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One aspect of Objectivism I struggle to understand completely is it's theory of values. Mostly because it seems to contradict everyday observation. According to Objectivism, values are chosen. A value is something you wish to gain or keep. There are no innate ideas. Since values are chosen, what we find "pleasurable" or "good" varies by individual. The problem is, this flies in the face of observed facts about human nature. While it is true there are no innate ideas and while it is true there is great variation in personal likes and dislikes, there are observed constants in human behavior that do not change and don't seem to be chosen. I call them "innate values". Nearly everyone for example, likes and values sex (barring brain injuries or psychological dysfunction). This is not really a choice and no "decision" is made about it at an early age, it's just there. The number of men between a certain age, who have never watch porn is zilch. Zero. Nearly everyone, in every culture, values family and marriage (ex. 80% of Americans are married by age 40) Art is another universal value. We all like sweets (chocolate etc). There are gender specific values such as the male need for youth, fertility and beauty or the female need for physical strength, height or resources. Study after study has been done on this (and even sexual orientation doesn't seem to dent it). What is see that Objectivism seems to take these "innate values" as the given.Throughout the Objectivist corpus these "innate values" are talked about in an assumptive tone. These are all things we wish to "gain or keep", but they are not chosen. This raises some interesting questions about the nature of choice and what is and isn't available to choice. Some things apparently aren't. Did I get something wrong or is Objectivism flat out wrong about values?
Peikoff says he smoked 3 packs a day. Here is the podcast where he says he smoked 3 packs a day. 3 packs a day Being a nonsmoker all my life I was clueless about the price of smokes. I did a little search and came up with a price of approximately $20 a pack. 3 packs a day is $60 a day on smokes. In a 30 day month that is $1800 a month on smokes. For what? Symbol of controlled fire? He says at that time there was no evidence that smoking is bad for health. He did not count statistics as evidence. But the truth is doctors knew at least as far back as the 1800s that smoking is bad for health. I present the following book as evidence that doctors knew that smoking is bad for health as far back as 1889 and before. This is a very well written book and you can read it by clicking on it. Tobacco: Its Use and Abuse by Rev. John B. Wight Of the South Georgia Conference (Columbia, South Carolina: L. L. Pickett Pub Co, 1889) This book is well worth reading. Now I will do a bit of a rant. Ayn Rand defines 'value' as what one acts to gain and/or keep. To value something is to act to gain and/or keep it. The word 'value' can be used as a noun or as a verb. Health qualifies as a value, that is, as something one can act to gain and/or keep. Furthermore health is a rational value, something that is worth acting to gain and/or keep. Money is a value as a means to other things. We value money because we can buy goods and services with it. If you were on an island all by your lonesome with a billion $ and you couldn't get off the island and you couldn't buy anything with the money, you would find that money is of little or no value for itself but mainly or only of value as a means to other things. Health is a value both for itself and as a means to other things. Perhaps most people don't much value health until after they lose it. Dr. Burton said in a speech that most health minded people are either very sick or very intelligent. Perhaps one must be exceptionally intelligent to value health -before- losing it. What do you value? Whatever you value, you probably can gain and/or keep it better with health than without health. If you want to make money, you can make more money with health than without health; besides sickness tends to be expensive. If you want to excel at anything, physical or mental, you can do it better with health than without health. If you want to be a world chess champion like Fischer or Kasparov, you better maintain a high level of health. If you want to enjoy anything (sports, music, food, whatever), your capacity to enjoy it probably will be enhanced by health. Health is sort of the foundation of everything else. Furthermore health once lost in a serious way tends to be difficult to get back. If you lose money but have everything else going for you, you probably can make a comeback, like Donald Trump. But losing health in a serious way tends to be a bit like moving pawns in chess, you can't move them back. Sometimes you can regain health from a serious disease, but it would have been easier and better to not get the serious disease. For reasons stated above, I am puzzled that Peikoff, the foremost Objectivist, would value health (a rational value) so little as to smoke 3 packs a day and spend $1800 or so per month in today's money wrecking his health.