In an earlier post, Rand's argument for why man needs an "objective" and "rational" code of values was examined. We turn to the next argument in Rand, the argument for why life is the "ultimate" value and the standard by which goals are evaluated, and we immediately find ourselves in great difficulty. In a strict sense, Rand presented no argument -- or at least no strictly logically argument that could be evaulated. Instead, we get a series of disparate, elliptical suggestions:
(1) "The fact that living entitities exist and function necessitates the existence of values and of an ultimate value."
(2) "Only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, makes the existence of values possible."
(3) "Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself."
(4) "Epistemologically, the concept of value is genetically dependent on the concept of life."
Out of these statements, or the handful of others associated with this argument, you will never logically derive the conclusion that life is the ultimate value. If, however, you can accept proposition 3, you should have little trouble accepting Rand's conclusion, because proposition 3 merely restates Rand's conclusion in other terms. Let's examine it a little more closely: "Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end of itself." Now in proposition 2, Rand equates the phrase "end in life" with "ultimate value." And since "metaphysics," for Rand, is simply that which pertains to reality or existence, we can translate proposition 3 as follows: "In reality, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself." But that's her conclusion! Nor does bringing in the epistemologically angle help Rand extricate herself from her difficulties. So what if the concept of value is genetically dependent on the concept of life? In the first place, if by "genetically" Rand means you can't form the concept of value without first forming the concept of life, it's not clear this is true. But even if, per impossible, it were true, it certainly doesn't establish that life is the ultimate value. How a person arrives at a concept cannot prove any matter of fact beyond some fact about how people arrive at concepts.
To sum up: Rand's "arguments," so-called, on behalf of her contention that life is the ultimate value remain a hopeless muddle.