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If values are objective, doesn't that mean that there are right things to like and wrong things to like? If so, then by liking chocolate ice-cream, aren't I being subjective?

What is the objectively best flavor of ice cream?

What values does Objectivism prescribe? Does it prescribe all values, and if not, why not?

asked Sep 22 '10 at 11:36

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Sep 22 '10 at 11:51

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

How can an objective theory of value not permit personal preference?

"Objective" means "based on both the facts of reality and the nature of man's consciousness." An objective theory of value says that a value must have a real, factual, positive relationship to your life—but that it must be good to someone and for something. In other words, a value must be good for a reason, not just on the basis of a whim or emotion (as the subjective theory would have it), but nothing is just "intrinsically good" or good "in itself".

An objective theory of value, however, recognizes that some values are universal and some are personal. What flavor of ice cream you like (and whether you like ice cream at all) is a personal value. In contrast, food as such is a universal value—no matter who you are, you need food to live!

Objectivism certainly does not prescribe all values. (It would hardly be a philosophy of individualism if it did!) It identifies certain major, important, universal values—above all: reason, purpose, self-esteem. But it recognizes that many, many values are personal: everything from what flavor of ice cream you like to what specific career you choose.

More at: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/objective_theory_of_values.html

answered Sep 23 '10 at 03:06

jasoncrawford's gravatar image

jasoncrawford ♦

This is a great answer, but it brings up the question: how is the preference of vanilla not based on a whim or emotion? You like vanilla, so therefore it is good for you? How can something's value to you be based on your desires?

(Oct 24 '10 at 13:03) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Values are not held in a vacuum; as Ayn Rand said, value presupposes the question, "Of value to whom and for what?" To me, coffee is a disvalue because when I taste it, it reacts with my taste buds to produce an unpleasant sensation. That's not whim or emotion; it's physiology. To my husband, coffee is a tremendous value because when HE tastes it, he gets a pleasant sensation. The same item has different value to each of us because we are different people. Objectively, certain things (oxygen, justice) are of value to all men; others depend on the individual man valuing them.

(Oct 25 '10 at 16:24) stellavision ♦ stellavision's gravatar image

Sane persons value that which their rationality finds of benefit or pleasurable. Obviously, we have different tastes and will not necessarily find the same things to be of value. What would be irrational would be to seek that which we neither value nor find pleasure from possessing. What would be irrational and immoral would be to seek that which we do not value in order to provide for someone else's pleasure. What would be evil would be to take something someone values in order to give it to a third party.

(Oct 25 '10 at 22:51) ethwc ♦ ethwc's gravatar image

Could not also personal value be based on previous experience? Such that, provided something is universally of value, our specific taste may also be formed by associations we make consciously or subconsciously? As an example one might name alcohol or any such "aquired taste". I suspect very few people like the taste of alcohol purely physiologically, yet we associate it with other things (which may be good or bad: perhaps we associate it with social interaction, OR we associate it with drunkenness, physiologically induced evasion...)

(Jun 28 '11 at 19:20) FCH FCH's gravatar image
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Although it has been nine months since this question was originally asked and discussed, a new comment by FCH has brought it to the forefront again. The answers already provided by Jason and Justin cover the essential points, but apparently not quite well enough to satisfy the original question fully:

If values are objective, doesn't that mean that there are right things to like and wrong things to like?

[From a comment:] Stated more simply: how is it that rational values are not imposed on the supposed valuer?

There is an old saying aimed at kings, dictators, and others who try to rewrite reality: don't shoot the messenger just because you don't like the message. In regard to values, Objectivism is basically just a messenger. There are definite consequences imposed on man for his choices of values and actions -- good consequences (life sustaining and enhancing) if he chooses well, bad consequences (life diminishing) if he chooses poorly. But these consequences are not imposed on man by Objectivist morality. They are imposed by reality. Objectivism merely looks at reality and identifies what man needs to do to deal with reality effectively (starting with an identification of why man needs morality at all). Objectivism thus says to man: to live effectively, live by production and trade guided by reason. Be rational, productive, proud, honest, and independent, with integrity and justice throughout. That's a very broad, general "message," with countless options and variations possible from individual to individual.

Objectivism does not (and rationally cannot) define some kind of rigid set of all-consuming "commandments" which man is supposedly "duty bound" to obey, or he will "burn in hell for eternity." It's up to every individual to choose for himself how best to live his life, within the bounds imposed by reality (and by the need to deal with others by trade, not force). Objectivism merely shows man the broad path he will need to follow to live in harmony with his own nature and the conditions he faces in reality (which includes what man should do if anyone initiates physical force against him).

This is an objective morality, despite its wide allowance for options and variations in the details. It is based on, and determined by, reality (which man observes and integrates using his rational faculty).

answered Jun 29 '11 at 15:55

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

While Objectivism holds that values are objective, it also allows for the fact that certain values are optional. This means while a particular value may be objective given a specific context, it isn't required for an individual to act on it to further his life, and that pursuing other values may be just as proper a use of his time and energy.

So Objectivism might not tell you which flavor of ice-cream is the best, it will tell you that enjoying food can be of value given your individual context, (e.g. your dietary goals, long-term health, allergies, etc..)

answered Sep 22 '10 at 14:46

Justin%20O's gravatar image

Justin O ♦

Can some one help me explain why choosing between optional values does not imply those values are subjective.

(Sep 22 '10 at 14:49) Justin O ♦ Justin%20O's gravatar image

Yeah, it's a hard question. Stated more simply: how is it that rational values are not imposed on the supposed valuer?

(Sep 22 '10 at 23:05) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

@Justin O.

I think choosing any type of ice-cream is an objective choice. You are choosing food over poison, therefore, you are still holding your life as the standard. The same principle applies to other values.

(Sep 24 '10 at 10:54) Radical_for_Capitalism ♦ Radical_for_Capitalism's gravatar image
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Asked: Sep 22 '10 at 11:36

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Last updated: Jun 29 '11 at 15:55