Ultimate Value and Morality

I had a discussion briefly with several atheists on other blog that fancied themselves critics of Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

 

The blog-owner himself claimed that he had been an Objectivist for seven years, before realising the philosophy was flawed.  One of his reasons for rejecting Objectivism was of its notion of intrinsic values.  Later on, he clarified that the paper he wrote debunking Objectivism (which of course was highly praised in the Philosophy community) was actually an attack on Libertarianism.

 

Objectivism REJECTS intrinsic values.  Objectivism is NOT Libertarianism.  So, once again we see that those who pretend they have found a flaw with Ayn Rand don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

 

The only thing I can’t understand is why Objectivism should meet such a vociferous reaction; atheists like this slaughter theists when the latter make ridiculous claims about evolution and science; yet every other New Age Atheist feels themselves qualified to attack Ayn Rand on philosophical grounds when they haven’t the slightest clue what they’re talking about.  It’s pretty embarrassing.

 

One point that was raised again and again was: why is life the ultimate value?  One commenter even asked me for empirical proof to justify this statement, a question that belies gross philosophical ignorance.  Again, I wouldn’t criticise somebody for just being ignorant – what I criticise is those who pretend to know what they’re talking about and cover it in all the usual postmodern philosophical rubbish to make it seem like they do.  (If you want an example of this nonsense, wait until one of these philosophy students says something like “but how do you even KNOW you exist??”)

 

Since this “ultimate value” issue seemed to be the biggest bone of contention, I’ll deal with it here, and then encourage discussion in the comments below.

 

First of all, what is a value?  A value is that which one acts to keep and/or gain.  To quote Rand:

 

“The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.”

 

Where there is no valuer, there is no value.  The concept “value” means something only in relation to a living being, because only living beings face the dichotomy of LIFE OR DEATH.

 

Ayn Rand again explains this better than I can:

 

“Without an ultimate goal or end, there can be no lesser goals or means: a series of means going off into an infinite progression toward a nonexistent end is a metaphysical and epistemological impossibility. It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept of “value” is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of “life.” To speak of “value” as apart from “life” is worse than a contradiction in terms. “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.”

 

To even ask the question “why is life the ultimate value?” is to assume that there can be value without life!  This is the fallacy identified by Rand of “concept stealing”.  It is the philosophical equivalent of bungee jumping without a rope.

 

Life makes value possible.  And all sub-values exist precisely because one is alive and needs things to further one’s existence.  Ultimately, every value one pursues either has a positive or negative effect on one’s life.

 

I’ll let Miss Rand have the closing remarks:

 

“To make this point fully clear, try to imagine an immortal, indestructible robot, an entity which moves and acts, but which cannot be affected by anything, which cannot be changed in any respect, which cannot be damaged, injured or destroyed. Such an entity would not be able to have any values; it would have nothing to gain or to lose; it could not regard anything as for or against it, as serving or threatening its welfare, as fulfilling or frustrating its interests. It could have no interests and no goals.”

 

Once we understand the correct concept of “value”, we can understand the meaning of the terms “good” and “bad” – but good and bad, for whom??  “Good” and “bad” are moral concepts that presuppose a living being for whom something can have a positive or negative effect.  But an effect on what??  That entity’s life!  Therefore, the standard of morality is life.  It is not duty, sacrifice, authority, consensus, society, god, or ‘others’, which define morality.  What defines morality is that which is of value to the life of a rational being: that which benefits such a life is the good; that which harms such a life is the evil.

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56 Responses to “Ultimate Value and Morality”

  1. Burgess Laughlin Says:

    >”The only thing I can’t understand is why Objectivism should meet such a vociferous reaction; …”

    For me, the fictional character James Taggart in Atlas Shrugged provides the best general psychological explanation: Objectivism’s central concept is objectivity, which means that all of one’s ideas must be drawn logically, and volitionally, from observed facts of reality.

    This means, on a personal level, that one must exert the effort to make a commitment to observing reality, focusing on aspects of it, and struggling to reach a logical conclusion about those facts.

    The two main alternatives, intrinsicism and subjectivism, are attempts at a short-cut around all that need to exert one’s mind.

  2. Ergo Says:

    I find it strange that the academic community is alleged to have no interest in Objectivism, but then are alleged to have been highly receptive and appreciative of a paper critical of a philosophy they have no interest in. Anyone else notice something peculiar about this?

  3. The Barefoot Bum Says:

    Well, this is a particularly stupid bit of pseudophilosophy.

    Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.

    This is a sensible assertion. Goals and values are essential properties of (living) minds, and presuppose alternatives that are both (in some sense) physically possible.

    But Rand immediately goes off the rails.

    Without an ultimate goal or end, there can be no lesser goals or means: a series of means going off into an infinite progression toward a nonexistent end is a metaphysical and epistemological impossibility.

    Rand’s reasoning here is somewhat torturous. In a sense, she’s right, but in a trivial way: Without goals that are specifically “ultimate”, there cannot be goals that are specifically “lesser”. But Rand here is presupposing what she sets out to prove: That goals can and should be organized into a strict hierarchy. Without an absolute, strict hierarchy, the objection of infinite regress fails. (And any time any philosopher talks about “metaphysical impossibility”, she is bullshitting the reader.)

    Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself.

    I’ll grant Rand that life is indeed one end in itself, but why should it be the only end in itself? Rand (or your selection of quotations) is silent on the point.

    To make this point fully clear, try to imagine an immortal, indestructible robot, an entity which moves and acts, but which cannot be affected by anything, which cannot be changed in any respect, which cannot be damaged, injured or destroyed.

    This point is irrelevant, given that Rand has argued neither that values must be arranged in a strict hierarchy, nor that life is the only end in itself.

    But Rand apparently cannot help slipping a fallacy into even an irrelevant argument. Here Rand has to add an additional attribute — unchangeability — to immortality. Granted, an unchangeable entity cannot have goals and values as we understand them, but immortality does not entail unchangeability.

    It might be the case that you personally are simply unable to extract a cogent philosophical argument from a writer on whom you deem yourself an expert. I claim no such expertise — I’m addressing your argument, not necessarily Rand’s — so I’m unable to determine whether the philosophical incompetence is Rand’s or your own.

  4. The Barefoot Bum Says:

    Note too that I typically don’t bill myself as a critic of Rand, just as a critic of Randians, whom I’ve found uniformly stupid and cultish.

    If Rand were a such terrific philosopher, however, I imagine she would have attracted a better class of disciples.

  5. Ergo Says:

    Bum,

    “But Rand here is presupposing what she sets out to prove: That goals can and should be organized into a strict hierarchy. Without an absolute, strict hierarchy, the objection of infinite regress fails. (And any time any philosopher talks about “metaphysical impossibility”, she is bullshitting the reader.)”

    Actually, you don’t seem to be aware of the logical fallacy that Rand is particularly referencing here. Aristotle pointed out that any argument which calls for an infinite regression is by default an invalid argument–and fails precisely on those grounds. Rand is merely referencing this point. *YOU* have added to her words the phrase “strict heirarchy.” It appears nowhere in her argument. The hierarchy (and indeed there is an heirarchy) that Objectivism identifies is neither strict nor linear but reciprocal, mutually reinforcing, and synergistic. For example, life is not only the ultimate value (thus being at the apex of the value-hierarchy) but also the standard for all values (thus synergestically reinforcing the valuation of all other values).

    Likewise, the cardinal values of Objectivism–reason, purpose, and self-esteem–are mutually reinforcing even though they are heirarchical, with reason first, then purpose (which reason makes possible), then self-esteem (which is derived from a sense of purpose and being rational, but feeds into a continuous cycle of rationality and purposeful action), and finally, all three values instrumentally achieving the ultimate value for each man’s life–his own happiness.

    For a full exploration of this view, read the works of Objectivist philosophers. (And anytime a commentor puts words into the mouth of his opponent only to refute them later, know that he’s extracted total BS from his own bum.)

    “I’ll grant Rand that life is indeed one end in itself, but why should it be the only end in itself? Rand (or your selection of quotations) is silent on the point.”

    Actually, Rand is most certainly not silent on this point. Again, read the relevant books to learn more. The statement “life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself” is an observation of reality. The definition of life identifies the fact that life is a process of *self*-sustaining and *self*-generating action. In other words, life is the only phenomena that is irreversibly and undeniably oriented to itself–each man’s own life. A man–metaphysically–cannot live for another man, just as a man–metaphysically–cannot think for another man. Since thinking is made possible only to a living (conscious) human being, it is dependent on life and placed in the service of life (hence thinking is not an end in itself). However, the process of living itself is a self-directed activity, i.e., an activity oriented only to itself own furtherance, i.e., a fundamentally selfish activity, i.e., an activity that is an end in itself.

    Actually, Bum, I’m surprised that you question Rand on this point because even Kant (perhaps your favorite philosopher) made a similar if not exact point about life being an end in itself. Have you studied philosophy at all?

    “Here Rand has to add an additional attribute — unchangeability — to immortality. Granted, an unchangeable entity cannot have goals and values as we understand them, but immortality does not entail unchangeability.”

    Critisizing Rand for being totally consistent within the scenario she defined is a rather peculiar approach; sounds like your so desperate to project your warts on others that even their consistencies are targets for criticism! Very strange, and sad, indeed.

  6. The Barefoot Bum Says:

    Ergo:

    Aristotle pointed out that any argument which calls for an infinite regression is by default an invalid argument–and fails precisely on those grounds.

    Just because Aristotle makes an assertion doesn’t mean it’s true, no matter how much Rand deifies him. The ancient Greeks were tremendously prejudiced against infinities. However, a considerable portion of modern physics and mathematics employs infinite regress.

    But the appeal to infinite regress is itself irrelevant.

    *YOU* have added to her words the phrase “strict heirarchy.” It appears nowhere in her argument.

    The usage of “ultimate” and “lesser” implies a strict hierarchy.

    The hierarchy (and indeed there is an heirarchy) that Objectivism identifies is neither strict nor linear but reciprocal, mutually reinforcing, and synergistic. For example, life is not only the ultimate value (thus being at the apex of the value-hierarchy) but also the standard for all values (thus synergestically reinforcing the valuation of all other values).

    If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

    Again, read the relevant books to learn more.

    You apparently did not read or understand my proviso. I’m simply not interested in learning more about Randianism: Those who are interested, such as you and evanescent, have completely failed to generate the smallest motivation to learn more.

    The definition of life identifies the fact that life is a process of *self*-sustaining and *self*-generating action. In other words, life is the only phenomena that is irreversibly and undeniably oriented to itself–each man’s own life.

    You make the same error that Rand (or evanescent) makes: That life has some particular characteristics does not entail that life is the only phenomenon with those characteristics. Furthermore, that some particular characteristic is sufficient for value to exist does not by itself entail that the characteristic is itself valuable. That’s a trivial level-crossing fallacy. (Example: Complex organic molecules are sufficient to establish living chemistry, but that does not entail that complex organic chemicals are alive.)

    Since thinking is made possible only to a living (conscious) human being, it is dependent on life and placed in the service of life (hence thinking is not an end in itself).

    This is a non sequitur. There’s no reason to define “end in itself” as entailed by physical dependence. The choice of life itself as a stopping point (or defining the particular characteristics of life itself as the criteria for a stopping point) is arbitrary. Why not reproduction? Or organic chemistry, or the formation of heavier elements in supernovas?

    There’s nothing wrong per se with making arbitrary value distinctions. But calling an arbitrary value distinction an actual argument is an offense against reason.

    I’m surprised that you question Rand on this point because even Kant… made a similar if not exact point about life being an end in itself.

    Reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit, is it? Let me repeat: “I’ll grant Rand that life is indeed one end in itself…”

    Critisizing Rand for being totally consistent within the scenario she defined is a rather peculiar approach

    How am I talking about consistency? Rand commits the fallacy of the undistributed middle, which is invalid reasoning, not inconsistency.

  7. Eneasz Says:

    I’m somewhat curious about this. Would you (or would Rand) have considered removing Terri Schiavo (http://www.nndb.com/people/435/000026357/) from life support to be morally wrong? If life is the ultimate value wouldn’t the perpetuation of your life be of greater concern then whether that life is spent as a vegitable?

  8. Eneasz Says:

    Sorry for the spam, I had another thought just as I hit Submit.

    Isn’t the robot analogy actually harmful to objectivism? It seems to be saying that an entity (even if alive) that cannot change has no value. Isn’t this a claim that “changability” is a great value than life is?

    At the risk of arguing from fictional evidence, I can see no reason why an indestructible immortal being who CAN change would be unable to have values. Heck, some day I would very much like to become indestructible and immortal, I don’t see how that would affect my love for my family though.

  9. evanescent Says:

    Eneasz, life is the ultimate value for each rational being, that is, their own life. Life makes values possible. That is not to say that human life is of intrinsic value in itself. It is valuable to those human beings who are alive.

    To live as a rational being is not to exist from moment to moment with your body meeting the fundamental functions necessary to survive; to live as a human being metaphysically, is to pursue happiness and flourish. This is because there is no dichotomy between the mind and the body. Humans are integrated beings of body and soul. To live as a human is not just to live as as unthinking animal going through the motions without purpose or reason. Therefore in some contexts, turning off a life support machine is actually the moral thing to do.

    As for the robot analogy, you seem to have misunderstand “value”. You ask whether an entity that cannot change has no value – value to whom? The analogy is not meant to argue that such an entity is of no value TO SOMEONE ELSE. The point is that such an entity would hold no values OF ITS OWN.

    If there was nothing that could harm you or benefit you, then you could not value anything. The reason you love your family and friends is because they are of value to you; because you can LOSE them, and because they are an important part in making your life enjoyable – they give value and purpose to your existence. But if you were incapable of losing them, or being harmed (emotionally or physically) by their existence or loss, you would not value them. That’s the point.

    This is one of the many contradictory propositions with “god” – a being that supposedly has values yet is defined in such a way as to require none.

  10. Alonzo Fyfe Says:

    evanescent

    “To even ask the question “why is life the ultimate value?” is to assume that there can be value without life!”

    False. To draw this implication is to confuse value as ends and value as means. The proposition, “There can be no value without life” says that life has instrumental value. Your implication above is, ‘Life has value as a means; therefore, life has value as an end,” which is an invalid implication.

    Second, life may be essential for the existence of value, but the existence of value, and the value of value are not the same thing. Many things exist that have no value, and many things that would have value if they existed do not exist.

    We can see this distinction by looking at the fact that I value chocolate ice cream. My desire for chocolate ice cream would not exist if I were dead. However, is it a good thing that I desire chocolate ice cream? This question is entirely different from the question, “Does my desire for chocolate ice cream exist?”

    So, even if it is the case that life is necessary for the existence of value, you have not demonstrated how ‘value exists’ has value. Even if you demonstrate that “value exists” has value, you have only demonstrated that life has instrumental value (is necessary for realizing the value that is intrinsic to ‘value exists’), not that it has value as an end.

    I do hold that there are ultimate values – aversion to pain, desire for sex, desire to eat, desire to drink, etc. These are the ‘ends’ that evolution has given us – molded by evolution to select for those ends that tend to (but do not guarantee) genetic replication. Genetic replication itself is not an end, it is a side effect. Whereas being alive is useful for genetic replication, these natural ends tend also to lead to survival (as a side effect, not as an ‘ultimate end’).

  11. Eneasz Says:


    to live as a human being metaphysically, is to pursue happiness and flourish … To live as a human is not just to live as as unthinking animal going through the motions without purpose or reason. Therefore in some contexts, turning off a life support machine is actually the moral thing to do

    Ignoring that many animals actually do a fair bit of thinking and feeling (otherwise how could it be considered immoral to torture a puppy?), I kinda feel like this is moving the goal posts. Now life is not just being alive, but includes pursuing happiness and flourishing.

    I agree that pursuing happiness and flourishing are important values of course, I wouldn’t want to live a life were I couldn’t do those. But when you recognize these values are important (even important enough that a life without them is meaningless), instead of saying “There are other values that are also very important, and in some cases can even trump continued life in importance” you simply say “Well… my definition of life includes those values in it.” Basically redefining “life” into a definition that no one else uses, and in a way that makes it fairly useless. What’s the big deal about saying “Life is important, but other stuff is too, and sometimes a number of values can outweigh one or two other values”? It’s more consistant, and refusing to modify a minor flaw in a position smacks of sticking to dogma just because it is the dogma.


    You ask whether an entity that cannot change has no value – value to whom? The analogy is not meant to argue that such an entity is of no value TO SOMEONE ELSE. The point is that such an entity would hold no values OF ITS OWN

    Well no, that was exactly my point. At first you said life has value of it’s own. Then you said an immortal & indesctructable being that cannot change has no value of it’s own. Since this being obviously possesses life (and cannot lose it) but cannot change, the thing that has value of it’s own appears to be “changeability” and not “life”.

    Although I suppose under your new definition of “life” that includes “pursuit of happiness and flourishing” this would no longer be an issue.

    But wouldn’t that also mean that someone who is incapable of pursuing happiness and flourshing not really alive? Like our hypothetical robot, or perhaps a slave?

  12. evanescent Says:

    Alonzo said:

    False. To draw this implication is to confuse value as ends and value as means. The proposition, “There can be no value without life” says that life has instrumental value. Your implication above is, ‘Life has value as a means; therefore, life has value as an end,” which is an invalid implication.

    Instrumental value? What is life instrumental for?? Life is a value, because a value is that which one acts to pursue and/or gain (see article above). All other values we pursue are consonant with our life. And there can be only one ultimate value, by definition.

    Everything else you’ve said was addressed by the article itself and by Ergo’s comments.

    So, even if it is the case that life is necessary for the existence of value, you have not demonstrated how ‘value exists’ has value. Even if you demonstrate that “value exists” has value, you have only demonstrated that life has instrumental value (is necessary for realizing the value that is intrinsic to ‘value exists’), not that it has value as an end.

    And I have no idea what this means. I think you are confusing yourself.

    I do hold that there are ultimate values – aversion to pain, desire for sex, desire to eat, desire to drink, etc.

    I don’t think you read the comments above. The things you cite here are NOT ends in themselves. Why should one avoid pain? Why should one desire sex? Why should one desire food, drink etc? These things are only desirable because they are of VALUE to our lives.

    All the things you mention, and more, are means to an end – the end being life. However, life is not a means to anything else. It is its own end. Again, see comments above.

    These are the ‘ends’ that evolution has given us – molded by evolution to select for those ends that tend to (but do not guarantee) genetic replication. Genetic replication itself is not an end, it is a side effect. Whereas being alive is useful for genetic replication, these natural ends tend also to lead to survival (as a side effect, not as an ‘ultimate end’)

    Evolution hasn’t given us any ends. Evolution is the scientific explanation for how life developed. It has given us the means to achieve our end: life.

    Even your statement above is contradictory: you suggest that evolution has given us “ends” to achieve genetic replication, presumably an end in itself?! So you’re saying we have ends to achieve ends? This makes no sense. There is only one end in itself, otherwise we cannot avoid the nihilistic infinite regress.

    Besides, evolution is not prescriptive as to how a rational being should live his life – it merely describes a biological process.

    Eneasz said:

    Ignoring that many animals actually do a fair bit of thinking and feeling (otherwise how could it be considered immoral to torture a puppy?), I kinda feel like this is moving the goal posts. Now life is not just being alive, but includes pursuing happiness and flourishing.

    No it’s not moral to torture an animal – but that’s not because it can feel pain. Suffering is not the standard for morality.

    As for moving the goal posts, no, I was clarifying a point, not changing it.

    I agree that pursuing happiness and flourishing are important values of course, I wouldn’t want to live a life were I couldn’t do those.

    Of course not, because life as a rational being demands certain additional values to further such a life. Music, art, love etc are all necessary facets to a rational being (these are examples) because they add purpose and meaning to your life – they also improve you as a person. To live as a human is to live like such a person.

    If you understand this, then most of your other questions are answered.

    But wouldn’t that also mean that someone who is incapable of pursuing happiness and flourshing not really alive? Like our hypothetical robot, or perhaps a slave?

    Metaphysically, yes! Biologically speaking, life is defined by certain biological processes, so whilst a robot or human might be functioning on autopilot, philosophically speaking a human being that couldn’t pursue happiness wouldn’t be living like a human being. However, that state of affairs can only exist where force is present, and force destroys alternatives, and alternatives allow values.

  13. The Barefoot Bum Says:

    Instrumental value? What is life instrumental for??

    Basic reading comprehension is a skill that seems in short supply around here. That’s the question that Alonzo is asking you. As he notes, “The proposition, ‘There can be no value without life’ says that life has instrumental value.”

    If you’re going to do philosophy, it’s useful to learn how to make straightforward logical inferences without having every little step spelled out for you.

    And there can be only one ultimate value, by definition.

    Defining yourself to be correct is not considered the strongest possible philosophical argument. As I myself noted, the premise that values must be organized in a strict hierarchy — the only way one can conclude the existence of an ultimate value — is itself a controversial premise.

    These things [avoidance of pain, sex, etc.] are only desirable because they are of VALUE to our lives.

    Again, you are begging the question (or you are indulging in banality). Granted, these things can have value only to a living being (assuming a sufficiently broad definition of “living”) but they are not always valuable because they keep us alive or allow us to live longer. Tasty food, for example, is more valuable than bland or ill-tasting food, even if both serve the same physical effect of providing calories.

    Alan Sokal said, “When one analyzes [post-modernist and deconstruction] writings, one often finds radical-sounding assertions whose meaning is ambiguous and that can be given two alternative readings: one as interesting, radical, and grossly false; the other as boring and trivially true.” The same can be said about a lot of bad philosophy.

    you suggest that evolution has given us “ends” to achieve genetic replication, presumably an end in itself?!

    It would definitely be helpful for you to look up the definition of scare quotes.

    No it’s not moral to torture an animal – but that’s not because it can feel pain. Suffering is not the standard for morality.

    While argument from unsubstantiated assertion might have allowed Rand to persuade you, it really has little effect when you attempt to persuade others, especially those of us with quantities of neurons that require exponential notation.

    Of course not, because life as a rational being demands certain additional values to further such a life. Music, art, love etc are all necessary facets to a rational being (these are examples) because they add purpose and meaning to your life – they also improve you as a person. To live as a human is to live like such a person.

    This assertion would seem to facially contradict your assertion that life is the one and only singular “ultimate” value, unless you are using the word “ultimate” in a particularly bizarre and idiosyncratic sense. Again, argument by making up your own meanings is not considered the most powerful philosophical tactic.

    Metaphysically…

    I do not think that means what you think it means.

  14. evanescent Says:

    Basic reading comprehension is a skill that seems in short supply around here. That’s the question that Alonzo is asking you. As he notes, “The proposition, ‘There can be no value without life’ says that life has instrumental value.”
    If you’re going to do philosophy, it’s useful to learn how to make straightforward logical inferences without having every little step spelled out for you.

    Alonzo is equivocating on the use of the term “instrumental”. Life makes values possible – it is not an instrument to the end of those values. In other words, it is not instrumental for any purpose other than itself.

    Defining yourself to be correct is not considered the strongest possible philosophical argument. As I myself noted, the premise that values must be organized in a strict hierarchy — the only way one can conclude the existence of an ultimate value — is itself a controversial premise.

    Ergo has explained this point to you.

    Again, you are begging the question (or you are indulging in banality). Granted, these things can have value only to a living being (assuming a sufficiently broad definition of “living” but they are not always valuable because they keep us alive or allow us to live longer. Tasty food, for example, is more valuable than bland or ill-tasting food, even if both serve the same physical effect of providing calories.

    There is no such thing as value without a living being to value it.
    As for the latter point, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here, since I apparently agree with you? Food is a value to human beings, and more tasty food is of more value to you (generally) because we enjoy it more and it enriches our lives and allows you to appreciate the joy of eating and increases our experience and culture. This is important for a rational being.
    Rather than criticise the point, I believe you have reinforced it.

    Alan Sokal said, “When one analyzes [post-modernist and deconstruction] writings, one often finds radical-sounding assertions whose meaning is ambiguous and that can be given two alternative readings: one as interesting, radical, and grossly false; the other as boring and trivially true.” The same can be said about a lot of bad philosophy.

    Yes I agree – the sort of philosophical nonsense that asks if life is an ultimate value or not, and denies that it is an end in itself. The sort of bad philosophy that attacks from ignorance without any foundation of its own. (Pssst I’m talking about you here).

    It would definitely be helpful for you to look up the definition of scare quotes.

    Irrelevant remark. I pointed out a contradiction with Alonzo’s assertion.
    It seems that in your desperation to defend Alonzo, you overlooked his major error and felt the need to throw any old remark in.

    While argument from unsubstantiated assertion might have allowed Rand to persuade you, it really has little effect when you attempt to persuade others, especially those of us with quantities of neurons that require exponential notation.

    Now THIS is an example of the ad hominem fallacy.
    If you are going to limit yourself to these half-arsed vacuous attacks, I will have little time for you.
    How about an actual philosophical argument of your own, instead of these meaningless attempts at dismissal?

    This assertion would seem to facially contradict your assertion that life is the one and only singular “ultimate” value, unless you are using the word “ultimate” in a particularly bizarre and idiosyncratic sense. Again, argument by making up your own meanings is not considered the most powerful philosophical tactic.

    Are you trying to be offensive, or is this a natural skill you possess?
    Life is the ULTIMATE value – it is an end in itself. Only ONE thing can be an end in itself. Surely this goes without saying or further explanation? You cannot have two ultimate values?!
    I did not say “singular” value – that is your word. Once again, I said ultimate. Because life is not a given and must be constantly strived after, it allows the possibility of other values that either further that life or threaten it. These values are made possible by life itself and are the means to that end – the end being life.
    Again, I am at a loss to understand why the attitude of those who think they can debunk Objectivism is so hostile.

    I do not think that means what you think it means.

    Another lazy comment. You should have explained what you think I think it means, and then explained what it “really” means, and point out where I was going “wrong”.
    If your comments are this lazy, I wonder if you have even read the original article.
    As for “metaphysically”, I am referring to the nature of man as a certain type of being as defined philosophically by his mental/physical characteristics and their relationship to reality.

  15. evanescent Says:

    One more point: if anyone actually wants to deny that life is an ultimate value, your task is simple: name another value (something you act to keep and/or gain) that is an end in itself, (i.e.: not the means to any other end.)

    For this challenge, one word answers will do.

  16. Curtis Plumb Says:

    Her ability to destroy the left’s political tenets (Marxism) makes her their worst enemy. Beware of the cornered collectivist.

  17. The Barefoot Bum Says:

    Life is the ULTIMATE value – it is an end in itself. Only ONE thing can be an end in itself. Surely this goes without saying or further explanation? You cannot have two ultimate values?!
    I did not say “singular” value – that is your word.

    Perhaps you would find it instructive to look up the definition of “singular”.

    Are you trying to be offensive, or is this a natural skill you possess?

    I’m trying. I do have some natural talent, but I’ve spent many years and many thousands of words developing that talent. Given that you started off your post with a string of contemptuous insults, that you are outraged now at my insolence reveals a hitherto unexpected level of obtuse stupidity.

    If you are going to limit yourself to these half-arsed vacuous attacks, I will have little time for you.

    Oh, I’ve derived about as much pleasure as is possible from this little “discussion”.

    Just to let you know, normally I leave idiots alone. However, I do read Planet Atheism every day. Granted that you don’t believe any god exists, you have every right to be there, no question. Still and all, If you bring yourself to the attention of people who take philosophy and logic somewhat seriously and who also completed education past the elementary school level, you’re just asking for trouble.

  18. Eneasz Says:


    As for moving the goal posts, no, I was clarifying a point, not changing it.

    Well in my humble opinion if you had intended the term “life” to include “persuit of happiness and flourshing” then you really should have said so up front, since that is not the way it is normally used.

    However I still feel justified in saying that you are moving the goal posts. In the very same reply that I have quoted in italics, you also said to Alonzo that “Why should one avoid pain? Why should one desire sex? Why should one desire food, drink etc? These things are only desirable because they are of VALUE to our lives. All the things you mention, and more, are means to an end – the end being life.” This clearly implies that the term ‘life’ does not include “pursuit of happiness and flourshing” since you specifically stated that they are seperate from “the end [of] life”, and are merely things that are of value to life, not a part of it.

    Therefore I accuse you of equivocating. Bad form. Tsk tsk.

    Music, art, love etc are all necessary facets to a rational being (these are examples) because they add purpose and meaning to your life – they also improve you as a person. To live as a human is to live like such a person.

    I’m curious, does this mean that people who do not value music, art, love etc are not human?


    Regarding: Are robots/slaves who are incapable of pursuing happiness and flourshing not really alive?

    Metaphysically, yes! Biologically speaking, life is defined by certain biological processes, so whilst a robot or human might be functioning on autopilot, philosophically speaking a human being that couldn’t pursue happiness wouldn’t be living like a human being.

    So, if a robot or slave is not really alive (philosophically/metaphysically speaking, as you say) then there is no harm (nothing morally wrong) in killing them, right? After all, you can’t take away something that someone never had. I really hope I’m completely missing the point, because this sounds much like “If you don’t live up to the Man Qua Man ideal as defined by Rand, then you don’t deserve to keep breathing.”

  19. evanescent Says:

    Yet again, notice how Bum signs off with a string of cheap remarks and threats. In particular the “I wouldn’t talk about this with the experts!” sort of warning. Unfortunately, he fails to explain exactly where Objectivism is going wrong, and why he disagrees with it, and he has no counter-challenge on philosophical grounds to Ayn Rand. Instead, he pretends the philosophical community is already on his side and then leaves. If even the community was, considering the likes of Kant are taken as gospel, philosophy these days leaves a lot to be desired. Bum has just demonstrated intellectual laziness of the highest order. He came, he slipped in a few lazy remarks, and left.

    As for his accusation that I started off my article with insults, that is not true. I started off exposing the ignorant attacks on Ayn Rand from other bloggers. I did not insult anyone, I merely said that their attempts at refutation were born out of ignorance.

    On the other hand, Bum does resort to the ad hominem fallacy himself. Remember this:

    While argument from unsubstantiated assertion might have allowed Rand to persuade you, it really has little effect when you attempt to persuade others, especially those of us with quantities of neurons that require exponential notation.

    Also, notice how he failed to answer the simple challenge I set for him (or anyone else). If he wants to win this argument, he only has to name another ultimate value other than life – if Objectivism is so philosophically bankrupt (that’s his opinion), then this should be child’s play!

    This continues a trend with these New Age Atheists I’ve noticed – they fancy themselves rational and reasonable, yet try to have a philosophical discussion on their accepted beliefs and see how aggressive they get. Why? Does it remind you of anyone?

    Eneasz said:

    Well in my humble opinion if you had intended the term “life” to include “persuit of happiness and flourshing” then you really should have said so up front, since that is not the way it is normally used.

    In all fairness, Eneasz, I did say from as early as possible this was the case. If you think it would have been helpful to say it earlier, fair enough, you might be right.

    However the point remains – human beings are not lumps of flesh, nor are we consciousness floating in space; we are united beings of soul and body. The nourishment of the mind is just as important as the nourishment of the body – if you want to live as a rational being that is. Otherwise you would just be an animal. That is what is meant by man’s “metaphysical” nature.

    This clearly implies that the term ‘life’ does not include “pursuit of happiness and flourshing” since you specifically stated that they are seperate from “the end [of] life”, and are merely things that are of value to life, not a part of it.

    I really don’t know what you mean here. I cannot see how you came to that conclusion from what I said.

    I think you’re a bit confused by what you said though, because how can means to an end by separate to that end? If things are a value to life, they are of course a part of it! The fact that I didn’t mention happiness and flourishing in that particular sentence is beside the point, because it wasn’t being mentioned there – I was pointing out to Alonzo that the values he listed were NOT ends in themselves.

    Music, art, love etc are all necessary facets to a rational being (these are examples) because they add purpose and meaning to your life – they also improve you as a person. To live as a human is to live like such a person.”

    I’m curious, does this mean that people who do not value music, art, love etc are not human?

    Like I said above, “these are examples”. As the article above states, that which benefits the life of a rational being is the good, that which harms it is the evil. Music, art, love, etc are examples of values that benefit man emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. They are examples of essential values for a healthy mind. That is not to say that everyone must love music, art, love etc (as it happens most people do). And the term “art” can include so many other things so I won’t list them. Another example might be “travelling” or “teaching”, or “learning” etc etc.

    The point is that a man must be free to pursue his intellectual goals – in order to live AS A MAN these are just as important as the values his body needs in order to survive. Otherwise, a human being that exists as a slave, as a mindless robot, might as well be an animal – they are not living as a rational being.

    So, if a robot or slave is not really alive (philosophically/metaphysically speaking, as you say) then there is no harm (nothing morally wrong) in killing them, right? After all, you can’t take away something that someone never had. I really hope I’m completely missing the point, because this sounds much like “If you don’t live up to the Man Qua Man ideal as defined by Rand, then you don’t deserve to keep breathing.”

    I think you have missed the point, but it’s a good question to raise. The answer of course is: no. No matter how somebody else lives their life, you don’t have the Right to kill them. Rights are a moral principle that sanction freedom of action. That freedom of action is not surrendered simply because a person lives like a slave, or lives in some other irrational inhuman way.

    The only thing that can waive individual Rights is that person violating the Rights of others.

    PS: I notice Barefoot Bum has linked here from his own blog. Personally, if I’d shown the laziness Bum has here I wouldn’t want others to see! I believe his blog says (although I haven’t visited it) something along the lines of “check out these Objectivists etc etc”. So before he ever came here, he was looking to attack Ayn Rand. Strange, considering he is obviously ignorant to her works. So again, I ask why? This just reinforces my point about these Atheists who have no HONEST desire for debate.

  20. Ergo Says:

    “The hierarchy (and indeed there is an heirarchy) that Objectivism identifies is neither strict nor linear but reciprocal, mutually reinforcing, and synergistic. For example, life is not only the ultimate value (thus being at the apex of the value-hierarchy) but also the standard for all values (thus synergestically reinforcing the valuation of all other values).”

    Bum’s fart: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

    Haha! I’m totally baffled by the technical sophistication of that response! Gasp! I’m speechless! *note to self: never underestimate the stinging stench of the Bum’s power-fart* LOL!

  21. db0 Says:

    If he wants to win this argument, he only has to name another ultimate value other than life

    Absence of pain. Physical and emotional.

  22. evanescent Says:

    If he wants to win this argument, he only has to name another ultimate value other than life

    Absence of pain. Physical and emotional.

    Why would one avoid pain?

    Why is pain undesirable?

    Because it makes life unpleasant.

    And it is better to have as pleasant a life as possible.

    Why?

    Because it make life enjoyable to live. Pleasure is the physical/emotional reward for achieving one’s goals. But to what are these goals directed?

    I’ll give you clue: L__E

  23. Eneasz Says:

    Otherwise you would just be an animal

    Technically we are just animals, with highly advanced brains. I know this is a minor quibble, but it always bothers. It usually leads to bad places when people claim otherwise.

    Like I said above, “these are examples”.

    Fair enough, I withdraw the objection.

    Re: Defintion of “life”
    I think you’re a bit confused by what you said though, because how can means to an end by separate to that end? If things are a value to life, they are of course a part of it!

    If I’m confused, I believe it’s because you are inconsistant with your usage. You define life as “Life, the pursuit of happiness, and flourishing” (based on our previous dialog). It’s your blog, you can define life however you like as long as you warn us beforehand. But when other commenters have given other values that can at times trump life as the ultimate value (avoiding pain, pursuing happiness, etc) you said ” The things you cite here are NOT ends in themselves. … These things are only desirable because they are of VALUE to our lives

    I hate to argue about definitions, because it is IMHO the lowest form of philosophy (if one could even call it that). But it seems like I have to, because you appear to be equivocating. Any time you define a word, you should always be able to substitute that definition for the word and not lose coherency. But if we do so with your definition of “life” we get absurd statements like “The things you cite [pursuit of happiness, avoidance of pain] are not ends in themselves, they are desireable only because they are of value to [life, the pursuit of happiness, and flourishing]”

    What sense does it make to say that the pursuit of happiness is only desirable because it is of value towards the end of pursuing happiness? It’s a circular statement. Obviously you were using the word ‘life’ in a different way in that statement. That is equivocating.

    “Killing” is in a similar bind, since “killing” is “the taking of life”. Or “the taking of [life, pursuit of happiness, and flourishing]” A slave cannot pursue happiness or flourish. Yet you say that no one has the right to “take the [life, pursuit of happiness, and flourishing] of someone who lacks [life, pursuit of happiness, and flourishing].” That is a bit of an absurdity, because you cannot take something that someone doesn’t have. So again you must have swapped in a different definition for life in this case, which is once again equivocating. These are not rational arguments, these are rhetorical tricks. Please either redefine ‘life’ in a coherent manner, or start using it consistently. This lack of honesty is distressing.

    One final note about rights:
    No matter how somebody else [lives, pursues happiness, and flourishes], you don’t have the Right to kill them. Rights are a moral principle that sanction freedom of action.

    What are these Rights? This is an honest question, I don’t know how Rand justifies rights. Where do they come from, how can you tell a right from a non-right, etc. Desire Utilitarianism has a very good explanation of what rights are, does Objectivism have anything along similar lines?

  24. Ergo Says:

    “Desire Utilitarianism has a very good explanation of what rights are, does Objectivism have anything along similar lines?”

    Actually, DU has a very poor description of rights and Objectivism certainly does not have anything along similar lines. DU is capable of only pointing at a *general* phenomena and ascribing to it the term “rights”–which is not only incorrect but also circular. The argument is circular because it merely uses different forms of the same argument to support the idea that rights exists.

    For example, rights exists because generally people have many and strong reasons to encourage aversions to action X. Without all the unnecessary jargonistics, this is the same thing as saying rights exist because people want rights to exist. Well, but why do people want this to be the case? How did most people get those many and strong reasons? How did those reasons originate? What is their basis and is it univeral or cultural or subjective? And what about the few people who do not have those many and strong reasons? What about those who don’t simply care about this either way?

    DU is perhaps the silliest thing I have encountered that purports to be a philosophy; at its root, it is deeply confused about whether or not it is a philosophy based on determinism or free will. It insists on the objectivity of ethics but has no epistemological foundation or theory of concepts that demonstrates this objectivity; indeed, it appears that DU is epistemologically relativistic at best and subjectivistic at worst.

    WRT Objectivism, it is simply not proper and not feasible to try to convince you of the Objectivist theory of rights on an internet forum. Rarely do people engage in online debates to be persuaded wholly about an opposing view; mostly, it is to bum-troll around looking to get into someone’s hair like a stubborn piece of gum or win debating brownie points on cyberspace.

    Primarily, personal and self-motivated study is the way to changing your views and exploring something new. So, if you’re truly interested in learning about the Objectivist theory of rights (and Objectivism in general)–and not simply engaging in fruitless online debates–then read the relevant books.

  25. Ergo Says:

    “name another ultimate value other than life”

    “Absence of pain. Physical and emotional.”

    Absence of all pain would in fact destroy all meaning in valuation. It would be detrimental to our lives–we would not know what has survival value in relation to us and what is a threat. Pain serves many different, important, and often life-sustaining functions. Pain can be an indicator of the nature of our actions–whether they are good or bad for us.

    In an other sense, imagine your loved one is brutally mutilated by a thug right before your eyes. And then you don’t feel pain; perhaps, you don’t feel joy, but you neither feel pain–just indifference. Then, in what meaningful sense do we talk about valuation and emotional responses to values? How do know what is of value to us and what is not? Given our human nature, we experience our valuations through our emotions (emotional pain or emotional pleasure). With the absence of pain, one of the most important indicators of a healthy life will disappear.

    So, no. Absence of pain cannot be an ultimate value. It is in fact important in the service of a truly ultimate value, which is life.

  26. Mark C. Says:

    Why would one avoid pain?

    Why is pain undesirable?

    Because it makes life unpleasant.

    And it is better to have as pleasant a life as possible.

    Why?

    Because it make life enjoyable to live. Pleasure is the physical/emotional reward for achieving one’s goals. But to what are these goals directed?

    I’ll give you clue: L__E

    There are two different types of responses to a “why” question: one about the conscious intentions of an agent, and one about mechanisms.

    Objectivism defines “value” as something along these lines: some thing or condition that an agent acts to gain and/or keep. Now, let’s analyze this definition with respect to both types of answers to “why” questions.

    Under the intentional answer, eating for pleasure, eating to rid oneself of hunger, and eating to give oneself energy for doing known or suspected future tasks are values. Picking up sand on the bottom of my shoe when I walk on the beach is not a value (nor is the sand).

    Under the mechanistic answer, anything I gain and/or keep, as well as anything I could gain and/or keep by doing whatever action I’m doing at any point in time, are values. Under this answer, that sand I mentioned is a value. Yet this is absurd and trivializes the notion of value, making it next to useless.

    From this analysis, it can be seen that the Objectivist definition of value must reasonably answer the intentional “why” question, not the one I have labeled as “mechanistic”. So, why is pain undesirable? The answer could be “because it just is undesirable” or “because I don’t want to feel bad”. But with the intentional reading of the “why” question, the answer can not be, or at least almost never is, “because it is detrimental to my life”. An intentional answer can not be reduced beyond the issue of consciously known desire, as far as I am aware.

    Your answer was pretty good up until you answered the question “but to what are these goals directed?”. It is there that the equivocation on “value” pops up, where you switch to the non-intentional reading of the “why” question.

    So life can not be an ultimate value if it is not first a value, and no one, as far as I am aware, consciously holds just being alive, even if unable to do anything, as a value. Clearly, then, it is not the case that every person’s own status as being alive is of paramount value to them. A person’s own life is, at the very least, an instrumental value–it is valuable because it allows one to pursue other values. So one’s own life is a value by the Objectivist definition, but it is only, in general, a means to achieve other ends. Staying alive, then, is almost always, if not always, instrumental. But we can not say that it is an ultimate value. We can, however, say that it (the status of being alive) is a necessary prerequisite for valuing anything. This does not make it an ultimate value under the intentional notion of “value”.

  27. Mark C. Says:

    I didn’t separate the quotation from the rest of my post there. The quotation should be from the first line through the one ending in “L__E”.

  28. Ergo Says:

    “Staying alive, then, is almost always, if not always, instrumental.”

    This is not only false, it is impossible. Metaphysically, life is a given. Metaphysically, life is always self-directed, self-generating action (in plants and animals, including humans). To be an instrumental value, one must be able to act in such a way as to acquire, gain, and keep the value in order to achieve higher, more important values. But this is impossible because life is already given–it is already acquired, it already exists. Your actions prove that you are alive. Hence, it is impossible to acquire the value of life for instrumental purposes.

    Life as an ultimate value recognizes a very specific set of requirements: that one must act to acquire, gain, and keep all values that serve the purpose of our life qua human being. Since life qua man is the goal, Objectivism provides the unifying framework for all of man’s actions by defining life as “self-generated action” and man’s life as “goal-directed action.” (Man’s life is “goal-directed” in the conscious sense of the term, because we volitional beings could even choose to commit suicide. Animals exhibit goal-directed action as well, albeit to a limited degree, with the goal being survival.)

    Metaphysically, man has one goal, one end–-to live as proper to his nature. Ethically, man has to choose his ultimate goal. Objectivism recommends that man choose his own rational happiness as the moral goal of his life. This recommendation is premised upon a long chain of metaphysical and epistemological analyses.

    Objectivism regards happiness as not only possible but also the *proper* state of man’s existence on this earth. To that ethical end–which is justified on a metaphysical end, Objectivism builds a framework of moral rights that safeguard the conditions possible (the means) for the achievement of that end and ennumerates a series of values and virtues that are necessary means to achieving that end.

    In both cases, the end is the individual–the man; metaphysically, his life; ethically, his happiness.

  29. Mark C. Says:

    There are two distinct interpretations of the Objectivist definition of “value”. I first note that, with some reasonable inclusions that you can call me on if you object to them, the definition is “a thing or condition which an agent acts to gain and/or keep”.

    One interpretation is “a thing or condition that an agent intentionally acts to gain and/or keep”, and the other is “a thing or condition that an agent unintentionally acts to gain and/or keep”.

    This distinction is important, since the phrase “act to…” could indicate either intention or the lack thereof. On one interpretation, anything my body gains and/or keeps is considered a value, including dog shit when one steps upon it. This is, of course, absurd, and this interpretation of value–the intentionless one–should be thrown out if we wish the term to be meaningful or useful at all.

    We are then left with the intentional interpretation. Only under extremely rare circumstances does a human act with the purpose being to keep oneself alive–usually, actions are done because they accomplish some other goal, including the fulfillment of desires for happiness, pleasure, and other positive emotions–so we see that the mere condition of being alive is, at most, almost never a value under the meaningful Objectivist definition of the term.

    From this, we gather that an agent’s life is almost never even so much as a value to that agent under the meaningful Objectivist definition, since we’ve ruled out the intentionless definition and found the intentional one lacking if we wish to consider a person’s life a value to that person, with no qualification.

    There is a slight weakness in my above reasoning, however: to say that life is almost never a value (by the Objectivist definition), I made an inductive guess about people’s intentions. But this only shows that, contrary to evanescent’s protestations, empirical evidence is, in fact, necessary to establish life as a value under Objectivism, ultimate or not. “An agent’s own life is something which that agent knowingly, willfully acts to gain and/or keep” is a falsifiable statement that requires empirical evidence for support (but then there’s the dilemma of how long it might be true for, if it could be true).

    The conclusion stated above, that life is at most almost never a value under Objectivism, also, obviously, rules out an agent’s life as an or the ultimate value for that agent (when speaking universally). The mistake I made in the post to which Ergo replied was in implying that life is even universally a value at all under Objectivism, when such is not the case (nor is it the case for most of any individual’s life-time). I was equivocating between a standard meaning of “value” and the Objectivist one. No matter. I believe the argument I make in this post stands.

    Using “value” in a more standard way, just about everyone values their own life (unless they have turned suicidal, but at one point they valued their life). But when someone is asked if they do and they say “yes, I value my life”, imagine asking them, instead, if they think they would value their life if they were in a coma and would actually never come out of it, or if they were like Terri Shiavo, with a brain no longer functioning even on the level of a small child. My guess is that, if they knew their mental activity were severely impaired to such an extent, they would think–about this situation–something along the lines of “I would have nothing to live for–I wouldn’t want to live that way and I might as well die”. If we assume this to be the most common plausible response, it is very revealing in regard to what type of value (in a more standard sense) one’s own life has to oneself. “I have nothing to live for” and “I wouldn’t want to live that way” imply that just being alive just doesn’t cut it for people. They want to actually do things with their lives. Hence, while life is a necessary prerequisite for valuing anything at all, it is no end in itself. The only other type of value is value as a means, and it is the unavoidable conclusion that life is such a value if my guess as to people’s responses to the aforementioned questions is accurate.

    We have now established that a person’s own life–the condition of merely being alive–is an instrumental value to that person. Let us now look at what “ultimate value” could mean and see if life, in the sense of merely being alive, is or can be such a value.

    From the Ayn Rand Lexicon:
    “An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means…”

    An ultimate value is a particular type of goal or end. I have already established that a person’s own life is not universally or at all times a value to that person under Objectivism, so the Objectivist definition of “value” is thrown out the window and we must interpret the above definition in a more standard way. Unless Bum, Alonzo, or anyone else who uses a standard definition of “value” has any qualms with the above definition, I must say that it actually looks pretty good insofar as it applies the concept of “ultimate” to that of “value”.

    Since goals are consciously-chosen things and the only reasonable kind of end in this context is an intentional one, let’s look at the definition from a value-as-intentional point of view. Under Rand’s definition of “ultimate value”, and with the above interpretation, it should be immediately obvious that a person’s own life is not an ultimate value (if you ask why this is, reread this post), as it is not the case that, universally, people do things for the intended purpose of remaining alive–that is, if asked why they do things that result in the sustaining of their lives, they do not use “I do this to stay alive” as a reason.

    So universally, life is neither a value under Objectivism, nor is it, again universally, an ultimate value by a more standard definition of “value” (where I let Rand define “ultimate value”, which does not create problems with a standard definition of “value”, as far as I am aware). If merely staying alive is a universal, consciously-held value at all, it is therefore, universally, at most an instrumental value. That is, being alive is valuable because it lets us do stuff–more specifically, it lets us fulfill our desires (fulfillment of basic desires is an end in itself). I am not jumping aboard the Desire Utilitarianism boat by saying that, but as far as I can tell, fulfillment of basic desires is an end-in-itself in any system in which value is agent-relative and intentional.

    As Rand defines “ultimate value”, some form of hierarchy is implied, since it does not say that all values other than the ultimate one are subordinated to the latter–it just says that all lesser values are subordinated to the ultimate value. At least on the face of it, this leaves room for more than one ultimate value, although selecting one such that it is not a lesser value to another ultimate value may be a messy process. Perhaps it is impossible. Nevertheless, I have shown that it is not the case that all organisms’ own lives are ultimate values to the respective organisms, which was one of my goals in writing this post.

    Michael Huemer has done a very good job explaining at least some of the problems with the Objectivist ethics here: http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand5.htm

    Of particular merit to this discussion are his objections iv, v, vi, vii, viii, 3, 5, 6, and the portions of his Detailed Comments section that correspond to these.

    Robert Bass has also done a good job: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/2178/oism.html
    Read…
    Happiness and Ultimate Goals
    Killing for Trivial Gains
    Misusing Language: “Selfishness” and “Altruism”
    No Unconditional Oughts?
    Rational Interests
    Self-Interest and Time-Preference: A Puzzle for Egoists
    The Rights (and Wrongs) of Ayn Rand
    True, False, Arbitrary: ARIanese vs. English
    What’s Wrong with Egoism?
    Who is an Egoist? What are Interests?

  30. Ergo Says:

    Dear Mark C.

    Why don’t you update your repository of links critical of Objectivism? The ones you posted are really old and long-refuted; yet, you keep using them repeatedly, it just seems rather desperate.

    In any case, go here to read a step-by-step exposition of Huemer’s “criticisms”:

    http://blog.paulmckeever.ca/?s=Huemer

  31. Ergo Says:

    I’m sorry.. not read, but watch–the exposition is a video on YouTube. Very entertaining even! I like the music. :)

  32. Ergo Says:

    Oh, and here’s a link to a whole bunch of other vidoes. So, Mark, when you find some more updated criticisms, check against this link of videos to see if they have not already been refuted. Chances are that they have.

    http://www.paulmckeever.com/

  33. Mark C. Says:

    I don’t care what you think of Huemer, Bass, or anyone else. I didn’t even use them in coming up with my argument.

    Deal with the man talking to you. Prove that life is the ultimate value under the Objectivist definitions of “value” and “ultimate value”. Prove me wrong, and do it in a precise manner. Your words, no sources for the content. Just you. Give me your rebuttal, just as I have given you mine.

  34. evanescent Says:

    Mark, all you’ve done here, as you’ve done on other sites, is copy and paste other peoples’ arguments. As Ergo points out, they’ve all been refuted.

    Why is it ok for you to provide links that you claim support your position but not for Ergo to provide counter links that refute those positions? Why should Ergo waste his time repeating somebody else’s work, when all you have to do is visit the link and read it for yourself?

    I’ll tell you why he shouldn’t: because you have proven time and again that you have no honest interest in open debate. You post the same tired flawed attacks on Objectivism on every site and hope nobody notices that you’re just repeating yourself, having long since been refuted. We both know you’re not here for honest discussion, so I don’t see why Ergo should waste his time.

  35. Mark C. Says:

    all you’ve done here […] is copy and paste other peoples’ arguments.

    That is absolutely false. What I wrote are my own thoughts, ones that I reasoned out, whether or not I initially thought about them due to one of the arguments I’ve linked to. If I had copied and pasted, I would have given credit. What makes you think I plagiarized?

    they’ve all been refuted.

    That is also absolutely false. What has been refuted is any argument relying on the truth value of the point in my paragraph that begins with “Using ‘value’ in a more standard way, …”, since I switched between the noun “value” and the verb “value”, just as Huemer did.

    If values are “[those thing] which one acts to gain and/or keep”, and we take an intentionless interpretation, then absolutely anything and everything we come into contact with or affect can be considered a value. The intentionless interpretation is therefore stupid and useless.

    The intentional one, however, implies conscious purpose. It is not the case that merely being alive is a value for everyone, or for those who wish to remain alive, since most of the time people are acting with the intention being to satisfy desires, not to merely remain alive. The intention is what is important for Objectivism, not whatever fulfilling it mechanistically contributes to as a side-effect/byproduct. The nontrivial results of fulfilling values are not necessarily values! Alonzo talked about an herbivore running from a carnivore because it was afraid of the carnivore–it ran because it was, in its mind, afraid, not because it had the realization “I must escape to stay alive” (in whatever way a nonhuman could have such a realization). The intentional interpretation of Objectivism’s “value” yields a false empirical claim.

    So the noun “value”, under Objectivism, is either useless, or life is not [universally] a value. Either way, you lose. Refute this.

    1.Why is it ok for you to provide links that you claim support your position but not for Ergo to provide counter links that refute those positions? 2.Why should Ergo waste his time repeating somebody else’s work, when all you have to do is visit the link and read it for yourself?

    1. Straw man. I made an entire argument–an argument from me–without using any of those sites as source material. Ergo only provided links. It would have been ok for him to provide links if he had actually made an argument of his own. This is what I “requested” in my last post.

    2. Because there is value (normal sense of the term) in hearing points and arguments in someone’s own words. I want thoughts from Ergo’s head, AND YOURS, not from Rand, not from Peikoff, nor from anyone else. By the way, if you want so much for me to visit those links and read/watch everything, I will hold you to the same expectation. Have you and Ergo both read everything at the links I have provided?

    because you have proven time and again that you have no honest interest in open debate.

    When I provide arguments like I have above, YES I DO. I don’t hit and run, nor do I post to anger. I post precisely because I’m interested in discussing the topic. Now stop attacking imaginary motives and refute my argument.

    1.You post the same tired flawed attacks on Objectivism on every site 2. and hope nobody notices that you’re just repeating yourself, 3.having long since been refuted.

    1. I don’t recall having made the argument before that I now make, or at least with the necessary details and thoughts that I have added. So I don’t see it as the same criticism(s) I’ve posted elsewhere. Show me its flaws.

    2. False. I have two motives for providing the same resources and/or arguments: first, to actually get you two to answer the arguments I’ve either made or referred to (and this time, since I made a full argument myself, it is reasonable that I expect a proper reply); and second, to see if non-Objectivist onlookers have anything to say about the arguments, since my thoughts are rarely clear and precise enough to form detailed, clear arguments as I’ve tried to make here.

    3. Put up or shut up.

  36. Mark C. Says:

    Oops. Only meant to bold the area before and including “So the noun ‘value’…”.

  37. Mark C. Says:

    Correction: Meant to bold from “If values are…” through the “So the noun ‘value’…” paragraph. This is meant to emphasize my main argument.

  38. Martin Freedman Says:

    Evanescent and Ergo

    As far as I can see that has been zero progress on the key questions here

    Life is the only ultimate value.

    1. You have failed to explain what this ultimate value is if it is not intrinsic

    2. You have failed to show why it is the only ultimate value

    3. You have failed to show that life is not just mostly an instrumental value. (I say mostly becuase there are situations where one could operate in terms specifically of saving one’s life – as an end in itself – but these are rare)

    You have been shown a number of “ultimate values” and you beg the question by showing how these can all be derived from the ultimate value of life. It is granted that this can be done but is an additional requirement over just having multiple ultimate values – desires-as-ends. The same argument could be made against other singular ultimate values such as avoidance of pain, or seeking happiness. What they all have in common is that they are desires-as-ends and the simpler answer is that there are multiple desires-as-ends.

  39. evanescent Says:

    Life is not an intrinsic value – there are no such things are intrinsic values. Values cannot exist without a valuer.

    Life is the ultimate value because there is none higher – life makes value possible. There is only one “ultimate” value, by definition, and because life is an end in itself. Nothing else is an end in itself. Further up, I challenged anyone to disagree with this by providing an example of something else that IS an end in itself. This challenge remains unmet.

    There are no rational “multiple ends” – this is logically self-evident. All values (or subvalues I should say in this context) as pursued because they ULTIMATELY either benefit your life or detract from your life. One cannot pursue rational values that conflict with this.

    Even if you want to talk about “sub-ends”, the way we talk about subvalues, in other words, where one acheives or accomplishes something – even the acheival of this “end” is itself a means to another. The only way to avoid an infinite regress of “means” and “ends”, where all values and goals take place in a vacuum of arbitrary and random action – is to have an end that is an end in itself – something is not a means to anything else: life. Objectivism posits LIFE. What do YOU posit? What is YOUR philosophical alternative?

    The examples that you mention, such as pursuit of happiness or avoidance of pain are YOU begging the question – you steal the concept of value into YOUR argument, but these are concepts that are epistemologically dependant on and derived from LIFE. By even suggesting that you SHOULD desire to avoid pain, and SHOULD desire pleasure, you ASSUME that one already lives a life that makes such values or non-values possible, and that one is pursuing one’s life and happiness in such a way to avoid that which detracts from such life and seek that which benefits and aids such life! Which is exactly the Objectivism theory of rational values.

    An ultimate value is actually philosophical necessary, and the fact that you would question this with “multiple desires-as-ends” is propesterous! Otherwise one would not act with any rational goals – one could eat healthy food one day and drink poison the next; why not, unless life was your value? One could be obnoxious and vicious one day and pleasant and mild the next; why not, unless you had an ultimate goal?

    It should not even need to be spelled out that desires are NOT ends! If they were, I could desire to chop off my big toe, as an end in itself. I could desire to shoot you in the head, or eat the bark of a tree, or masturbate on the street corner, or eat nothing but chocolate all day, FOR NO OTHER REASON that the desire itself. But then we wouldn’t be talking about rational values! All desires are desires precisely because we believe we accomplish something by attaining them; by acheieving these values. But this assumes that they are of VALUE TO SOMETHING, and beneficial TO SOMETHING… but to what?? Objectivism answers: LIFE. You answer: NOTHING! The absurdity of your position is staggering.

    A further example of the validity of the Objectivist philosophy is that it is impossible for you to provide two examples of rational values that one would pursue that ultimately conflict with each other.

    All your philosophical attacks and positions are premised on a foundation of air (because you reject the notion of ultimate ends in themselves, a contradiction); in fact, you have to assume Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology for yourself in order to attack it (the fallacy of concept stealing: because even your warped notion of values and ends presuppose Objectivism).

    You have shot yourself in the epistemological foot and don’t even realise it.

  40. Ergo Says:

    It is impossible and incoherent for life to be considered an instrumental value. Life is the epistemologically prior concept that imparts meaning to the concept of value. The concept “value” cannot be applicable to a rock, say. Value is applicable only to living entities: it is the metaphysical fact of “life” that gives a rise to values. For animals, “value” is equivalent to “life-sustaining goals.” To humans, “value” is chosen goals on the basis of a specific standard. Objectivism identifies that life is the standard of value, epistemologically, and the ultimate value that is gained and kept by a constant process of volitional action, ethically.

  41. Eneasz Says:

    A further example of the validity of the Objectivist philosophy is that it is impossible for you to provide two examples of rational values that one would pursue that ultimately conflict with each other.

    Impossible? That’s the easiest thing in the world. I (hypothetically speaking) love Mary and Sally. I can pursue one or the other, but I cannot pursue both without conflict. They are both rational values.

    in fact, you have to assume Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology for yourself in order to attack it (the fallacy of concept stealing: because even your warped notion of values and ends presuppose Objectivism).

    That’s the exact same argument the christians use. “You use logic to argue, but without god there could be no logic, so you pre-suppose that which you are denying!” It’s a silly argument because, regardless of whether it’s true or not, it’s absolutley worthless and is always used as a conversation stopper. Why do people love Objectivism so much if this is what is has to offer?

  42. Martin Freedman Says:

    Evanescent you are erpating yourslef, saying nothng new and failing to answer the questions and avoiding them instead. I will analyse your last comment one more time and list the q

    Life is not an intrinsic value – there are no such things are intrinsic values. Values cannot exist without a valuer.

    Life is the ultimate value because there is none higher – life makes value possible. There is only one “ultimate” value, by definition, and because life is an end in itself. Nothing else is an end in itself. Further up, I challenged anyone to disagree with this by providing an example of something else that IS an end in itself. This challenge remains unmet.

    There are no rational “multiple ends” – this is logically self-evident. All values (or subvalues I should say in this context) as pursued because they ULTIMATELY either benefit your life or detract from your life. One cannot pursue rational values that conflict with this.

    Even if you want to talk about “sub-ends”, the way we talk about subvalues, in other words, where one acheives or accomplishes something – even the acheival of this “end” is itself a means to another. The only way to avoid an infinite regress of “means” and “ends”, where all values and goals take place in a vacuum of arbitrary and random action – is to have an end that is an end in itself – something is not a means to anything else: life. Objectivism posits LIFE. What do YOU posit? What is YOUR philosophical alternative?

    The examples that you mention, such as pursuit of happiness or avoidance of pain are YOU begging the question – you steal the concept of value into YOUR argument, but these are concepts that are epistemologically dependant on and derived from LIFE. By even suggesting that you SHOULD desire to avoid pain, and SHOULD desire pleasure, you ASSUME that one already lives a life that makes such values or non-values possible, and that one is pursuing one’s life and happiness in such a way to avoid that which detracts from such life and seek that which benefits and aids such life! Which is exactly the Objectivism theory of rational values.

    An ultimate value is actually philosophical necessary, and the fact that you would question this with “multiple desires-as-ends” is propesterous! Otherwise one would not act with any rational goals – one could eat healthy food one day and drink poison the next; why not, unless life was your value? One could be obnoxious and vicious one day and pleasant and mild the next; why not, unless you had an ultimate goal?

    It should not even need to be spelled out that desires are NOT ends! If they were, I could desire to chop off my big toe, as an end in itself. I could desire to shoot you in the head, or eat the bark of a tree, or masturbate on the street corner, or eat nothing but chocolate all day, FOR NO OTHER REASON that the desire itself. But then we wouldn’t be talking about rational values! All desires are desires precisely because we believe we accomplish something by attaining them; by acheieving these values. But this assumes that they are of VALUE TO SOMETHING, and beneficial TO SOMETHING… but to what?? Objectivism answers: LIFE. You answer: NOTHING! The absurdity of your position is staggering.

    A further example of the validity of the Objectivist philosophy is that it is impossible for you to provide two examples of rational values that one would pursue that ultimately conflict with each other.

    All your philosophical attacks and positions are premised on a foundation of air (because you reject the notion of ultimate ends in themselves, a contradiction); in fact, you have to assume Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology for yourself in order to attack it (the fallacy of concept stealing: because even your warped notion of values and ends presuppose Objectivism).

    You have shot yourself in the epistemological foot and don’t even realise it.

  43. Martin Freedman Says:

    Evanescent you are repeating yourself, saying nothing new and failing to answer the questions and avoiding them instead. I will analyze your last comment one more time and list the question for actual answer rather than avoidance.

    “Life is not an intrinsic value – there are no such things are intrinsic values. Values cannot exist without a valuer.”
    Yea well we all agree with that. This is not in dispute.

    “Life is the ultimate value because there is none higher – life makes value possible.”
    This is the genetic fallacy. Just because life is the cause of value does not mean it is value. Alonzo made an equivalent argument over the existence of value versus the value of value.
    Q1: Now please answer and try to refute either what I or Alonzo said.

    “There is only one “ultimate” value, by definition, and because life is an end in itself.”
    If a value is an end in itself – the other meaning of intrinsic BTW, (versus a value that is a means instrumental), then there is no “by definition” that there is only one such value. Q2: Where is your argument that this is singular? Q3: What is the meaning of an ultimate value if it is not intrinsic? Do you just mean an end in itself?

    “Nothing else is an end in itself. Further up, I challenged anyone to disagree with this by providing an example of something else that IS an end in itself. This challenge remains unmet.”
    This challenge has been repeatedly met. A desire to avoid pain, a desire for happiness, a desire to avoid predators, a desire for food, a desire for drink, a desire for sex. These are all ends in themselves. They are all relational values the value is in the relation between the desire and its fulfillment. Q4: Your “stealing the concept ” argument is invalid. How can you show these are not ends in themselves without breaking Occam’s Razor?

    “There are no rational “multiple ends” – this is logically self-evident.”
    Empty rhetoric. Q5: Where is your argument that this is self-evident.

    “All values (or subvalues I should say in this context) as pursued because they ULTIMATELY either benefit your life or detract from your life.”
    This is a beneficial side effect. We have evolved to have the desire-as-ends that we do as they enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce and we are the result. No animal reasons nor is able to reason this way. As humans we can go further but only need to replace this as needed. Q6: The same argument is made by genetic biologists that the ultimate goal is successful reproduction. As far as I can see these are both abstractions. How can you refute the geneticists and show your is better than theirs?

    “One cannot pursue rational values that conflict with this.”
    Q7:Define rational values. I suggested means-end rationality but you appeared to reject this. Means-end rationality is about reasoning over means not ends.

    “Even if you want to talk about “sub-ends”, the way we talk about subvalues, in other words, where one acheives or accomplishes something – even the acheival of this “end” is itself a means to another. The only way to avoid an infinite regress of “means” and “ends”, where all values and goals take place in a vacuum of arbitrary and random action – is to have an end that is an end in itself – something is not a means to anything else: life.”
    Q8: Geneticists would disagree with this (see above). What do you say to them
    Infinite regress can be also avoided with multiple desire-as-ends so this does not refute such a position.

    “Objectivism posits LIFE. What do YOU posit? What is YOUR philosophical alternative?”
    You are implicitly equivocating over life. I post life too but this does not lead to Objectivism, that is the whole point. I am not presenting an alternative as such, I am saying that everyone seeks to fulfill the more and stronger of their desires.

    “The examples that you mention, such as pursuit of happiness or avoidance of pain are YOU begging the question – you steal the concept of value into YOUR argument, but these are concepts that are epistemologically dependant on and derived from LIFE.”
    Confusing instrumental again. Your are imposing an ad hoc rationalization
    Q10: where is your logical or empirical argument that your approach is correct?

    “By even suggesting that you SHOULD desire to avoid pain, and SHOULD desire pleasure, you ASSUME that one already lives a life that makes such values or non-values possible, and that one is pursuing one’s life and happiness in such a way to avoid that which detracts from such life and seek that which benefits and aids such life! Which is exactly the Objectivism theory of rational values.”
    There are no SHOULDS here. Once you have burned your hand in a flame you do not want to do so again. There is no should involved. Desires exist we are not arguing over having desire-as-ends people do not have have, only recognizing the desire-as-ends they do have and the implications of this. You are performing the same instrumental error as before. It does not matter how often you assert it this error will not just disappear without an argument.

    “An ultimate value is actually philosophical necessary, and the fact that you would question this with “multiple desires-as-ends” is propesterous!”
    Q11: How about making an argument as to why this is preposterous.

    “Otherwise one would not act with any rational goals – one could eat healthy food one day and drink poison the next; why not, unless life was your value?”
    Q12: What is a rational goal? This sounds very Kantian, I thought Rand did not like Kant.
    Q13: What is the logic that leads one to eat poison one day, certainly not the desire-as-ends already listed.

    “One could be obnoxious and vicious one day and pleasant and mild the next; why not, unless you had an ultimate goal?”
    One always has “ultimate goals”, which ones are activated depends on the situation. When you are thirsty you seek to satiate that thirst. When you are not thirsty you do not.

    “It should not even need to be spelled out that desires are NOT ends!”
    To be accurate it is their fulfillments that are the ends.

    “If they were, I could desire to chop off my big toe, as an end in itself.”
    Q14: Why would you want to do this?

    “I could desire to shoot you in the head, or eat the bark of a tree, or masturbate on the street corner, or eat nothing but chocolate all day, FOR NO OTHER REASON that the desire itself.”
    All these desires are possible and people have had and acted on them. Who is going to recommend and encourage them, rather they are to be condemned and discouraged?

    ” But then we wouldn’t be talking about rational values! All desires are desires precisely because we believe we accomplish something by attaining them; by acheieving these values.”
    Yea duh!. I am thirsty and I fulfill my desire for water by drinking water.

    “But this assumes that they are of VALUE TO SOMETHING, and beneficial TO SOMETHING… but to what??”
    When I drink this satisfies me.

    “Objectivism answers: LIFE.”
    Q15: So when you are thirsty you want a drink because it will save your life. If you don’t think it will save your life you will not drink?

    “You answer: NOTHING! The absurdity of your position is staggering.”
    Stop looking in the mirror! :-)

    “A further example of the validity of the Objectivist philosophy is that it is impossible for you to provide two examples of rational values that one would pursue that ultimately conflict with each other.”
    You need to define what a rational value is then we can see it is impossible or not. Certainly desires can conflict and this leads to dilemmas, a subject of much philosophical analysis, partly because there can be rational support to both sides of certain dilemmas.

    “All your philosophical attacks and positions are premised on a foundation of air (because you reject the notion of ultimate ends in themselves, a contradiction);”
    This is false, no-one here rejects ultimate ends, it is just we have defined what we mean and you have not.

    ” in fact, you have to assume Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology for yourself in order to attack it (the fallacy of concept stealing: because even your warped notion of values and ends presuppose Objectivism).”
    This is a completely empty argument we have covered before. One does not need and can indeed reject Objectivist “metaphysics” and epistemology and make these arguments as we have all done here.

    “You have shot yourself in the epistemological foot and don’t even realise it.”
    Dare I mention that pesky mirror again ;-)

  44. evanescent Says:

    Martin, I am going on holiday tomorrow and will spend some time with my family now. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I will reply to you at my earliest convenience – possibly tomorrow.

  45. Ergo Says:

    Hey, coincidentally, I’m headed off on a holiday this weekend as well. I know you guys in the UK have a national day off, right? And even the French are off on another one of their many holidays. ;) Have nice time, Evanescent!

  46. evanescent Says:

    I’m now back from holiday and have found time to compose a substantial and complete reply to Martin. This is long, but completely vindicates Objectivism and refutes all the objections raised so far…

    Martin said:

    Evanescent you are repeating yourself, saying nothing new and failing to answer the questions and avoiding them instead. I will analyze your last comment one more time and list the question for actual answer rather than avoidance.

    Just because you refuse to accept the answers I give doesn’t mean I am avoiding anything.

    Incidentally, you, like your anti-objectivist kin, have yet to answer the challenges that I have presented. Namely: name an ultimate value other than life (since I proved that there MUST be one), and: state your own objective moral system and justify it philosophically from reality.

    I am still waiting.

    “Life is the ultimate value because there is none higher – life makes value possible.”

    This is the genetic fallacy. Just because life is the cause of value does not mean it is value. Alonzo made an equivalent argument over the existence of value versus the value of value.

    Objectivist definition of value: that which one acts to keep and/or gain.

    Does one act to keep and/or gain life? Yes. Therefore life is a VALUE.

    Q1: Now please answer and try to refute either what I or Alonzo said.

    “There is only one “ultimate” value, by definition, and because life is an end in itself.”
    If a value is an end in itself – the other meaning of intrinsic BTW,

    You are wrong here. An end in itself does NOT mean intrinsic, it means that it is not a means to any other end.

    Intrinsic (in the case of value) means that something is a value in and of itself, without reference to a valuer. Life is NOT a value in itself and Objectivist doesn’t claim that it is. It does claim that life is a value to the VALUER. It does not claim that human life is sacred, or precious in and of itself. What is DOES claim is that a human being’s life is a value to HIMSELF/HERSELF.

    (versus a value that is a means instrumental), then there is no “by definition” that there is only one such value. Q2: Where is your argument that this is singular? Q3: What is the meaning of an ultimate value if it is not intrinsic? Do you just mean an end in itself?

    Already answered in my paragraph above.

    As Ergo and I have already proven, there must be an ultimate value for philosophical and logical reasons that is an end in itself. You haven’t actually rejected this I don’t think, since you recognise the epistemological nihilism that would await you, therefore I assume you accept it; you just deny that life is the ultimate value. However, is necessarily is, and it necessarily is the ONLY ultimate value for the reasons argued above.

    “Nothing else is an end in itself. Further up, I challenged anyone to disagree with this by providing an example of something else that IS an end in itself. This challenge remains unmet.”

    This challenge has been repeatedly met. A desire to avoid pain, a desire for happiness, a desire to avoid predators, a desire for food, a desire for drink, a desire for sex. These are all ends in themselves.

    How can you not realise the absurdity of your own statements?

    Why do you DESIRE these things? Why is happiness a value to you? Why is food, drink, sex, a value to you??

    These are self-evidently NOT values in themselves. You eat because you ENJOY food, and pleasure makes life worth living. You eat because otherwise you will die. You eat ultimately because you are pursuing your LIFE. Eating is a means to an end. All forms of recreation are a means to an end. Food and drink are a means to an end.

    To ultimately destroy this argument of yours, I will use another analogy using “food” and “drink”. Imagine you are immortal (like a vampire or something) and you don’t need to eat or drink at all – of what value would food and drink be to you then? None.

    Imagine you didn’t care if you enjoyed your mortal life or not. Of what benefit would tasty food, good friends, great sex, be to you? None. Zero. They would be valueless.

    Everything you can possibly think of is only a value to you in the context of enjoying your LIFE and furthering your LIFE. They are of NO value outside of this context. And it is this more than anything else that refutes everything you’ve said. More than just objective philosophy, this is just common sense. How can you fail to see that?

    They are all relational values the value is in the relation between the desire and its fulfillment. Q4: Your “stealing the concept ” argument is invalid. How can you show these are not ends in themselves without breaking Occam’s Razor?

    Occam’s razor is totally irrelevant here. For a start, O.R. doesn’t state that the simple-minded explanation is the best. First off, it has to ACTUALLY BE an explanation to begin with! Your suggestions for alternative “ends in themselves” explain nothing, contradict reality, and open more questions – therefore they are not parsimonious and in fact violate O.R.

    “There are no rational “multiple ends” – this is logically self-evident.”
    Empty rhetoric. Q5: Where is your argument that this is self-evident.

    Every goal that you pursue, you do so with your life as the ultimate value. You might deny this but that’s irrelevant, as I’ve already shown it’s the case whether you realise it or not.

    Example: to pursue multiple ends is contradictory: it is akin to smoking whilst having therapy for lung cancer (which of course some people do). This is irrational. If one wants to live, therapy is the answer, but smoking is inimical to human life. One might claim to be pursuing pleasure by smoking, but if one’s wishes to stay alive, the irrational pursuit of pleasure (or pain for that matter) is contradictory. Either you want or live or you don’t. If you do, don’t smoke. If you don’t, kill yourself immediately. There is no rational middle ground.

    Incidentally, this AGAIN shows you that pursuing pleasure/pain CANNOT be an end in itself. IF it was, then one should pursue pleasure for the sake of it, which means one should take harmful drugs, rape girls for pleasure, steal money, hurt people if necessary etc etc – do WHATEVER brings happiness to you! Is this what you’re suggesting?? I doubt it, but if pleasure is an end in itself as YOU claim, this is the logical corollary.

    I won’t labour this point further: it has well and truly been established: to avoid irrationality and contradictions, an ultimate goal/value is necessary.

    Far from being “empty rhetoric” this is the objective rational basis of Objectivist morality. And if you think about it, this is probably how you live your life – so why do you deny it here?

    “All values (or subvalues I should say in this context) as pursued because they ULTIMATELY either benefit your life or detract from your life.”

    This is a beneficial side effect. We have evolved to have the desire-as-ends that we do as they enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce and we are the result. No animal reasons nor is able to reason this way. As humans we can go further but only need to replace this as needed. Q6: The same argument is made by genetic biologists that the ultimate goal is successful reproduction. As far as I can see these are both abstractions. How can you refute the geneticists and show your is better than theirs?

    Because Objectivism identifies man as a rational being, not as a mindless animal. How we evolved to become rational beings is really irrelevant. Evolution is NOT a prescription on morality, and you won’t find a single evolutionist who would claim that it is!

    Objectivism recommends that a rational being pursue his own rational happiness in his life. Happiness is not to be found by pursuing arbitrary emotional or instinctive impulses, such as to eat, defecate, or fornicate wherever and whenever one wishes (like an animal would).

    Evolutionists describe how life developed to the point it is. Philosophers attempt to answer the question: “how should man live his life? What is right or wrong?” These questions are NOT answered by evolution, and even Richard Dawkins would agree with me on this. Ayn Rand was a monumental philosopher because she answered these questions objectively, rationally, and derived them from existence itself.

    “One cannot pursue rational values that conflict with this.”
    Q7:Define rational values. I suggested means-end rationality but you appeared to reject this. Means-end rationality is about reasoning over means not ends.

    A value is that which one acts to keep and/or gain. If it is non-contradictory with the hierarchy of one’s other values (which themselves are subordinate to life itself), the value is rational.

    To use the earlier example, cigarettes are an irrational value.

    “Even if you want to talk about “sub-ends”, the way we talk about subvalues, in other words, where one acheives or accomplishes something – even the acheival of this “end” is itself a means to another. The only way to avoid an infinite regress of “means” and “ends”, where all values and goals take place in a vacuum of arbitrary and random action – is to have an end that is an end in itself – something is not a means to anything else: life.”

    Q8: Geneticists would disagree with this (see above). What do you say to them
    Infinite regress can be also avoided with multiple desire-as-ends so this does not refute such a position.

    As I have shown, multiple desires-as-ends do NOT exist, because they result in contradictory irrational behaviour.

    To repeat: let’s say my smoking is a desire as an end in itself. Let’s also say that my wishing to avoid dying of lung cancer is a desire as an end in itself. Here we have multiple “ends” – notice the contradiction??

    This is just one example, but it is impossible to name ANY “desires as ends” that either: do not conflict with each other, or: reduce ultimately to the pursuit of one’s life. This proves the point.

    “Objectivism posits LIFE. What do YOU posit? What is YOUR philosophical alternative?”

    You are implicitly equivocating over life. I post life too but this does not lead to Objectivism, that is the whole point. I am not presenting an alternative as such, I am saying that everyone seeks to fulfill the more and stronger of their desires.

    You are correct that people seek to fulfil their desires, but that is because they DESIRE what they VALUE. And if you wish to live as a rational being, your values should be rationally chosen. Since I doubt you disagree with this, we can proceed to: desires in themselves are NOT guides to actions. Why? Because our desires and emotions are not always rational. Emotions are REACTIONS to the world, not descriptions of the world, therefore they are not reliable guides to what is good or bad for us. E.g.: I’m sure heroin feels amazing (I’ve never taken it) but it is not a rational value (desire) to pursue, because it is BAD for me; for my life; it is ultimately deleterious and potentially lethal.

    If on the other hand, one pursues (or desires) rational values, then one’s means will never conflict with each other, or with one’s ultimate end: happiness (non-contradictory joy) in life.

    “The examples that you mention, such as pursuit of happiness or avoidance of pain are YOU begging the question – you steal the concept of value into YOUR argument, but these are concepts that are epistemologically dependant on and derived from LIFE.”

    Confusing instrumental again. Your are imposing an ad hoc rationalization
    Q10: where is your logical or empirical argument that your approach is correct?

    Already answered this.

    “By even suggesting that you SHOULD desire to avoid pain, and SHOULD desire pleasure, you ASSUME that one already lives a life that makes such values or non-values possible, and that one is pursuing one’s life and happiness in such a way to avoid that which detracts from such life and seek that which benefits and aids such life! Which is exactly the Objectivism theory of rational values.”

    There are no SHOULDS here. Once you have burned your hand in a flame you do not want to do so again. There is no should involved. Desires exist we are not arguing over having desire-as-ends people do not have have, only recognizing the desire-as-ends they do have and the implications of this. You are performing the same instrumental error as before. It does not matter how often you assert it this error will not just disappear without an argument.

    I have dealt with the issue of “desires as ends” etc above.

    “An ultimate value is actually philosophical necessary, and the fact that you would question this with “multiple desires-as-ends” is propesterous!”
    Q11: How about making an argument as to why this is preposterous.

    Already done above.

    “Otherwise one would not act with any rational goals – one could eat healthy food one day and drink poison the next; why not, unless life was your value?”
    Q12: What is a rational goal? This sounds very Kantian, I thought Rand did not like Kant.

    Already explained rational goals above. There is nothing Kantian about this.

    Q13: What is the logic that leads one to eat poison one day, certainly not the desire-as-ends already listed.

    “One could be obnoxious and vicious one day and pleasant and mild the next; why not, unless you had an ultimate goal?”
    One always has “ultimate goals”, which ones are activated depends on the situation. When you are thirsty you seek to satiate that thirst. When you are not thirsty you do not.

    But if you were incapable of dying of thirst, you wouldn’t seek water! Water sustains life, therefore water is a value (a means) only because life is the ultimate value (an end).

    However, life is a not a means to ANYTHING ELSE. One drinks in order to live, but one does not live in order to do anything else. Life simply is; it is metaphysically given.

    “It should not even need to be spelled out that desires are NOT ends!”

    To be accurate it is their fulfillments that are the ends.

    As I’ve shown many times above, it is rational values that should be pursued, because they are consonant with life.

    “If they were, I could desire to chop off my big toe, as an end in itself.”

    Q14: Why would you want to do this?

    Why would I NOT want to do this??? That’s the point!

    You cannot answer that without begging the question. You’d have to answer that it would be painful. But when I’d ask: why avoid pain? And you’d answer: “avoiding pain is an end in itself, so avoid it for the hell of it.” And I’d answer: “well, pursuing pain is an end in itself, so I’ll chop off my big toe for the hell of it.”

    “I could desire to shoot you in the head, or eat the bark of a tree, or masturbate on the street corner, or eat nothing but chocolate all day, FOR NO OTHER REASON that the desire itself.”

    All these desires are possible and people have had and acted on them. Who is going to recommend and encourage them, rather they are to be condemned and discouraged?

    You are begging the question: why should they be condemned rather than encouraged?? If they are ends in themselves they cannot be condemned on any grounds! If would take a foundation of higher value from which to judge an action not good or bad, because “good” and “bad” are terms that presuppose the question: “good or bad to whom??? To what??”

    Again, Objectivism answers: life. You don’t answer anything, which means you have no grounds to condemn any action. That is yet another reason why “ends in themselves” is a meaningless bankrupt notion.

    ” But then we wouldn’t be talking about rational values! All desires are desires precisely because we believe we accomplish something by attaining them; by acheieving these values.”

    Yea duh!. I am thirsty and I fulfill my desire for water by drinking water.

    Because you want to LIVE.

    “But this assumes that they are of VALUE TO SOMETHING, and beneficial TO SOMETHING… but to what??”
    When I drink this satisfies me.

    And when a paedophile rapes a kid he satisfies himself. Desires as ends, eh?

    I’ll put this in bold because it’s important and the crux of the matter:

    You cannot condemn the paedophile for pursuing his desires “as ends” because that would require you to posit something higher than “desires” as a guide for right and wrong. Objectivism can condemn the paedophile, because LIFE is the ultimate value and must be pursued rationally, therefore all desires are means to an end, which means they can be judged in relation to THAT END. But since you accept multiple desires as ends in themselves, you can no basis to judge anything.

    “Objectivism answers: LIFE.”
    Q15: So when you are thirsty you want a drink because it will save your life. If you don’t think it will save your life you will not drink?

    Well, yeah! I drink water to live, just as I avoid poison in order to live. What alternative are you suggesting??

    “A further example of the validity of the Objectivist philosophy is that it is impossible for you to provide two examples of rational values that one would pursue that ultimately conflict with each other.”

    You need to define what a rational value is then we can see it is impossible or not.

    Did this above.

    Certainly desires can conflict and this leads to dilemmas, a subject of much philosophical analysis, partly because there can be rational support to both sides of certain dilemmas.

    Ultimately, there cannot be rational support to both sides of a dilemma. That is like saying there is rational support for the propositions that the moon is made of cheese, and that is isn’t. In the end, the facts of reality always win out because reality does NOT contain or tolerate contradictions.

    Morality also pertains to facts of reality, so there is always a right vs wrong; there is always a good vs bad, and there is always an irrational vs rational.

    To suggest that two contradictory positions can be equally rational is illogical.

    “All your philosophical attacks and positions are premised on a foundation of air (because you reject the notion of ultimate ends in themselves, a contradiction);”
    This is false, no-one here rejects ultimate ends, it is just we have defined what we mean and you have not.

    I had. And if I wasn’t clear before, I certainly have been with this post!

    ” in fact, you have to assume Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology for yourself in order to attack it (the fallacy of concept stealing: because even your warped notion of values and ends presuppose Objectivism).”

    This is a completely empty argument we have covered before. One does not need and can indeed reject Objectivist “metaphysics” and epistemology and make these arguments as we have all done here.

    You can indeed reject Objectivism but you must still steal its concepts in order to make your arguments work. That is the point I am making.

    I don’t think I could have been more detailed and complete in this post. I believe all your objections/questions/suggestions have been answered and refuted.

  47. Justin O. Says:

    Thank you, Evanescent and Ergo.

    This debate, while stressful to read at points, has clarified many, many things for me. I do have a couple thoughts though.

    One of the persons here said their are two definitions of value according to Objectivism centered around intentional acts and unintentional acts. Would I be correct in assuming that “acts” in this context implies only the intentional ones? I may gain values unintentionally, but I keep them intentionally. For example, I breathe automatically, and breathing supports my life, therefore I gained the value of breathing unintentionally. However, to be rational I should act intentionally to keep it by not allowing this automatic process to be interrupted. I would not put a plastic bag over my head and do nothing as my body gasps for air, nor would I allow someone else. I could, but that would not be rational. I could hold my breathe for a while but this would not be necessarily irrational because I wouldn’t be doing it long enough to die.

    Regarding the sand example, I may have gained sand unintentionally as a byproduct of walking on the beach. However, it has no value because I did not do it intentionally nor do I intentionally keep it. I may bear the annoyance for a certain amount of time because it wouldn’t be worth my time to constantly remove it. That time wasted could very well prevent me from the values that I am intentionally acting to gain or keep… such as a romantic experience with my partner.

    I can’t think of a single value that is gained and kept unintentionally. I can think of many that are kept uncritically, without understanding why they are values. I think that’s where the desires as ultimate ends argument comes from. I don’t know why I value avoiding pain, therefore it must be an ultimate end. You don’t need to know for the reasons and hierarchy to still exist. Pain and emotions are reactions that were developed over time because the things that cause pain and negative emotions are possible threats to your life. An immortal vampire might still value the taste of food and avoid the discomfort of pain… but without the possibility of life and death as a precursor to those values how would such a being or category of beings evolve the means to perceive pleasure and pain… or even the capacity for reason? They are a leftovers from his mortal history. Would an immortal vampire be able to maintain the value of those perceptions over time?

    In another example they suggest two lovers, of which they see both as having rational value, as an example of rational values that conflict. It’s only a conflict if the either or both of the lovers are against the idea of you maintaining another lover as well. The conflict isn’t in having two lovers, but in your irrational attempts to keep each value. It’s in the delusion, your conflict with reality, that you can have your cake and eat it too… to value something while undermining the requirements to keep or gain it. It’s impossible to have conflicting rational values because by acting to gain or keep one you are already being irrational and ignoring the facts required to gain or keep the other. I think it is possible to have the option of acting on competing potential rational values, just as you have the option to either keep the value of possessing your cake for later use or gain value by eating it now. Competing potential values doesn’t imply a conflict though.

    Comments? Am I on track or am I off base somewhere?

  48. evanescent Says:

    Thank you, Evanescent and Ergo.

    This debate, while stressful to read at points, has clarified many, many things for me. I do have a couple thoughts though.

    One of the persons here said their are two definitions of value according to Objectivism centered around intentional acts and unintentional acts. Would I be correct in assuming that “acts” in this context implies only the intentional ones?

    Not necessarily. A value is that which one acts to keep and/or gain. But animals have values even though they have no choice over them.

    Morality applies only to those choices one has free control over, so in a discussion on morality, I’d only be talking about intentional acts.

    When discussing values in this article though, a value could be a friend or lover, or food or drink. According to Objectivism, there exist objective values because of man’s requirements and nature. Note than Rand talked about man’s requirements qua man. In its simplest form this means that it’s not enough for man to survive from one moment to the next like an animal does. Man’s metaphysical nature as a rational being has certain requirements and certain values. Man must DISCOVER these values – they are not intrinsic, nor as they based on subjective whim.

    She identified three cardinal values: reason, purpose, self-esteem. These aren’t accepted by authority, but they are necessities for a rational being that a rational being must pursue for himself (they can’t be forced).

    I may gain values unintentionally, but I keep them intentionally. For example, I breathe automatically, and breathing supports my life, therefore I gained the value of breathing unintentionally. However, to be rational I should act intentionally to keep it by not allowing this automatic process to be interrupted. I would not put a plastic bag over my head and do nothing as my body gasps for air, nor would I allow someone else. I could, but that would not be rational. I could hold my breathe for a while but this would not be necessarily irrational because I wouldn’t be doing it long enough to die.

    Yes, exactly.

    Life is a constant process of self-generated action. The only alternative is death. Therefore, every action one takes ULTIMATELY (no matter how trivial) is either purposed toward life or death. Since life is a forward process, even non-action, stagnation, is pursuing death.

    What Rand said is that IF you choose to live, it is irrational to pursue anything that is not guided towards this end.

    So to get back to what you said: holding your breath whilst swimming is of course rational. Holding your breath whilst doing a circus act or something is rational. But holding your breath for the hell of it is irrational. Having said that, doing ANYTHING for the hell of it is irrational.

    Regarding the sand example, I may have gained sand unintentionally as a byproduct of walking on the beach. However, it has no value because I did not do it intentionally nor do I intentionally keep it. I may bear the annoyance for a certain amount of time because it wouldn’t be worth my time to constantly remove it. That time wasted could very well prevent me from the values that I am intentionally acting to gain or keep… such as a romantic experience with my partner.

    That is true. I remember somebody asking Ergo a question a while ago and he gave a very good reply. The question was: what’s the difference between smashing a kitten’s head in and smashing rocks in?

    Regardless of the cruelty factor, both actions are actually immoral! Because both are totally unproductive uses of time and effort. (Of course there are other reasons why being cruel is immoral but that’s not the point here). This is not the sort of “morality” you’d expect to hear in the philosophy class these days, but that is the beauty of rational egoism: it’s a morality to guide your life! It’s not a “morality” to tell you how you can best serve OTHER people.

    I can’t think of a single value that is gained and kept unintentionally. I can think of many that are kept uncritically, without understanding why they are values. I think that’s where the desires as ultimate ends argument comes from. I don’t know why I value avoiding pain, therefore it must be an ultimate end.

    But not understanding why you do or don’t act doesn’t make the object of your pursuit an ultimate end. An animal doesn’t know why it flies south for the winter or builds a nest when it comes on heat, but it does these things, not for the hell of it, not as ends in themselves, but to further its life and its instinct-given “purposes” in life, such as reproduction.

    For human beings, for rational beings, there is only one ultimate end, and everything we do is either conducive or detrimental to this end, whether we realise it or not.

    You don’t need to know for the reasons and hierarchy to still exist. Pain and emotions are reactions that were developed over time because the things that cause pain and negative emotions are possible threats to your life.

    Ayn Rand agrees with you.

    An immortal vampire might still value the taste of food and avoid the discomfort of pain… but without the possibility of life and death as a precursor to those values how would such a being or category of beings evolve the means to perceive pleasure and pain… or even the capacity for reason? They are a leftovers from his mortal history. Would an immortal vampire be able to maintain the value of those perceptions over time?

    It’s a good question and a good point. That’s why we can only posit creatures like vampires as thought experiments – they have no bearing on the real world because they are totally unconnected to anything in reality. Just like God.

    Food and drink would be of no value to a vampire at all. Of course, the element of pleasure might be a value, in order to make immortal life bearable and worth living. But if you could never ever die anyway, what would it matter?

    In another example they suggest two lovers, of which they see both as having rational value, as an example of rational values that conflict. It’s only a conflict if the either or both of the lovers are against the idea of you maintaining another lover as well. The conflict isn’t in having two lovers, but in your irrational attempts to keep each value. It’s in the delusion, your conflict with reality, that you can have your cake and eat it too… to value something while undermining the requirements to keep or gain it. It’s impossible to have conflicting rational values because by acting to gain or keep one you are already being irrational and ignoring the facts required to gain or keep the other. I think it is possible to have the option of acting on competing potential rational values, just as you have the option to either keep the value of possessing your cake for later use or gain value by eating it now. Competing potential values doesn’t imply a conflict though.

    Comments? Am I on track or am I off base somewhere?

    Sounds to me like you’ve understood the point about rational values and how they never conflict very quickly and smoothly!

    I guess this reassures me that there was nothing wrong with how I was phrasing things! And a lesson to the others in this thread really that if you read what I’ve written properly, it’s all right there.

  49. Martin Freedman Says:

    Well I have written my own post on these issues see

    Objections to Objectivism

    also see The Barefoot Bum’s Atheism and Reasoning

  50. Justin O. Says:

    I’m not sure why Mr. Freedman keeps saying that there is no evidence that life is the ultimate value. If you’re dead, you can value nothing… you can’t have value without the valuer, he agrees with this. All other ends he suggests, avoiding pain, eating and drinking… they would all be pointless if you weren’t alive. Is it not self-evident that because of this then that life must be preserved above all else in order to value anything at all? If the “life” of the valuer is a requirement of value then how can any other value be above or equal to “life”? He says life is of instrumental value… what is life a means to? The only possible answer is “living”… everything else is an aspect of living. If life is an end in itself then it couldn’t be instrumental to any other value. Suggesting otherwise is to say that life is a means to avoid pain, life is a means to eat or drink, life is a means to enjoy pleasure, life is a means to successfully reproduce, etc. Does Mr. Freedman see the contradiction here? None of these things matter if you aren’t alive.

    As for his example that evolutionary biologists suggest that “successful reproduction” is preferred over an individual “life”… Evolutionary biologists explain why certain traits have allowed a species to survive over a large amount of time. Put simply, this means that a species that does not have enough of these traits did not continue to exist as a species. This has nothing to do with concept value in the context of morality. It does not refer to the intentional actions or conduct of any individual member of that species. It may, at times, include the automated or instinctual actions that most members of the species share. I believe what they are explaining is a different concept with a different standard. Though it does have a similar logic. In the context of the evolutionary process, “species survival and flourishing” is the standard of what is “preferred”. This is nearly mirrors objectivism’s logic that in the context of morality it is an individual’s “life” or “individual survival and flourishing” that is the standard of what is “preferred”. When it comes to evolution an individual has no power over which traits help the species survive as they were developed long before he was alive, nor does he have any power over the traits he passes on or even whether the species will survive in his lifetime. Morality simply does not apply to evolution because morality relates to individual choices and actions. I think the problem we see here is comes from this context switching.

    I take issue with Mr. Freedman’s is-ought example. We respect another’s right to life because we wish them to respect ours. It is of no value and in fact quite harmful to our values to participate in a society where anyone may do as they please to any other person without regard. It clearly falls within our self interest to engage and encourage a social environment where moral and ethical concepts such as rights are respected. In regard to the is-ought aspect, man is a rational animal among other rational animals therefore man ought to preserve the requirements necessarily to live as a rational animal among other rational animals.

    I think Mr. Freedman’s suggestion that objectivists should attempt to defend their positions with out relying on definitions is plainly absurd. If you consistently apply the idea that definitions are subjective then nothing can be proven about anything. Is pain an end? What is pain? The definition of pain is subjective so I’m going to say pain is the color blue. What is blue? It’s something you eat. What’s that Mr. Freedman? You mean in this context you defined pain as the phenomenon of a temporary but unpleasant sensation experienced by certain living beings? So much for not relying on definitions. The fact specific definitions are used consistently when arguing from any perspective is rational and the only logical thing to do . The very purpose of doing such is so that the argument and terms are properly understood and not confused, without them or doing as Mr. Freedman suggests would lead to complete unintelligible chaos. However, at times, people often forget or neglect to provide definitions and assume they are known. Sometimes people do commit equivocation, accidental or not.

    How does Mr. Freedman explain his criticism that objectivism’s statement that “life is the ultimate moral value” relies on equivocation, or double meaning, while at the same time claiming a reliance on specific definitions? I suppose there could be a mixed bag of issues. Perhaps he recommends we not take his advise and do define our terms to remove the equivocation?

  51. evanescent Says:

    Justin, I’m not sure how much you’ve studied of Objectivism before this article, but I’m impressed by your quick understanding of it. You’ve certainly grasped the concepts of “value” very well and already identified all the flaws in Martin’s attempted attacks.

    Unfortunately, I am becoming more and more aware that attacks on Objectivism on my blog and others are born, not so much out of innocent misunderstanding and an interest in honest debate, but a deep dislike for Rand and her philosophy and a passion to attack it from a position of ignorance (why???). In this respect, these atheists remind me of creationists.

  52. faithlessgod Says:

    Hey guys I was bored and tidying up my blog which somehow led me back here. So for a bit of Sunday fun:-

    I’m not sure why Mr. Freedman keeps saying that there is no evidence that life is the ultimate value.
    First answer: Mackie showed with the Argument from Queerness that intrinsic value is a fiction, and that theories based on such intrinsic values are in error. This includes “life as the ultimate value” – unless you agree that intrinsic value does not exist, in which case what is your non-question begging theory of non-intrinsic value?

    All other ends he suggests, avoiding pain, eating and drinking… they would all be pointless if you weren’t alive
    Not pointless, they just would not exist. Life is a precondition to generating value as has been said numerous times, one way or another, before.

    Is it not self-evident that because of this then that life must be preserved above all else in order to value anything at all?
    No it is not self-evident, this is a hasty generalisation. You need to consider evidence that would disconfirm your claim and then see that such evidence does not exist. But here it does and so your claimed is disconfirmed. One can have values that involve sacrificing one’s life in order to realise value – e.g. for one’s children or family, one’s country or one’s beliefs possibly.

    If the “life” of the valuer is a requirement of value then how can any other value be above or equal to “life”?,/quote>
    A requirement or precondition of value is not the same as value. Your are confusing process and product – life is usually a precondition or part of the process that produces value.

    He says life is of instrumental value… what is life a means to?
    Only by contrast to the still emprically unjustified assertion that “life is the ultimate value”. Considered as an instrumental means, life is a means to whatever it is that the agent desires, that is whatever final ends they have, (plus it is up to them to decide and not you to impose it on them).

    The only possible answer is “living”… everything else is an aspect of living.
    This is a form of equivocation you have gone from “life” to “living”. The question is what is performed in the process of living? This would be the seeking and realisation of one’s desires where being alive is just a usual precondition as already stated here.

    If life is an end in itself then it couldn’t be instrumental to any other value.
    This is false. Any end can also be a means to other ends.

    Suggesting otherwise is to say that life is a means to avoid pain, life is a means to eat or drink, life is a means to enjoy pleasure, life is a means to successfully reproduce, etc. Does Mr. Freedman see the contradiction here? None of these things matter if you aren’t alive.
    The contradiction is in your view of how this works, not in mine. The contradiction results from the false dilemma within which you attempt to answer these questions. Having such a contradiction in your model is a good reason to recognise it is flawed and reject it.

    In my approach an agent’s life is a usual precondition to them pursuing their desires such as a desire to avoid pain, eat, drink or for pleasure, to successfully reproduce and so on. As you can see there is no contradiction, this is an artefact of your reasoning.

    As for his example that evolutionary biologists suggest that “successful reproduction” is preferred over an individual “life”… Evolutionary biologists explain why certain traits have allowed a species to survive over a large amount of time. Put simply, this means that a species that does not have enough of these traits did not continue to exist as a species.
    You need to check your evolutionary theory, when it comes to successful reproduction they focus on genes, individuals and populations, arguably groups but generally not species.

    This has nothing to do with concept value in the context of morality.
    IIRC I never said it was. I was asking on what is the equivalent empirical basis was your value model to be preferred over theirs.

    It does not refer to the intentional actions or conduct of any individual member of that species.
    Yes so? And note that the capacity for types of intentional actions are certainly evolutionary constrained.

    It may, at times, include the automated or instinctual actions that most members of the species share. I believe what they are explaining is a different concept with a different standard.
    Well duh! Why state the obvious? This was examining the evidence that you have for your standard and this was in contrast to evolutionary biologists and the evidential basis for their standard. Again what is the equivalent empirical basis for your standard?

    Though it does have a similar logic. In the context of the evolutionary process, “species survival and flourishing” is the standard of what is “preferred”. This is nearly mirrors objectivism’s logic that in the context of morality it is an individual’s “life” or “individual survival and flourishing” that is the standard of what is “preferred”.
    Addressing you in particular, maybe your misunderstanding of evolutionary theory also applies in moral theory?

    When it comes to evolution an individual has no power over which traits help the species survive as they were developed long before he was alive, nor does he have any power over the traits he passes on or even whether the species will survive in his lifetime. Morality simply does not apply to evolution because morality relates to individual choices and actions. I think the problem we see here is comes from this context switching.
    The original discussion was a long time ago but IIRC this was not something that was ever argued for one way or another i.e. this is all irrelevant.

    I take issue with Mr. Freedman’s is-ought example. We respect another’s right to life because we wish them to respect ours.
    This is the golden rule and does not address the is-ought distinction.

    It is of no value and in fact quite harmful to our values to participate in a society where anyone may do as they please to any other person without regard. It clearly falls within our self interest to engage and encourage a social environment where moral and ethical concepts such as rights are respected.
    You need to explain what these “values” are. You have yet to provide decent support for your above value model. You certainly do not need your dubious value model to consider the above issues on which we would mostly agree. But then again what do you mean by “rights”? As Bentham said these are nonsense built on stilts. So how do you explain rights (but presumably you first need to get some clarity on your theory of value?

    In regard to the is-ought aspect, man is a rational animal among other rational animals therefore man ought to preserve the requirements necessarily to live as a rational animal among other rational animals.
    You have just committed the error of deriving an ought from an is, what is your justification for doing this? Just making an assertion is not a justification.

    I think Mr. Freedman’s suggestion that objectivists should attempt to defend their positions with out relying on definitions is plainly absurd.
    A classic riposte of a subjectivist, since their definitions have no objective referents and they cannot talk about objective feature of reality and then you go on…

    If you consistently apply the idea that definitions are subjective then nothing can be proven about anything.
    Another assertion to which you fail to answer below. Is Pluto a planet or not? Is Egypt in the Middle East or North Africa? Change those definitions and what they refer to – the facts still carry on existing, regardless of those changed definitions. You only want to claim my question is absurd because you cannot point to anything but fictions and fantasies, I will stick to the facts and if you have none, then you have nothing.

    Is pain an end? What is pain? The definition of pain is subjective so I’m going to say pain is the color blue. What is blue? It’s something you eat. What’s that Mr. Freedman? You mean in this context you defined pain as the phenomenon of a temporary but unpleasant sensation experienced by certain living beings? So much for not relying on definitions. The fact specific definitions are used consistently when arguing from any perspective is rational and the only logical thing to do. The very purpose of doing such is so that the argument and terms are properly understood and not confused, without them or doing as Mr. Freedman suggests would lead to complete unintelligible chaos.
    Again you really on definitions.. ahem.. as ends. I do not, they are just means, a useful shorthand to facilitate inter-subjective communication. However when there is a dispute over definitions one needs to get beyond them to the facts, here you cannot and try to avoid this by claiming to do so is “absurd”. Of course you could redefine “pain” to mean something other than what most people mean but then most would misunderstand you unless they knew and agreed to use your artifical definitions but so what. Oh yes that is what you do with “morality”!

    However, at times, people often forget or neglect to provide definitions and assume they are known. Sometimes people do commit equivocation, accidental or not.
    Well then (and when I refer to you here and mostly above I am talking to Randians in general not just you Justin) why do you persist with your equivocations over life – man qua man – and morality?

    How does Mr. Freedman explain his criticism that objectivism’s statement that “life is the ultimate moral value” relies on equivocation, or double meaning, while at the same time claiming a reliance on specific definitions?,/quote>
    I do not claim a reliance on definitions it is you that do. I have already stated my view on definitions above in this post. The double meaning in your case is a quasi-equivocation on life versus living as also noted above.

    I suppose there could be a mixed bag of issues. Perhaps he recommends we not take his advise and do define our terms to remove the equivocation?,/quote>
    Huh? You admit you are equivocating? It would be useful to define your terms to (a) avoid the equivocation and (b) point to the facts of the matter to which they refer – so we can discuss these without needing those definitions. Given that you have failed to present any arguments to move forward the debate, the provisional conclusion still remains that you cannot do that (disambiguate your admitted equivocation) without your arguments disappearing into thin air!!!

  53. faithlessgod Says:

    Oh dear the quoting got screwed up. It would be useful to have either a preview or edit function like most other blogs to avoid such mishaps.

    Anyway I had fun writing it!

  54. evanescent Says:

    Hi Faithless

    If you tidy up your comment and repost it, I will read it and respond.

  55. faithlessgod Says:

    Hi

    Just checked you are still lacking any way to modify, preview or edit comments. So how can this be tidied up? When that is fixed I will happily clean up and repost. Tell me when you have fixed this.

  56. evanescent Says:

    Faithlessgod, I don’t think there’s anything for me to fix, as a hundred other posters on my blog haven’t had a problem.

    I simply suggested that instead of correcting what you already posted, you copy and paste the text only again.

    Or rewrite the jist of it here.


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