What is your highest value?

Ayn Rand uses ‘selfishness’ to mean ‘self-interest‘. Even Christians are self-interested. Ayn Rand’s definition of sacrifice is more narrow than the common than the common usage of the idea.

The more common understanding of sacrifice makes it easier to order our values. Most would agree that we should never subjugate something of greater value to something of lesser value. It’s a “no brainer”, a straw man. It’s obviously bad. But intentionally doing without something in order to gain something of greater value (as in the dessert example) is clearly virtuous by both the Christian and the Randian definition.

The question that combines self-interest and sacrifice is this: What is the highest value for which, in my own best interest, I will sacrifice anything else? To follow the philosophy of Ayn Rand, I must choose the highest value and give myself wholly to it.

Am I my own highest value or is there some value greater than me?

I think there is Someone (and therefore something also) that is greater than I am. Ayn Rand may disagree with my conclusion to follow Jesus Christ, but she would NOT disagree with my decision to follow my highest possible self-interest. Yet, I understand them to be one and the same.

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The Soul of AtlasThe Soul of Atlas by Mark David Henderson
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6 thoughts on “What is your highest value?

  1. Even with Christianity, there may be a problem with “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. The problem may be that what I think is best for me, others do not believe. For example, I would like to be told when there is something that is good for me nutritionally. Many people do not feel similarly. They might feel that I was insensitive to their beliefs and desires. It is more complicated than just a simple phrase to follow or a principle to obey…I suspect Jesus would concur. What do you think?

  2. > The question that combines self-interest and sacrifice is this: What is the highest value for which, in my own best interest, I will sacrifice anything else?

    My soul’s state of “Oneness” with God.

    > To follow the Randian philosophy, I must choose the highest value and give myself wholly to it. Am I my own highest value or is there some value greater than me?
    I am my own highest value, and my soul is the most valuable part of me. So I should maximize the value (to me) of my soul by putting it in the most valuable state possible, the state of “salvation” or “oneness with God” or whatever you want to call it.
    Or…God doesn’t exist and neither does my soul, so nothing I think, say, or do matters at all given that I and everything I’ve ever been will cease to exist upon my physical death, therefore I should just go crawl into a hole somewhere and wait to die. Or sell my house, blow all the cash on a weekend in Vegas and then off myself. Or whatever…doesn’t matter since I won’t remember any of it anyway. And don’t give me any of that “you should seek the highest values in life in order to maximize the value of your time in the world” crap, because if it’s all over when I die then that “value” dies with me, and my kids are doomed to the same fate so leaving “stuff” for them is pointless since they’re just gonna die too, and the same goes for everybody else’s kids.

    I tend toward choosing Door #1. 😉

  3. Well, just to balance this out, if there is no God, then having Him at the apex of one’s hierarchy of values would be the epitome of meaningless.
    Human life – achievement, joy, love, friendship, etc., and the amazing universe we live in are profoundly meaningful without any alleged supernatural elements.
    In Galt’s speech (around pg. 1043), Rand says:

    At the crossroads of the choice between ‘I know’ and ‘They say,’ he chose the authority of others, he chose to submit rather than to understand, to believe rather than to think. Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others. His surrender took the form of the feeling that he must hide his lack of understanding, that others possess some mysterious knowledge of which he alone is deprived, that reality is whatever they want it to be, through some means forever denied to him.
    I think it’s worth some introspection to see whether this is true for oneself.

  4. In my Buddhist training, the “highest value” is enlightenment, or, freedom from the Eight Worldly Concerns: praise and blame; pleasure and pain; gain and loss; fame and bad reputation.
    To become enlightened/free, instructions are given in the 12th century CE scripture, “Parting From the Four Attachments,” by Manjushri.
    In short, one is exhorted to appreciate the preciousness of our human life. Attentiveness to this preciousness must be both tempered and strengthened by contemplating the transience of our lives. Acknowledging the inevitability of death and deeply contemplating it enables us to awaken to the importance of EVERY moment of our lives, and not get mired in the Eight Worldly Concerns. Thirdly, realizing that every action we take (or choose not to take) has consequences–in other words, WE create our own joy or suffering. I think Ayn Ran would agree with the Buddha on this point of self accountability. Finally, enlightenment requires realizing the defects of samsara. Samsara translates as the endless cycle of birth, suffering, and death we create with our unskillful actions.
    I have to say I aspire to the notion that every moment we are reflecting our highest value and creating our future.

      • The more enlightened one becomes, the less one is burdened by the cycle of samsara–worldly cycles of suffering.
        From both a Buddhist and Randian standpoint, it would be irrational to remain ignorant, suffering, or otherwise fettered. As in any religion or philosophy, pursing an ideal is never completely attainable for a mortal–look at Ayn Rand and her myriad personal problems.
        But seeking an enlightened state of mindful, nonjudgemental awareness of every moment brings a wholesome clarity and peace of mind. Also, in Buddhism the “steps” or requirements for this state are called the Ten Paramitas (perfections):
        Dana (Generosity), Nekkhama (Virtue), Parami (Renunciation), Panna (Wisdom), Viriya (Energy), Khanti (Forbearance), Sacca (Truthfullness), Adhitthana (Determination), Metta (Lovingkindness), and Upekkha (Equanimity).
        I think Ayn Rand could agree on at least 6 of these Paramitas…

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