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Rand wrote in “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 32

To love is to value. Only a rationally selfish man, a man of self-esteem, is capable of love—because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed values. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.

Value has two meanings. Value(v) which is to value something. Value(n) which is to have that value.

Let say Bob values(v) productivity. However, Bob is unproductive. Couldn't Bob still feel love toward Jane if Jane has the value(n) of productivity?

asked Feb 06 '14 at 12:50

Humbug's gravatar image

Humbug
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edited Feb 09 '14 at 03:42

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Greg Perkins ♦♦
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To value something does not endow the valued object with value. The object only has value to the one who values.

(Feb 06 '14 at 22:29) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

The quote by Ayn Rand pertains to valuing oneself. If Bob is unproductive but nevertheless values productivity, then (a) how can that be, since valuing something means acting to gain and/or keep it, and (b) why would it necessarily mean that he does not value himself?

Point (a) is worth elaborating further. The terms "productive," "unproductive" and "productivity" are not precisely equivalent to the terminology in TOE. TOE uses the term "purpose" for one of the three cardinal values for man's life qua man, and "productiveness" as the virtue (action) by which to achieve purpose in life, in conjunction with rationality and five further virtues. TOE and Galt's Speech differentiate between "value" and "virtue" as follows (see "Virtue" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon):

“Value” is that which one acts to gain and keep, “virtue” is the action by which one gains and keeps it.

"Productive work" in TOE apparently is the bridge between the value of purpose and the virtue of productiveness. In discussing the value of purpose, TOE states:

Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man's life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work -- pride is the result.

(From TOE, Chap. 1 in VOS, p. 27 in the Signet paperback edition. The TOE paragraph preceding this TOE excerpt names self-esteem as one of the three cardinal values for man's life qua man, with pride as the virtue most directly leading to self-esteem.)

In discussing the virtue of productiveness, TOE states:

The virtue of Productiveness is the recognition of the fact that productive work is the process by which man's mind sustains his life, the process that sets man free of the necessity to adjust himself to his background, as all animals do, and gives him the power to adjust his background to himself.

In TOE terminology, productiveness means engaging in productive work in order to gain and/or keep the value of purpose, i.e., a central productive purpose in one's life. To claim to value purpose without acting to gain and/or keep it (by engaging in productive work) is a contradiction. One does not actually value purpose if one doesn't act to gain and/or keep it, contrary to anything that one might claim about one's alleged "values." (See also "Productiveness" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

In ordinary usage, one who conscientiously tries to be productive, but fails due to conditions beyond his control, may be described as "unproductive." The question, however, doesn't indicate that "Bob" is making any effort to be productive. Absent such effort, he cannot properly be described as "valuing" productive work.

Regarding love, a comment asks if love is primarily a process of "valuing," or primarily an emotion. Objectivism says yes, it is. I.e., it's both. Objectivism identifies the fact that emotions are caused by one's values, by way of automatic evaluations of stimuli in terms of previously (volitionally) automatized patterns of valuing and acting. (Refer to the topic of "Emotions" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

Update: Awareness of Context

In the comments, the questioner asks about "people who value health but they take no effort to exercise." In order to know whether or not a person truly values his health, one will need to know more of the full context of the person's actions. The expression, "effort to exercise," appears to refer to an exercise regimen of some kind that is separate and distinct from any exercise that one will get naturally in the course of performing other actions needed for living and enjoying life. This can be referred to as "supplemental exercise." Is supplemental exercise really necessary for health? The exact health benefit of additional exercise beyond ordinary exercise from working, i.e., supplemental exercise, may be popularly assumed today to be beneficial for health, but is it? Perhaps the popular belief is mistaken or misguided. Perhaps the individual in question disputes the connection. Perhaps basic nutrition and personal hygiene are vastly more important for health and long life than supplemental exercise. The value of supplemental exercise also depends on how much exercise, and what kind, a person actually receives from working (and what kind of productive work he performs, how sedentary or physical his work is). Simple stretching exercises (without high impact or high aerobics) may be all that most people really need, if they are following proper nutrition and hygiene (and proper ergonomics while sitting or standing for long periods).

More abstractly, it can be asked: if actions 'A', 'B' and 'C' are beneficial for value 'H', does failure to perform 'C' mean that the person doesn't actually value 'H'? One can't answer that without knowing the full context; specifically, one needs to know whether or not the person is performing actions 'A' and/or 'B', and whether he is performing them for the implicit or explicit goal of remaining healthy (and alive).

The foregoing expresses a very fundamental epistemological principle in Objectivism that I refer to as "awareness of context." It is often referred to in Objectivist literature as "holding the context." It is actually implicit in the formulation, "Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses." Identifying sensory-perceptual material means looking at reality and relating what one observes to what one already knows, or distilling new knowledge if the concretes that one observes don't readily fit one's existing knowledge. Reason begins with observation of concretes in reality, observation of the context. In general, awareness of context means knowing, or finding out as fully as possible, where one is, what one is doing, how one came to be doing it, what is happening around oneself, and why. The fallacy of the "stolen concept" depends, at root, on context dropping.

Update: Awareness of Context Regarding "Value"

As explained above, "awareness of context" is a crucial principle in Objectivist epistemology. That includes awareness of the context in which Ayn Rand was expressing her formulations, if one wants to understand clearly what she meant. For the original question, "awareness of context" includes understanding what Ayn Rand meant by "value."

Ayn Rand explains what "value" means (and depends on) in the same article from which the question's quoted excerpt was taken, namely, TOE in VOS Chap. 1. Moreover, the key excerpts on "value" are available in the topic of "Values" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, and the three sentences excerpted in the original question can be found (in a fuller context) in the Lexicon topic of "Love."

Yet a comment following Eric's Answer states:

A simple, common dictionary definition of "value" is "to regard or esteem highly" ... This use of the word "value" is not at all what Rand meant, of course, but this is not at all clear on its face.

I do not see a fundamental conflict between Ayn Rand's usage of "value" and the common dictionary definition. Ayn Rand's usage is simply more essentialized, for greater clarity of discussion. Remember that in Objectivism, "value" is just "that which one acts to gain and/or keep." For example, acting to gain and/or keep something implies that one values it.

If the commenter's basic thesis is that one must know the context in order to understand the meaning of a statement, I certainly agree. Moreover, the three quoted sentences together actually do a good job of indicating and reinforcing Ayn Rand's usage of "value," even if one hasn't made the effort to examine the context further.

Update: Further Issues and Clarifications

The comments have raised some additional philosophical issues that I find worth clarifying further.

If Bob claims that he "feel[s] love toward Jane" (quoting Humbug's original question), one really can't argue with him.

"Feel" here probably refers to an emotional response. Emotions are automatic responses to one's values, i.e., automatic bodily expressions of one's evaluations of stimuli according to one's values. Refer to "Emotions" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon. It's one's values that are chosen (either immediately or over time through automatization); one does not directly choose one's emotional responses to one's evaluations of stimuli, except by way of volitionally reaffirming one's values or not, and/or reaffirming or revising whatever thinking was involved in one's evaluations.

Ask 10 people if they think money is important.

"Important" refers to one specific type of value, namely, metaphysical values. Refer to "Metaphysical Value-Judgments" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

Also, Objectivism challenges popular thinking (and academic thinking, too) that is confused, contradictory, concrete-bound (not well integrated), or otherwise deficient. Confusing "importance" with generic "value" is one example.

[Ayn Rand's sentences make sense] ... but only if you really take your time and think about them (or if you're already well acquainted with Objectivism).

Or you can speed things up by asking on here [OA website] what the statement means.

Yes, exactly. Nothing in my own Answer should be taken to imply differently. Objectivism urges people to think. Objectivism regards thinking and productive work as "the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being." (Quoted from TOE.)

answered Feb 08 '14 at 11:51

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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edited Oct 12 '14 at 15:19

I'm reading from this that virtue automatically follows value. Is that really the case? I know plenty of people who value health but they take no effort to exercise. Or is this a case of conflicting values (health vs TV)?

(Feb 08 '14 at 13:44) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

"One does not actually value purpose if one doesn't act to gain and/or keep it"

"Objectivism identifies the fact that emotions are caused by one's values"

So the act of trying to get the girl is what causes you to become attracted to the girl? That seems backwards.


Hmm, maybe what is being said is that the action is the evidence of the value? So...the value (a mental state) comes first, then the emotion, and then the action?

(Feb 08 '14 at 22:18) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If somebody claims they value productiveness, but just so happens to be an unproductive person…that's being a hypocrite.

(Feb 08 '14 at 23:13) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

Anthony: yes, that's pretty close. Our conscious evaluations become automatized, visceral emotions which urge us to action.

(Feb 09 '14 at 03:40) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Cool. So is "[t]he man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone" similar to "the man who does not value training for a marathon, cannot value winning a marathon"?

(Feb 09 '14 at 11:07) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"Winning" by whom? If one wants to win a marathon oneself, one almost certainly will need to train for it and will quickly find that out if he tries to win without doing it. What does he do about his knowledge?

(Feb 09 '14 at 12:49) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Is it true that a man who does not value training for a marathon, cannot value finishing a marathon in under 3 hours?

(Feb 11 '14 at 22:38) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Normally finishing a race is less demanding than winning it, but trying to finish within a demanding time limit can increase the difficulty of the challenge. Whether or not one needs to train for the challenge depends on how ready one may already be and on the degree of challenge one is facing. I do not view training for the challenge to be a value; I see it as more like an action aimed at the goal, more like a virtue than a value. If the virtue of training isn't essential for achieving the value of surmounting the challenge, then failure to train doesn't necessarily mean that one doesn't want and expect to meet the challenge.

(Feb 12 '14 at 00:59) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

"The quote by Ayn Rand pertains to valuing oneself."

So this quote doesn't apply to loving another? It doesn't make any sense as to why Rand would put in the word "anyone" into the quote.

(Feb 13 '14 at 02:31) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

The quote by Ayn Rand pertains to valuing anything. The quote by Ayn Rand pertains to valuing oneself. The quote by Ayn Rand pertains to the relation between valuing oneself and valuing anything. The quote by Ayn Rand pertains to (i.e., expresses) her rejection of the false alternative of loving another vs. loving oneself. The central focus of the quote by Ayn Rand is on valuing oneself, being "rationally selfish," as a fundamental precondition for valuing anything else.

(Feb 13 '14 at 22:52) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

I do not see a fundamental conflict between Ayn Rand's usage of "value" and the common dictionary definition.

The former is objective. The latter is subjective.

Remember that in Objectivism, "value" is just "that which one acts to gain and/or keep."

That's the noun. The use in the statement in question is as a verb. I don't think Rand ever defined the verb.

For example, acting to gain and/or keep something implies that one values it.

By Rand's objective use of the term, yes it does. By the common use of the term, not necessarily. Ask 10 people if they think money is important.

(Oct 11 '14 at 16:17) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Moreover, the three quoted sentences together actually do a good job of indicating and reinforcing Ayn Rand's usage of "value," even if one hasn't made the effort to examine the context further.

They do, but only if you really take your time and think about them (or if you're already well acquainted with Objectivism).

Or you can speed things up by asking on here what the statement means.

(Oct 11 '14 at 16:26) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I do not see a fundamental conflict between Ayn Rand's usage of "value" and the common dictionary definition.

The former is objective. The latter is subjective.

That which one acts to gain and/or keep vs. that which one regards as important.

If Bob claims that he "feel[s] love toward Jane" (quoting Humbug's original question), one really can't argue with him. If Bob claims that he acts to gain and/or keep Jane's affection, that's something that can be objectively tested.

(Oct 11 '14 at 16:30) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Also, Objectivism challenges popular thinking (and academic thinking, too) that is confused, contradictory, concrete-bound (not well integrated), or otherwise deficient. Confusing "importance" with generic "value" is one example.

It sounds like the answerer now understands, to use his/her words, the "fundamental conflict between Ayn Rand's usage of 'value' and the common dictionary definition."

(Oct 12 '14 at 17:50) anthony anthony's gravatar image

From Anthony:

A simple, common dictionary definition of "value" is "to regard or esteem highly".

I see no fundamental conflict here, merely some potential for confusion through inadequately identified concepts.

(Oct 13 '14 at 22:57) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Fundamental conflict, potential for confusion, whatever you want to call it, it's a terrible definition.

Anyway, I'm not sure what your point is any more.

(Oct 15 '14 at 16:08) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The meaning of "fundamental" is an important issue. For those who are interested, an introductory discussion of it can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Fundamentality, Rule of." A key passage explains:

Metaphysically, a fundamental characteristic [of a concept] is that distinctive characteristic which makes the greatest number of others possible; epistemologically, it is the one that explains the greatest number of others.
(Oct 16 '14 at 00:32) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

The meaning of "fundamental" is an important issue.

Maybe you can start another topic on it, then. My comment, which wasn't even to you, was "This use of the word 'value' is not at all what Rand meant, of course, but this is not at all clear on its face." I didn't use the word "fundamental" except to quote you.

(Oct 17 '14 at 11:36) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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I have to admit, I have not read the extensive answer and many comments in depth, because they seem to diverge from the quotation of Rand in pursuit of the questioner's subsidiary questions. However, I think the questioner's subsidiary questions are somewhat off-base with regards to the quote.

The meaning of the statement "The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone" seems clear on its face. What I presume the questioner is really asking for is an explanation of how this is true, rather than what the sentence semantically means. There is at least one reason why Rand's statement is true that I wanted to briefly point out (I'm sure there are other reasons as well, which I will leave to others to discuss).

If you do not value yourself, you will have no motivation to value anything or anyone else. Valuing is not something that happens to you out of the blue beyond your control, like catching a cold or being struck by lightning. You do not just wake up one day and find yourself valuing something. Instead, valuing is an active process of consciously pursuing things or maintaining them if you have them--when you have consciously decided to take actions to pursue something or to maintain it, you value that thing. But all human action must be motivated--you will not act to gain and/or keep something (i.e., you will not value something) unless you have a motivating reason to do so. But if you do not value yourself, what possible motivation could you have to do anything? You and your own life are the root of all value and value pursuit.

answered Sep 25 '14 at 16:21

ericmaughan43's gravatar image

ericmaughan43 ♦
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edited Sep 25 '14 at 16:22

The meaning of the statement "The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone" seems clear on its face.

I don't think the meaning is at all clear on its face. To understand the meaning of the statement, one must must understand Rand's objective theory of value.

(Oct 04 '14 at 17:49) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Meh... I don't think this is that important of an issue, but if this is really what you want to disagree about, then I guess I will engage you merely for sport.

To understand all of the implications and correlaries of the statement, or to understand the justification for/validation of the statement, an understanding of Rand's theroy of value would be required. However, I am merely speaking about understanding the semantic meaning of the statement, which I believe does not require understanding all of the implications, correlaries, and justifications/validations of the statement.

(Oct 06 '14 at 09:50) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

To understand the semantic meaning of the statement requires only an understanding of the words used and the grammatical/logical form in which the words are combined. The statement uses words that are within the grasp of the average person and they are used unambiguously. Further, the grammatical/logical form is not complex--the form is, in essence: "If not-A, then not-B" (where A = man values self, and B = man values anything else). Thus, the semantic meaning seems like it would be clear on its face to an average person.

(Oct 06 '14 at 10:01) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

A simple, common dictionary definition of "value" is "to regard or esteem highly". This definition is based on a subjective theory of value, and by this definition it is not even true that "If you do not value yourself, you will have no motivation to value anything or anyone else."

This use of the word "value" is not at all what Rand meant, of course, but this is not at all clear on its face.

(Oct 06 '14 at 21:18) anthony anthony's gravatar image

It looks like Anthony has switched terms here. Originally Eric said: "The meaning of the statement...seems clear." Then Anthony said: "I don't think the meaning is clear at all...."

Then Eric said: "To understand the semantic meaning of the statement...." And Anthony said: "...by this definition it is not even true...." Did Eric intend "meaning" to be equivalent to "truth"?

And, in general, can't one often understand the basic meaning of Ayn Rand's various identifications without yet fully understanding (or validating) why they are true? The original question likewise seems to confuse meaning and truth, with substantive focus on truth more than just meaning.

(Oct 07 '14 at 22:49) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

And, in general, can't one often understand the basic meaning of Ayn Rand's various identifications without yet fully understanding (or validating) why they are true?

That's a good question. You ought to create a new question on OA asking that. A good quote from Rand to go along with it would be "Learning consists of grasping meanings...." (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/words.html)

The text surrounding "The final step in forming concepts is definition," which I believe is from OPAR, is also good reading on this topic.

(Oct 10 '14 at 18:46) anthony anthony's gravatar image

But I don't think I switched terms at all.

(Oct 10 '14 at 18:47) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"The truth or falsehood of all of man's conclusions, inferences, thought, and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions."

Another good and apropos quote from Rand, which I found quoted in OPAR but which is from ITOE and is available at http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/truth.html

Here, the truth or falsehood of "the man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone" and of "If you do not value yourself, you will have no motivation to value anything or anyone else" rests on the definition of "value"; by the common definition, these statements are not true.

(Oct 10 '14 at 19:08) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Asked: Feb 06 '14 at 12:50

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Last updated: Oct 17 '14 at 11:37