The question is misconceived. Objectivism's view is that life is the ultimate value. That's a fact not open to human choice. Our choice consists of our freedom to embrace that value as our goal, or not.
Why? How does Objectivism establish that? You can find Rand's argument here: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_the_objectivist_ethics. I'll share a few observations that may help make sense of it.
The idea that morality requires an ultimate value goes back to the beginning of philosophy, as I understand it. Rand was not the first person to conclude that for their to be values, there has to be an ultimate value, and this ultimate value would have to have certain characteristics:
-It would have to be an end in itself. -All other values are a means to it -It is not a means to anything greater than it
Rand's argument in effect shows how only life meets these criteria. She does this by reducing the concept of "value" back to the concept of "life"--by showing that all our evaluative concepts are only coherent in light of the alternative of life or death.
In addition to Rand's essay, you might also find helpful: -Tara Smith's book "Viable Values" -Darryl Wright's lecture, "Advanced Topics in Ethics"
answered Sep 17 '10 at 09:33
I believe the correct formulation is that life is the standard of value, and a man's life is his own primary value. The difference is that life, being conditional, sets the stage for value as what fulfills those conditions. Being rational, man has to identify and choose the right standard of value, and then to continue to be true to that fundamental identification. His success at that is what is meant when Objectivism says a man's life should be his ultimate value.
answered Nov 08 '10 at 21:19
Mindy Newton ♦
I think that each man has a capacity to think, and accordingly, to act. Each person, usually, has to use reason to form opinions and conclusions. Since each man has the same capacity to use and act on reason, it is best intended to serve their own needs i.e. A person might take 2 hours in reading the same material while another person might take 4 hours to read the same material. But as long as one understands and gains knowledge to further his life, it is proper and just. That is why I think a man's life is his ultimate value as one can only think for oneself just like we cant breathe or eat on behalf of the other person.
answered Nov 09 '10 at 02:27