North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › What does it mean to value?

What does it mean to value?

A former member
Post #: 1
Hi everyone. I am new to this meetup group but would like to get some thoughts on the meaning and application of the word "value." Recently, I was involved in a political discussion and after reading several of Ayn Rand works it seemed obvious to me that a person cannot truly value anything that isn't a proven fact. Of course the notion of God was mentioned along with other beliefs and soon anger and discontent was flowing in my direction. I personally think tolerance is a good thing and I am not out to attack personal beliefs but at the same time I do not compromise my honesty or my convictions. I am reminded of Ayn Rands words of "For nature to be commanded it must be obeyed..." If Existent Exists and Identities are a law than how can we value anything that isn't real or at least proven real?
Kathleen L.
user 14663198
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1
Value is subjective - it has no form yet at any given moment it can be manifested through an obsession to where it has no limits either for or against the human existence - it is a wanderer until someone gives it the power of thought. To each man his own treasure? Is it possible to diminish self worth when we value a thing that doesn't truly exist especially an ideal. Nothing exist until it is done. You spoke of God and other beliefs and met with anger. Does it surprise you - there are so many Gods and religious beliefs that contradict the value of man - either real or the potential thereof: who has the right to exalt their ideal God that doesn't exist because it has not been manifested in God's creation the supposed off spring. Man must value his own existence to evolve and to value his existence he must prove his reality.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,123
Hi JC,

Thanks for your interest in discussion here.

Regarding value, Ayn Rand wrote in Galt’s speech:
“A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. 'Value' is that which one acts to gain and keep, 'virtue' is the action by which one gains and keeps it. 'Value' presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? 'Value' presupposes a standard, a purpose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative.”

Values can include intangibles that are related to the nature and requirements of man’s life. For example, an invention of a new, better way to build a house is objectively valuable. One should, therefore, objectively value such inventiveness in oneself or another person. Intangible values are still related to reality and the requirements of man’s life.

A former member
Post #: 2
This is helpful. Thank you.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,124
Hi Kathleen and JC,

Ayn Rand writes that values are objective:

"The objective theory holds that the good is neither an attribute of "things in themselves" nor of man's emotional states, but an evaluation of the facts of reality by man's consciousness according to a rational standard of value. (Rational, in this context, means: derived from the facts of reality and validated by a process of reason.) The objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man—and that it must be discovered, not invented, by man. Fundamental to an objective theory of values is the question: Of value to whom and for what? An objective theory does not permit context-dropping or "concept-stealing"; it does not permit the separation of "value" from "purpose," of the good from beneficiaries, and of man's actions from reason." Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (original emphasis).

It should be understood that Ayn Rand is using the word "man" as "man qua man," that is, as an abstraction, not in relation to a particular man:

You ask: "What is the relation between saying that man's life is the standard of value and that one's own life should be the thing one strives to promote?" The answer is stated explicitly on page 21 of my paper on

"The Objectivist Ethics" (paragraphs 2, 3 and 4). I will add that by the nature of the standard involved, it is only one's own life that one can or should "promote." You ask what I would say to someone who said: "Since the standard is man's life—not just your or my or my family's life—why then should we not strive to improve man's life in general, even if in doing so I do not improve my own, or even extinguish my own life completely?"

I would remind the questioner of the difference between an abstraction and a collective noun. ("Man" is an abstraction, "mankind" is a collective noun.) The standard "man's life" does not mean "just your or my or my family's life." It means: that which is proper to the life of man qua man—that which is proper to the life of every individual man qua individual man. "My life" cannot be "the standard of my life." A "standard" is an abstract principle of action, which tells me how I should live my life. And the standard "man's life" tells me why and how my life should be my purpose.

Since the standard "man's life" is derived from the nature of values, from the fact that only life makes values possible (that is: only the nature of a living organism, only the requirements of an organism's life make the existence of values possible)—to choose any value, other than one's own life, as the ultimate purpose of one's actions is to be guilty of a contradiction and of the fallacy of the "stolen concept." Do you remember the answer you gave to a student in your seminar, with which I agreed most enthusiastically? You said that one cannot ask: "Why should I be rational?"—because by accepting a "why" one has already accepted reason, because "why" is a concept belonging to rationality. Well, on the same grounds, by the same logic, one cannot ask: "Why should I choose my own life as my ultimate value?"—because one has already accepted it by accepting the concept "value," because the concept "value" has no other source, base, meaning or possibility of existing.

Ayn Rand, The Letters of Ayn Rand, Letters to a Philosopher, pp. 561-62.

I hope you find these additional passages interesting and helpful.

-- Old Toad
A former member
Post #: 3

Thank you for the additional information. I think to value anything has to be substantive and therefore a man's values must be based on reason and on relevant facts. Common usage may infer that to value is subjective but I disagree—for me, anything of real value must exist and have a relationship to a reasonable method otherwise we just end up playing around with words and ultimately the arbitrary.

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