term "intrinsic" and some other form of the word.

And you are still missing it...

As MisterSwig quoted Rand:

The term "intrinsic" is extremely dangerous to use in ethics. It can be taken to mean "good of and by itself," regardless of context, standard, source, recipient and recipient's knowledge."

Clearly, Rand DID draw a distinction between two forms of the word, Hospers' form, and the above stated--"It can be taken to mean..."--form.

To return now to the initial cause of this discussion: I claimed that "inherent" was a somewhat misleading term to someone who is relativly unfamiliar with Objectivism (note that I did not claim that "inherent" was an incorrect term, as I do not believe it to be, just a misleading one).

You asked me to explain how it was misleading.

I responded that it could be equated to "intrinsic."

Now clearly, as I have said that "inherent" was not an incorrect term, I was using "intrinsic" not as equal to "inherent" but, in fact, in the way that Rand mentions in the quote provided by MisterSwig.

So let me repharse my origional claim, applying that usage to the word intrinsic...

"Inherent" may be taken--by someone who is unknowedgable about Objectivism (and therefore incapable of recognising the full context of the word)--to mean "good of and by itself, regardless of context, standard, source, recipient and recipient's knowledge."

Do you see my point now?

Now clearly someone with strong knowledge of Objectivism (or merely its value theory, for that matter) will easily see that "inherent" does not necessarily mean that. Someone with no such knowledge, however, might make the mistake of thinking that you meant that life was valueable as seperate from "context, standard, source, etc..."

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Richard Halley:

I'm not sure where the confusion lies but the issue is clear to me after Stephen Speichers last post.

Nearly all values are contextual. All except one. Life.

Life is the only phenomenon which has an intrinsic (or inherent) value.

This doesn't mean that you can't attach more value to a person you admire or love. You can and should.

It means: knowing nothing about the person drowning you may attach value to their life simply because life itself has value. There is some value intrinsic to life.

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You seem to think that I am somehow personally attacking you ...

I have documented, explained, and defended the sense in which I used a term, and did the same for Ayn Rand's use of a term in the letter. If you sense anything "personal" being expressed it would be solely my frustration in not being understood by you. I think if you go back to your several posts you will see that you have variously stated differing perspectives on the same issues, about which I mostly disagree.

In any case, I think I have devoted more time and effort to this thread than the subject demands, so on my part I really have nothing further to say.

I like your perspective on a number of issues, but not all. Nothing personal, and no hard feelings ...

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Richard Halley:

I'm not sure where the confusion lies but the issue is clear to me after Stephen Speichers last post.

Nearly all values are contextual. All except one. Life.

Life is the only phenomenon which has an intrinsic (or inherent) value.

No, all values ARE contextual.

"Since I regard all values as contextual and hierarchical, I would ultimately regard only one good as 'intrinsic,' in your sense of the term, namely: life."
emphasis added.

Life is of inherent (and intrinsic in the sense Hospers and Stephen have refered to) value because it is valuable because of what it is, not the results thereof. It is not of intrisic value--in the sense of the word which means value outside of context--since no such value is possible. If life existed with no valuer to value it, it would not be of value. The term value reqires a valuer and a standard.

I think if you go back to your several posts you will see that you have variously stated differing perspectives on the same issues...

I have gone back and read all of my posts--and the posts by Stephen which they were in response to--and fail to see where or how I have been in any way inconsistant.

Granted that, at the beginning of this discussion, I had origionally seen "intrinsic" as having only one possible meaning--specifically, value as seperate form a valuer, and a standard of value. I now recognise that "intirinsic" may be used in a number of ways (as a symonym for "inherent", for example), only one of which using the above stated definition (that being the sense I used to begin with). The recognition of this definition change, however, is trivial, since my origionally used definition remains among the valid ones.

If anybody cares to point out exactly where I have been inconsistant, or exactly how my statments are in disagreement with Stephen's (note here that I have maintained the entire time that "inherent" was a correct, even if misleading term--for evidence see my second post on the thread and compare to the preceding post by Stephen), please do.

Otherwise, I agree that this topic merits no more discussion.

Suffice to say that I maintain complete agreement with Stephen's first post in the thread, and apologise for any sort of misunderstanding which may have been caused by lack of clarity in my posts.

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Nearly all values are contextual. All except one. Life.

Life is the only phenomenon which has an intrinsic (or inherent) value.

Life is not a value without context.

First, a man must determine whether his life is of real, objective value to him. If the answer is "yes, my life is valuable to me," then, and only then, is his life an end in itself, because everything else he does from that point on is for the purpose of keeping his life. He doesn't achieve his life in order to get some other, higher value. Life is his top value. It is an ending point.

This means that life--any life--does not have intrinsic value, i.e., value is not an essential property of life. Otherwise, a man would have no choice in the matter. He would be morally obligated to value his life.

Some lives are valuable, others are not. A rational man needs to determine the objective value or objective disvalue of individual lives, for each important case he comes across.

Ayn Rand said that "all values are contextual and hierarchical."

Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 561

She did not find "life" to be an exception.

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What we are seeing here, in the posts regarding the use of the term "intrinsic", is exactly the kind of problem that Ayn Rand warned about in her letter.

There is a serious problem with using the term "intrinsic" to describe values. Etymologically and historically the term means that a thing's value is inward, a part of its essence. This would mean that life has value whether or not there is anyone to value it. This view, according to Rand, is false. (If you're interested, Rand wrote about the intrinsic theory of values in "What is Capitalism?", Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.)

Ayn Rand upheld an objective theory of values. According to her theory, we correctly view a thing, whether it be a human life or a bunch of carrots, as having value to a particular valuer in a particular context. Whether anything has value depends on it actually being of value to someone in a certain context.

My life may be of value to me now, while I am healthy. But if I were dying of a severely painful cancer, my life may no longer be of value to me. The context has changed.

Life gives rise to the concept of Value. But Life is not Value.

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I think everyone here understands that values are objective, not intrinsic or subjective. But the very concept of values has a starting point, an ultimate value which makes all other values possible. That ultimate value is life, and that reflects the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself. Since the fundamental alternative for man is life or death, any code of values must hold life as the ultimate value. That is the sense in which I mean that life has inherent value.

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Actually, it's interesting you should put it that way, Swig. In trying to argue against Stephen, you actually make his point for him.

There is a serious problem with using the term "intrinsic" to describe values. Etymologically and historically the term means that a thing's value is inward, a part of its essence. This would mean that life has value whether or not there is anyone to value it.

Think about the difference between life and, say, Volvos. There could be a Volvo with nobody to value it; it would then not be a value. But what do you have in mind for a case where there could be life without a valuer? Life is not value, that is correct -- but to live is to value. This is as true for a blade of grass as it is for a man, even though a man clearly values in a very different way than a plant. So, to reiterate the point that has been made repeatedly: life is not just the value that happens to be at the top of the hierarchy. It's different in kind from subordinate values.

That said, I do prefer to call life "inherently valuable" over "intrinsically valuable". And a further point should be emphasized: a life is only inherently valuable to the organism which is living it.

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I'm not so sure I agree that if I'm walking along and see someone in danger and it's of no risk to me to help them out, that I'm obligated to help them. I probably would simply because I value human life and would not want to see one die when I could have stopped it at no risk to myself (assuming that the person in danger is not someone I consider to be evil). Sure, in most cases most people probably would, but that doesn't mean that you're obligated. I am obligated to do nothing for anyone, my only duty is to myself- However (and I think this is the point you are making), if you value an innocent human life like that then you are obligated by your own values to do so, but not for any other reason; and to take the point further I think you're saying that most people do value life in that way (at least the rational ones anyway) and so would be obligated by their own values to do so.

Thanks for posting this topic, I just learned something from myself. I love doing that.

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That ultimate value is life, and that reflects the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself. Since the fundamental alternative for man is life or death, any code of values must hold life as the ultimate value. That is the sense in which I mean that life has inherent value.
Yes, by the nature of values, and by the nature of life, every valuer must hold (his own) life as his highest value, or he would not be able to value at all.

Life DOES have inherent value, misterswig, just not intrinsic (meaning that value is not seperate from a valuer).

I think everyone here understands that values are objective, not intrinsic or subjective.

I would have thought so, but Marc K. explicitly stated otherwise. He stated that life is a non-contextual value. Furthermore, he attributed the claim to you, so I'd think you would jump to correct him.

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[1] But what do you have in mind for a case where there could be life without a valuer?  Life is not value, that is correct -- but to live is to value.

[2] That said, I do prefer to call life "inherently valuable" over "intrinsically valuable".  And a further point should be emphasized: a life is only inherently valuable to the organism which is living it.

1. "[Man] has to hold his life as a value--by choice." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 940)

If "to live is to value" were true, then we would not have to choose life as a value. The mere act of living would mean that we were valuing.

There are plenty of people in the Middle East who have life and do not value it. In fact, they specifically train in order to end it--along with the lives of others.

2. "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." (Ayn Rand, "What is Capitalism?")

I maintain that "inherent" is not a good word to use in describing life as the ultimate value. To my knowledge, Ayn Rand never described her objective theory of values in this way. Indeed, she described the intrinsic theory of value using such terminology. A theory which she flatly rejected.

Etymologically and historically, "inherent" means practically the same thing as "intrinsic". To me, there is no difference between the two, when you are describing values.

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"[Man] has to hold his life as a value--by choice." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 940)

But there is a difference between a particular man holding his life as a value, and holding man's life as the standard of value. It is the latter sense, not the former, which is relevant here.

"I would remind the questioner of the difference between an abstraction and a collective noun. ('Man' is an abstraction, 'mankind' is a collective noun.) The standard 'man's life' does not mean 'just your or my or my family's life.' It means: that which is proper to the life of man qua man—that which is proper to the life of every individual man qua individual man. 'My life' cannot be 'the standard of my life.' A 'standard' is an abstract principle of action, which tells me how I should live my life. And the standard 'man's life' tells me why and how my life should be my purpose." [Letters of Ayn Rand, pp. 561-562.]

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Life DOES have inherent value, misterswig, just not intrinsic (meaning that value is not seperate from a valuer).

What is the difference?

I'll stick with the terminology that Rand used. She did not describe anything, including life, as having "inherent value." And, frankly, I have no clue what you mean when you do it.

Inherent: existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute. (Webster's Dictionary)

Is this how you are using "inherent"?

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MisterSwig:

Take "inherent value" to mean that something is valuable to someone, not becuase it causes some other value, but because it is valuable to them as itself.

Man's life must be inherently valueable since it is the standard by which all other values are to be judged.

If "to live is to value" were true, then we would not have to choose life as a value. The mere act of living would mean that we were valuing.

To live is not to value, but to value is to value life. One may either value life, or not value at all.

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If "to live is to value" were true, then we would not have to choose life as a value. The mere act of living would mean that we were valuing.

Well, it does. It just doesn't mean we're valuing well. If you literally don't value, you'll end up dead. You won't eat, and you'll starve to death; or you'll die from exposure because you couldn't be bothered to find a place to sleep. Even if you become catatonic and are strapped to an IV (and thus remain alive), you're still valuing in a plant-like fashion: your automatic processes (digestion, respiration, etc.) will take over.

But to live as a man, and not as a plant or as an animal (which cannot be successful), requires choosing one's standard of value. To choose to live qua man is to consciously accept the requirements of one's life and to commit oneself to satisfying them.

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Take "inherent value" to mean that something is valuable to someone, not becuase it causes some other value, but because it is valuable to them as itself.

I believe you are adopting a misleading term to describe the ultimate objective value--life. In my view, there is no benefit to be gained from using such terminology. It can only lead to further confusion.

I've looked in several dictionaries, and they all define "inherent" in the usual sense: "existing as an essential constituent or characteristic; intrinsic." (American Heritage College Dictionary)

This is the sense that Ayn Rand rejected. I don't believe the word today can be used to mean something else. What is wrong with calling life, as Ayn Rand does, the ultimate objective value, an end in itself?

What is the purpose of calling it "inherent"? What is gained in doing that?

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  • 5 weeks later...

Ahh, now this is one book I have not yet obtained. The only posthumous book of Ayn Rand that I have is the "Early Ayn Rand" (short stories/plays.) And yes this does answer my question! I had the gut feeling this had to be an "intrinsic" value but couldn't reconcile that with the other knowledge I have already about Objectivism.

Thanks again for the replies!

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Ahh, now this is one book I have not yet obtained. The only posthumous book of Ayn Rand that I have is the "Early Ayn Rand" (short stories/plays.) And yes this does answer my question! I had the gut feeling this had to be an "intrinsic" value but couldn't reconcile that with the other knowledge I have already about Objectivism.

I hope, as I suggested in the other thread, that you read the many posts which followed the one that you quote. While it retains the essence, the later posts clarify, quite explicitly, exactly the sense in which "intrinsic" is to be taken in this quote.

Thanks again for the replies!

You're welcome.

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