I'd like to answer your points but I have got to first ask: Did you read my essay on happiness?
I have not, but I read it and here are my comments.
"The human good turns out to be the activity of the soul in conformity with excellence, and if there are more than one excellence, in conformity with the best and most complete.”
This is the perfect example, purusing through my Nichomacean ethics looking for the answer to this question I found Aristotle, though he strives further than Rand to identify the standard by which we judge what to value where the eudaemonic life is our ultimate goal, does not answer it. This quote is the perfect example of that. “In conformity with the best and most complete” Best by what standard? Best by the standard of what is most conducive to a flourishing life. What is are the charachteristics of a flourishing life? Productivity, but only productivity that is conducive to a flourishing life. Intellectual growth, but only intellectual growth conducive to a flourishing life. Etc. All the charachteristics we can identify for a flourishing life necessarily contain a standard by which they are judged to be good or bad against, that which is most conducive to a flourishing life, but again, that’s a goal, not an objective standard (like life, as in our mechanical existence, is the objective standard by which to judge our values against pertaining to our existence)
“so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man”
Good quote and very relevant to this discussion. But is Rand justified here in saying that man can not experience happiness unless he actually seeks the happiness ‘proper to man’? Ed, and Rand in this statement, seems to have been using "happiness" to mean the positive feeling which comes from achieving only the right kind of values, and not just the positive feeling of reward which comes from achieving anything that you value. Well, seeking a ‘mindless fraud’ will certainly result in the ‘torture of frustration’ but people can be pretty content and even happy achieving values that are not mindless frauds, but are not necessarily those most conducive to a flourishing life. Rand should be saying that man can not experience the best kind of happiness without seeking that which is most proper to man, but instead suggests that man can not possibly experience happiness unless they seek that which is most proper to man. This is simply not true, but it’s only because you, and her, are explicitly using happiness to mean, and mean only, the feeling one gets from achieving the *right* kinds of values, and not just the feeling of positive reward which comes from achieving anything that you value.
Still, there is no suggestion of what the standard of what we ought to judge that which we value by to be most conducive to the goal of the flourishing life.
Lets look at the next quote in your essay
"Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you might blindly attempt to indulge.”
This implied “happiness” can come only from achieving particular values, not just ‘any irrational wishes’ what is the standard of those particular values?
“Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy--a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values”
An objective description of the physiological emotional response which comes from achieving something that you value, properly, when you do not value also something contradictory to it. Obviously a higher state of feeling fulfilled or happy than one where you achieve a greater value but it is in contradiction to a lesser value. The BEST kind of happiness is the one which comes from achieving all of your values where none are contradictory.
“and does not work for your own destruction”
An objective criteria by which to judge the values you choose to embrace by, your own physical existence.
“not the joy of escaping from your mind,”
Happiness as a physiological response is only something which can come from achieving something you value, thus escaping from your mind is not a happiness, but the eradication of values through mental impairment so you will not feel sadness at the loss of values nor joy at their acquisition. This is an objective differentiation then between a ‘nirvana’ like state of non-consciousness, and an objective extrapolation on the nature of the emotional response of reward
“but of using your mind's fullest power”
Ah, a qualitative characteristic of “happiness” Using your mind to it’s fullest power? I would not, first of all, classify this as automatically eudaemonic. A cursory examination of the lives of great scientists and innovators reveals that in many cases they did in fact use their mind to near their fullest power, but only at the expense of removing from their lives any ‘distractions’ such as love and family, which as a ‘nature proper to man’ would probably be a good thing to include in the most fulfilling kind of life. Isaac Newton, for instance, famously despised the company of nearly every human he ever encountered, though he tolerated some, and upon his death bed proclaimed that the one thing he is proudest of is that he will die a virgin. *literally* using your mind to it’s fullest power would essentially require you to work just enough to sustain your mechanical existence, and adopt the mentality that your mind is a computer and should only be utilized to solve question and problems.
And this, of course, begs the question of WHAT you should use your mind FOR, you can use it for good things, or for bad things, and you can pursue good things to the fullest power of your mind and you can pursue bad things to the fullest power of your mind. What of these charachterize the ‘eudaemonic’ life of flourishing.
“ not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving values that are real, not the joy of the drunkard, but of a producer.”
And a produce, can, of course, produce bad things which are not conducive to a flourishing existence.
"To hold one's own life as one's ultimate value, and one's own happiness as one's highest purpose are two aspects of the same achievement”
No where, I think, is this question more evident than in this statement? In some cases, one’s own life (mechanical perpetuation of existence) can conflict with one’s happiness, (such as Galt threatening to kill himself in order to prevent Dagny from being tortured) Life is the means to achieve the end of a good life, and as such is high value. But it is that particular kind of life, the Aristotlean good life, that is our highest value, not just the mechanical existence.
“"But if a man values destruction, like a sadist--or self-torture, like a masochist--or life beyond the grave, like a mystic--or mindless "kicks," like the driver of a hotrod car--his alleged happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his own destruction. It must be added that the emotional state of all those irrationalists cannot be properly designated as happiness or even as pleasure: it is merely a moment's relief from their chronic state of terror.”
This is just not empirically true, I can only think Rand has never met a violent criminal. And this is some extreme psychologizing on Rand’s part. It implies that there is some sub component check on happiness within the human mind which asks ‘is this conducive to my existence’ and then allows the pertinent level of happiness to be experienced. Obviously this is not the case, happiness comes only at the recognition of the achievement of one’s values. She insists that this state of reward should not be CALLED happiness, but this is merely, again, the distinguishing between the right kind and best kind of happiness, which comes from achieving the right values, and happiness which comes from achieving any old values.
And of course, you sum up the entire crux of this discussion when you say
“Unanswered questions: - Whether Rand was a survivalist (ala David Kelley), or a "thrive-alist" (an Aristotelean "flourisher") in her basic moral orientation toward an ultimate value”