login about faq

In a debate and under the assumption there is an audience of active minds reading, how could an Objectivist respond to the statement that "value is subjective"?

asked Nov 30 '12 at 18:12

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

First I'd address what the person means by "value is subjective". There are two common definitions. 1) existing only in the mind; and 2) personal or individual.

Value is subjective in sense 2. Value is objective in sense 1.

In most cases I would guess the person is either talking about sense 2, or the person is confused about the different senses, and is equivocating.

(Dec 03 '12 at 13:23) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The person I continue to debate with simply believes that the concept of value varies from person to person, rendering it subjective. He also rejects one's life as the standard of value. So I'm arguing two things: 1) value has no meaning outside the context of life, and 2) while people may vary in taste and preference, values can still be objective in relation to their lives.

(Dec 03 '12 at 14:20) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

He believes that the concept of value varies from person to person?

Or that value of any given thing varies from person to person?

The latter is true, and it is the reason that value is subjective, in sense 2 (defined above).

(Dec 03 '12 at 14:31) anthony anthony's gravatar image

In sense 2, value is subjective. The value of sunscreen to a person highly susceptible to skin cancer is generally going to be higher than the value of sunscreen to someone not very susceptible to skin cancer.

But the fact that sunscreen is of value to the person highly susceptible to skin cancer is objective, in sense 1. It isn't just a matter of whimsical preference. The value of the sunscreen is not just something in the person's mind.

(Dec 03 '12 at 14:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

His argument is that things irrespective a human life can be values, such as environmentalism, and thus rejects my explanation of one’s life as the standard of value.

(Dec 03 '12 at 14:52) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

I can't say I fully understand what Rand meant by holding one's life as the standard of value, so I'm of no help on that front.

I'm also not sure I see how environmentalism is irrespective of human life.

(Dec 03 '12 at 15:03) anthony anthony's gravatar image
showing 2 of 6 show all

The statement that "value is subjective" is probably coming from someone unfamiliar with Objectivism. One could point out that it is specifically the Objectivist philosophy that connects its concept of "value" to reality. Other philosophies don't do that, and typically don't even try. As another Answer points out, the connection between reality and "value" in Objectivism is the objective relation between living (of any kind, by any organism, even plants) and "valuing" in the sense of acting to gain and/or keep something.

If someone then starts to wonder how man's capacity to choose what to value affects the connection between living and valuing, one can point out that man's power of choice does not affect what man needs to value if he seeks to remain alive.

This may raise further questions about (1) why self-esteem (one of Objectivism's three cardinal values) is an objective value for man; (2) why the pursuit of happiness is an objectively valid pursuit for man, i.e., how essential it is for man's life; (3) whether or not Objectivism says that life itself is a value for the valuer and that one "ought" to seek to remain alive instead of preferring dying over living, given that man has a choice about it.

It may be a big challenge to recapitulate Objectivism's development of all these points without explicitly referring interested readers to Ayn Rand's original works, especially Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged and VOS Chap. 1, "The Objectivist Ethics."

answered Dec 01 '12 at 19:17

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

To couch it in more objective terms "value is subjective" to whom? and for what? Since it is only the concept of 'life' that makes the concept of 'value' possible - this is objectively the fact even to try and grasp that 'values' differ from individual to individual. Each individual tries to acquire what they value as something they individually perceive as enhancing their own individual lives.

What is valued may differ from individual to individual, subject to the individuals goals and aspirations. In this sense, the "what" that is specifically valued is subjective.

answered Nov 30 '12 at 21:21

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦

Is an individual's value, tailored to his specific goals, subjective? If what he values is rational, life-furthering, and cogently related to his goal, isn't that awfully objective?

(Dec 03 '12 at 09:19) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

Yes it would be. Ideas for life tied it in better with that regard.

(Dec 03 '12 at 20:08) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Share This Page:



Asked: Nov 30 '12 at 18:12

Seen: 909 times

Last updated: Dec 03 '12 at 20:08