The meaning of ‘value’ is that which is valued by an entity capable of valuing. ie., value is that for which an entity acts to achieve or preserve, in face of at least one other available alternative course to pursue. Where there are no alternatives possible, no choices are possible, hence no question of valuing anything arises.
The premise I identified here is, Value is the chosen. The choice is made by the entity: Either it is explicitly made by conscious choice or implicitly by evading cognitive effort.
Life is the fundamental alternative chosen by every entity possessing it, in the face of the other alternative, death. Existence of life is not unconditional, since life is a process of voluntary, self-sustaining activity to be pursued throughout the course of organism’s existence as a living being. Entity that fails to recognise and meet the requirements of its choice to live, will implicitly choose death, and becomes inanimate matter.
Since life is the fundamental choice of any living entity, which makes all other choices possible, it is its ultimate value. In this context, I present the meaning of ‘ultimate value’: Ultimate value is that which makes all other values possible, and acts as the standard for the organism to choose all other values which are required for its continued preservation. It is irrelevant in this context whether this primary choice of organism is conscious or unconscious. For any living entity, to be a living entity, the value of life is objectively ultimate. Ie., independent of its recognition and preferences.
All its choices:values, that further its life are good for it, and all the values that threaten its life are bad for it. This is the imperative bridge between “what is” and “what ought to be”. The bridge between Metaphysics and Ethics, which most philosophers couldn’t identify, or evade, thus proclaiming that Ethics cannot be defined objectively.
Man being a rational animal, Reason is his primary means of survival: his primary value. Reason is the Man’s faculty that identifies and integrates material provided by his senses, hence his guide to make choices. Man is free to act irrationally: ie., free to make choices that are not consistent with the nature of his existence, but not free to succeed in furthering his life. If such a man survives, it is only in the capacity of a parasite. And only by the grace of other men who choose to be rational: that make his life possible, and only until such men exist.
Man “ought to” place no values inconsistent with his reason, if furthering his life in his full capacity as a Man is his goal. In this context, I give a brief note on the nature emotions. All of Man’s emotions are dependent on his chosen values. His fundamental emotions: Happiness and Sadness are results of his estimates on whether he succeeded or failed in accomplishing his values. Discussing the range of human emotions is outside the scope of this article. What is relevant here is to identify the existence and nature of causal connection between man’s value-accomplishments and his emotions. Observe that emotions are effects, and they are to be treated as such. They are not a guide to his action. Emotions will indicate whether a man succeeded or failed in his endeavours, but it is the province of Man’s reason to identify the endeavours he ought to pursue in the first place. ie., what makes a man happy is not necessarily what is good for him. But if a man pursues rational values consistently, he is bound to experience happiness. Inconsistent emotions experienced by Man are a result of pursuing inconsistent values that compromise his life.
Now, to appreciate the contrast with Objectivist ethics, observe the completely antithetical ethical system devised by Immanuel Kant, who was allegedly projected as a philosopher of reason. Kant’s ethics proclaim “duty” as a value. Observe that Self-sacrifice is the virtue (as Kant will have you practice it) that makes it possible. He held that a thing cannot be of value if you have a personal interest in it: His purpose is to detach value from the one valuing it. The unstated ultimate value that Immanuel Kant conferred upon man here is Death.
To convince a man to pursue irrational values, Kant must invalidate his objectively primary value: Reason. He approached that task, not by outright proclaiming reason as invalid, but by giving sanction to the irrational. He asks you to give benefit of doubt that a thing doesn’t exist, (which includes your own existence) because you perceive it, and because you are “limited” by the nature of your perception. The unstated premise which he wants you to accept, without making it explicit is, “Contradictions can exist because you cannot perceive them.” Its metaphysical meaning is, a thing can be not itself: A can be non A.
To arrive at a contradiction is the indication of an epistemological error. ie., to confess that an A has been falsely identified as a non A. To proclaim, and worse, to accept that A can be non A is as good as invalidating everything you know, which incidentally also includes Kant’s philosophy. It is by far the most evil as evil can go.
To protect yourself from this evil, observe that a thing that cannot be perceived, and which doesn’t bear any relation whatsoever with that which exists and can be perceived: does not, and cannot exist. Do not frustrate yourself by trying to prove the non-existence of non-existence by means of existence. It cannot be done. The meaning of proof is to show that something exists and bears an intelligible relationship with that which exists. The purpose of proof is affirming the existence of that which exists. ie., Existence can only be proved in terms of existence. Because only Existence exists: This is the Axiom of Existence.
– Avinash Kumar