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SCInetwork » Is Life the Ultimate Value? - Ole Martin Moen
   

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Is Life the Ultimate Value?
A Reassessment of Ayn Rand’s Ethics
273 visits since 28/07/2016
Ole Martin Moen
Philosophy, Ethics

http://reasonpapers.com/pdf/342/rp_342_9.pdf

We all value things. For example, we value friendships, prosperity, and knowledge. These seem to be good things and things worthy of pursuit. They seem better and more worthy of pursuit, at least, than do their opposites: enmity, poverty, and ignorance.


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A notable fact about the things we consider valuable is that most of them appear to be valuable not merely as things worth having for their own sake, but as things worth having for the sake of something else. Consider prosperity: Though we genuinely value prosperity—we want it, we think it is good, and we act to gain and keep it—we value it not merely so as to be prosperous, but so as to achieve something further, such as steady access to food, drink, and clothes. Were it not for the food, drink, and clothes—and the other things that prosperity brings about, such as transportation, medicine, and homes—a great deal, if not all, of the value of prosperity would be lost. Food, drink, and clothes, moreover, do not seem to be ends in themselves either. Though they are ends of prosperity, they are also—from another perspective—means to avoid hunger, thirst, and cold. Furthermore, avoiding hunger, thirst, and cold seems to be a means to yet another end: remaining in good health.

Where does the chain of values end? It seems that the chain of values must end somewhere, for though some values can be values by virtue of being means to or constituent parts of further values, not all values can be values of this kind. If they were, all values would be values only insofar as they contribute to something further, in a justificatory regress. In order to get a chain of values off the ground, it seems that something will have to be valuable by virtue of itself, not by virtue of that to which it contributes. Aristotle puts forth this point as follows in the Nicomachean Ethics:

   



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