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It would make total sense if Objectivsm said that life is the ultimate value because it is the precondition that makes all other values possible.

But it doesn't. Rather it makes the incoherent claim that "remaining alive is the goal of values and of all proper action". This looks to be clearly false as there are all kinds of values that humans pursue that are not necessary for, nor put towards, remaining alive.

Such as enjoying music, playing sports, watching a movie, etc. How would an Objectivist counter this seemingly fatal problem with Objectivist Metaethics?

asked Feb 10 '14 at 19:13

KineticPhilosophy's gravatar image


edited Feb 11 '14 at 00:15

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

The paragraph in OPAR immediately preceding the line you quoted reads:

The distinctively Objectivist viewpoint here, let me repeat, is not that life is a precondition of other values -- not that one must remain alive in order to act. This idea is a truism, not a philosophy.

So Objectivists of course agree: you can't pursue values without being alive. But much more importantly, Objectivism emphasizes that "remaining alive is the goal of values and of all proper action." [OPAR 213]

Far from incoherent, this view is based on straightforward observation: look around and you'll find that living organisms systematically pursue certain things. And what they seek ultimately means the difference between living and dying -- whether immediately or as an intermediate step. Plants turn their leaves to the light and send their roots to water, animals find shelter and act to defend against predators, people seek knowledge and build infrastructure, and on and on. These things are all valuable to the agents seeking them for their beneficial impact on the agent's life. So it seems pretty reasonable to identify all such things collectively as "values", and to summarize this observation-based view of values with a line like, "remaining alive is the goal of values".

The part about "proper action" is just a reference to alignment between the goal of remaining alive, and the means. If I'm hungry but I eat poison instead of nutritious food, I won't be helping my life. Eating poison is not a proper action for me.

Now, the above is only a tiny (and hastily prepared) taste of a much bigger meal. For a nice introduction to the Objectivist metaethics, I urge you to simply read Rand's seminal article, "The Objectivist Ethics", which is relatively short and accessible, and available free online at that link.

Oh, and as to the "fatal problem" of things people seem to value which you see as having nothing to do with pursuing life: Relaxing and recharging is of course useful if not instrumental in pursuing productive success; contemplating art is quite useful as "spiritual fuel", motivating and helping us focus on what matters in our lives; sports are useful in developing and maintaining physical and psychological skills and health; on and on. These things can all be quite valuable to someone who is serious about their life and happiness.

answered Feb 11 '14 at 02:09

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

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Asked: Feb 10 '14 at 19:13

Seen: 624 times

Last updated: Feb 11 '14 at 02:09