With the word "standard" there are slightly different meanings. There is the use of the word as meaning a unit of measurement such as choosing feet and inches for the standard to used for a linear measurement in a given context. The other, slightly different, meaning is to indicate the "gold standard" the example to which one compares others. Not so much a unit as a height or kind. This is the meaning that gives a kind of directionality or hierarchy. One might say, "When it comes to honesty, that man sets the standard."
When the word standard is intended to supply an objective UNIT of measurement, there is more of a separation from the meaning of "goal" or "purpose." I might have the purpose of cutting a piece of wood to given length, and choose the standard of feet and inches, but the standard just a tool and it can be used to move towards my goal, but in no way would it BE my goal.
If I choose functionality of some sort, within some context as my standard it could be in the sense of "That which is the most functional in this context is the highest of achievements," then I am attempting to measure different possible outcomes, say in the making of a bookcase, against all others and comparing them to see which has the most functionality. In that approach it appears like taking the highest achievement (directionality) and then attempting to use that to create a unit - and the unit might only be hierarchical.
An example of that might be where medical science sets 65 beats per minute (just making up a number here) as the standard of health for the resting heart rate of an adult male. Once they have established that, they can convert it to a measurment with units and draw lines marking good health from poor health.
As for "survival" as a standard, one can see three different ways that can be viewed.
1. "Survival" as a biological yes or no issue.
2. Survival as a process of functionality appropriate to man qua man. For example, Medical people are focused on survival but they don't just think of biological life as a binary yes-no issue. They look at the degree of functionality for the organ in question. When sports medicine started to take hold, one of the things that happened was that the concept of healthy functionality was raised as they saw what the normal or healthy functioning of, say a heart, was for an athlete.
3. Survival as flourishing as measured by the satisfaction of those needs that become exposed as the more basic needs have been taken care of.
I think that "survival" as a biological yes/no issue, i.e., alive or dead, can be thrown out for the simple reason that it doesn't differentiate between a person having an awesome life from a person in a coma, but still alive.
"Survival" as a standard where it refers to the connection of potential values with their impact on a person's survival has a few problems. It never rises to the level of a universal standard because it is dependent upon the context of the moment of the individual. We know that we have values that are universal to all men, and we have values that arise out of an individual context, and values that are more like preferences ("Coke or Pepsi?"). And what we "need" is a question that presupposes objectively determined values.
Those values that are common to all men, as men, are going to be more fundamental than the others.
A standard is for measuring (or just directing choice based upon a simple hierarchy), and a purpose is required to answer the question of why - "why do I need to determine which option is of greater value?"
Each (values and purposes) can be marched back in their intellectual hierarchy to the most fundamental instance of its kind. If we march back purpose, we get something like "living a life that grants the most longterm happiness possible." But that presumes that longterm happiness is the greatest of values. Maybe that isn't coincidental - maybe to be the most fundamental requires that they merge and are not separable at that level of fundamentality?
I once asked Ayn Rand, at a question answer period, if happiness shouldn't be our standard. She misunderstood where I was coming from and said something about me arguing for hedonism, which I wasn't. But there is no purpose to fulfilling needs, to biological survival, or to flourishing (whatever that is chosen to mean) if the result isn't a positive emotional experience. Just as robots don't have choice and thus can't hold values as we do, they don't have happiness and can't value the experience of life as we do. Living life but without "experiencing" it would have no value.
Flourishing only makes sense if we hold it intellectually as a capacity that is exercised - not as a laundry list of achievments.
Generalizing a standard for psychology is easier than for man's life itself which is such a broad context. In psychology we look at the capacity to assert one's values, to accept the reality of one's context and self, to accept love and success, etc. When we see unnecessary blocks in these or other areas, like excessive defensiveness, or rationaliztion, or avoidance, or unreasonable fears, then we deem these as unhealthy (disvalues). When we look at the individual, he presents the context, but the principles are already established as what is healthy for man given his nature (that "given his nature" is the man qua man).
That is the idea of a standard for flourishing in the context limited to psychology. And we all have a sense of what flourishing means in the context of medicine.
At this point I don't see as much of a difference between "flourishing" as I've been describing it, and "survival" as a process of satisfying successive levels of needs, except that flourishing implies that we already have a set of standards of what is better than something else - a direction, whereas 'successive levels of needs' still leaves open the issue of what is a need, and how do we measure the worth of this need over that need.
I'm not sure that either is described well enough yet to act as a standard such that they could be used without falling into the trap of circular reasoning.
If we reject the notion that all values are relative to the individual and there can be no values that are universal, then we come face to face with the importance of studying human nature, just as the psychologist and the medical scientist must study their subject matter to discern the universal from the individual/accidental.
Joe talks about flourishing as a way of describing someone who is surviving well. This gives a directionality to survival and implies degrees of flourishing/survival. But it doesn't help with making a unit of measurement that is universal.
I don't think that flourishing or survival work as a standard. I think we need to have a deeper look at "life," which Rand defines as a process, where the context is life as generalized to fit the context of human nature - life as man ought to live it given his nature. The result we want is a hierarchy of values that are common to all men, and from which individuals can make choices that may or may not be unique to their context.
Let's say I am faced with choice where my mind throws up three options for a given encounter with another person.
1) I can tell them what I honestly believe, but it will be uncomfortable,
2) I can avoid the question - sidestep it, but I the issue at hand isn't really addressed and I know they will go off without an answer, or
3) I can tell them a lie, but that could come back and bite me later.
We all walk about in a state where we live inside of a nest of hierarchial purposes. I have a purpose that is local to the immediate moment of dealing with this person, I have a purpose that is broader and relates to the relationship with the person over time, and I have a purpose that has to do being the person I want to be, and I have that broadest of purposes of having the happiest of lives possible to me.
Objectively I know that I need to integrate my levels of purpose to avoid contradictions and conflicts. This can't be done without a hierarchy of values. I have to value holding my sense of who I am and my right to be who I am higher than I hold the importance of the other person's opinion and the avoidance of a moment of uncomfortable conflict. I have to hold my sense of staying true to myself as more important than staying friends -if that is what it comes down to. I have to hold onto the idea that honesty and integrity are requirements for longterm happiness.