If we go by the evidence collated from common experience (i.e., so-called "common sense"), it is far more likely that man's "values" are an expression of his emotions, rather than vice versa. Rand is here guilty of assuming that man's values are (or ought to be) the product of non-emotional cogitation. But since cognitive science has discovered that non-emotional cogitation is probably a fantasy, we have every reason to believe that emotions must play at least a part in the forming of values. Indeed, it is difficult to understand how it could not be so. Ask any individual why he values something, and it will be found that some emotion or desire or sentiment is at the bottom of the whole thing. If a man values a certain type of music, it is because listening to it causes him pleasure; if he values meditation, it is because it improves his well-being (i.e., it makes him feel better); if he values self-flagellation, it is because he believes it will improve his well-being in the hereafter. Some values, of course, are rather contrived and even mad, such as values attached to ideological and religious systems; but there's still some sentiment or desire that is at the bottom of it, however twisted or narcissitic it might be. The individual who values mercy to child molesters might be guilty of entertaining a perverse and artificial value, disconnected from any natural need or sentiment, but that value has its root, not in "reason" or logic, but in some kind of pathological humanitarian affectation.
This point was fleshed out by Hume more than 250 years ago, as follows:
It appears evident, that the ultimate ends [i.e., values] of human actions can never, in any case, be accounted for by reason, but recommend themselves entirely to the sentiments and affections of mankind, without any dependance on the intellectual faculties. Ask a man, why he uses exercise; he will answer, because he desires to keep his health. If you then enquire, why he desires health, he will readily reply, because sickness is painful. If you push your enquiries farther, and desire a reason, why he hates pain, it is impossible he can ever give any. This is an ultimate end, and is never referred to any other object.
Now as virtue is an end, and is desirable on its own account, without fee or reward, merely, for the immediate satisfaction which it conveys; it is requisite that there should be some sentiment, which it touches; some internal taste or feeling, or whatever you please to call it, which distinguishes moral good and evil, and which embraces the one and rejects the other... Reason, being cool and disengaged, is no motive to action, and directs only the impulse received from appetite or inclination, by showing us the means of attaining happiness or avoiding misery.
Not only did Rand fail to provide evidence for her curious contention, she made no attempt to grapple with contrary arguments. Hume's position, as stated above, appears nearly irrefragible. In any case, if Rand wishes her contention to be taken seriously, at the very least she should have given us compelling reasons to reject Hume's argument. How, if not on the basis of some sentiment or affection, does man come by any values at all? If Rand had been a serious thinker dedicated the discovery and elucidation of truth, she would have attempted to provide a serious, detailed, fact-based answer to this question.
[This being the last post of 2010, I'd like to take the opportunity to wish all the good readers of ARCHNBlog a happy New Year. And to our bad readers, also, a happy New Year.]