In her article "Introduction to Objectivist Ethics," Ayn Rand states that the fundamental standard of value is man's life. Later in the same article, she qualifies this with the phrase "man qua man." Ever since, adherents of her philosophy have been arguing about how we should interpret this standard. Does it mean, for example, that only thing in life which one should pursue is mere survival? Or does the phrase "man qua man" somehow smuggle-in other values?
Survivalists argue, for example, that even if life as the standard of value is interpreted narrowly, we may recognize that happiness generally contributes to man's survival, and thus while all our activity should ultimately be directed towards life as the only ultimate value, this does not prevent us from pursuing such things as happiness insofar as they contribute to our survival. Flourishers, on the otherhand, have interpreted "man qua man" as modifying the standard of value in such a way that other values --such as rationality or happiness-- are automatically included in the standard. In their view, even if these values do not contribute to one's survival, one's pursuit of these values to at least some degree is justified.
In the article which follows, I will analyze both positions, and in the process come to my own.
©1996 by Timothy D. Chase. All rights reserved. This article is meant for personal reading. Copies may be made only for that purpose. Do not distribute.