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Let use Aristotle's

  • Excess - Foolhardiness
  • Virtue - Courage
  • Vice - Cowardice

As an example. Let say my value score on this table is 50. That, to me, is my virtue. Does this means that my highest value is the person who is closest to 50? Meaning, a person with a score of 60 is of a lower value to me than a person with a score of 45.

asked Mar 15 '12 at 18:04

Humbug's gravatar image


Objectivism rejects Aristotle's doctrine of the golden mean.

Value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep.

Your ultimate value is the value that all your other values are directed to or serve. The only thing that can logically serve as an ultimIte valur is your life. All other values (for a rational man) are sub-goals in pursuit of that ultimate value. Consider food. It is a value (something you act to gain). However the reason you seek food is so that you can live. You do rank your values hierarchically so that you can make wise choices about how to spend your time and effort (you cannot pursue all your values equallly all the time). The way you can judge which values are more or less important is by comparing them to the standard reflexive of your ultimate value---that is man's life.

answered Mar 15 '12 at 19:48

ericmaughan43's gravatar image

ericmaughan43 ♦

edited Mar 15 '12 at 19:49

How do you account for different people having different desire for accumulation of food?

Person A is very ambitious and value career at level 60. Let say 60 = working 60 hrs a week. Person B is OK with moderate career and want to spend time with family and therefore value career at 30 or willing to work 30 hrs a week and spend the remaining time taking care of family. Let say the minimum needed to be independent (not having to rely on state welfare) is 10. Both are therefore independent.

A and B will be in constant conflict as to A's availibility to B.

(Mar 15 '12 at 19:56) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

Is love, the response to value, just a response to highest value in a particular category or highest value with respect to how closely they match you?

(Mar 15 '12 at 19:57) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

People order their value hierarchies differently because (1) some values are optional (what you like to do for recreation), (2) some values depend on one's ability/opportunity/circumstances (paintings are not a value to a blind man), and (3) not everyone is rational in ordering their values.

As for the rest of what you are asking, you're going to have to explain yourself a little more. I am not quite sure what you are after.

(Mar 15 '12 at 23:51) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

There's ordering of values and then there's how much weight you give to each value. Just because I rank career higher than family doesn't mean I want to spend 100% of my time at work and 0% with family. So my question is: Isn't my highest value those who share the same weights (or similar) as me?

(Mar 19 '12 at 11:09) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

You seem to be equating the amount of time you want to do something with how much you value it. I do not think that is valid. True, in some instances it can give you a rough gage, but in other instances it doesn't apply at all. Consider food---clearly this is a high value for all human beings. You need it every day or you will die. However, you probably only spend 1 hour per day actually eating. I would venture that most people spend as much or more time watching TV every day. Do they therefore value TV more than food? Not likely.

(Mar 24 '12 at 09:25) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

So, if you are asking whether the person you love (which I believe you are calling your highest value) should be someone who wants to spend the same amount of time as you do on pursuing each particular value, I would say no. Even if you asked more generally whether your lover should have the same hierarchy of values as you, I would say no. However, I do think that if your hierarchies (or weights if you will) are too divergent then you will have problems. If your values start to conflict, or one of you has to sacrifice to accommodate the other, then that is clearly a problem.

(Mar 24 '12 at 09:34) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

Also, if you are actually interested in asking about love, its relationship to values, etc., I encourage you to rephrase your question or ask another one, because it was not immediately clear that that was what you were going for. I have heard people refer to their lover as their "highest value" colloquially, but I do not think it is strictly correct. One may love someone so much that their loss would render all of ones other values meaningless, and thus one could rationally die for them. So they would be a top-value to you. But your highest value is still yourself.

(Mar 24 '12 at 09:48) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image
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The question is ambiguous because it is asked in the passive voice, without context (no "for whom" or "for what") other than a reference to Aristotle.

If the question is, "What does Objectivism mean by 'highest value'," there are several places in the literature of Objectivism where that expression is used in various ways. The main usage is in regard to the virtue of pride and the value of self-esteem.

The entry on "Pride" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon begins (quoting Galt's Speech):

Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man's values, it has to be earned.... [T]he first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all tihings, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher than itself....

The next excerpt in that same topic states (quoting VOS Chap. 1):

The virtue of Pride can best be described by the term: "moral ambitiousness." It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one's own highest value by achiving one's own moral perfection....

From the Lexicon topic of "self-esteem":

No value is higher than self-esteem.... Self-esteem is reliance on one's power to think.... There is only one source of authentic self-confidence: reason... The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.

From the Lexicon entry on "Self":

A man's self is his mind -- the faculty that perceives reality, forms judgments, chooses values.

From Ayn Rand's article, "Epitaph for a Culture," republished in VOR, Chap. 18 (p. 181):

If you want to know the difference between me and many other people, it is this: the moment I grasped that such was the essence of the culture [referring to a news article on pervasive cultural pessimism versus the Apollo space program], I would be on the barricades, fighting for man's highest value: his mind—against the whole world, if necessary (as I am doing).

OPAR (pp. 305-306) further explains in Chapter 8, "Virtue," subsection titled, "Pride as Moral Ambitiousness":

Unbreached rationality produces self-confidence in a man; since his policy is to recognize reality, he has a sense of efficacy, a conviction of his power to deal with reality and achieve his goals. In addition, the moral character he creates is admirable; so the proud man has a sense of his own worth. This sense includes the feeling that he has a right to be the beneficiary of his actions, that he is entitled to the attention which self-sustenance demands, that he has earned the position of being his own highest value.

Leonard Pekoff's earlier book, The Ominous Parallels, Chapter 4, mentions the following as an accurate description of individualism, summarizing the views of Nazis in opposition to individualism:

Every form of individualism sets up the Ego as the highest value, thus stunting [altruist] morality....

And finally, from Dr. Peikoff's article, "My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand: An Intellectual Memoir" (published in VOR as the Epilogue, p. 347):

Ayn Rand herself repudiated any dichotomy between mind and person. Her mind, she held, was the essence of her person: it was her highest value, the source of her other values, and the root of her character traits.

answered Mar 19 '12 at 14:38

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Mar 15 '12 at 18:04

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Last updated: Mar 24 '12 at 09:48