• Dfpolis
    907
    It seems to me that one of the fundamentla questions of ethics, or perhaps metaethics, is: What is the reality of value? Is value merely subjective? Or is there a foundation in reality for value judgements? I would like to suggest that value and knowledge are analogous.

    Every act of knowing has both a knowing subject and a known object, and so is a subject-object relation. The foundation in reality of knowledge is intelligibility -- the potential of objects to inform us. Following Claude Shannon, I take information to be the reduction of logical possibility.

    Following a hint from Plato in the Sophist, I take existence as convertible with the capacity to act. Anything that can act in any way exists, and anything that exists can act in some way. Thus, existence is an unspecified capacity to act. What makes a thing the kind of thing it is how it can act. What can do everything a duck can do and nothing a duck can't do is a duck, So, we can understand essence as the specification of a being's possible acts.

    Physical objects are intelligible because they can act on our senses in specific ways that we can be aware of. In acting on us in the way that they do, they reveal some of their possible modes of action and so inform us about their existence (since they are acting) and essence (since they are acting in this specific way).

    In the same way, physical objects are valuable because they can stand as actually valued objects to a valuing subject. Valued objects have an intrinsic potential to be valued (are intrinsically valuable), for nothing can be actual unless it is possible. In other words, an object is valuable if it is capable of being valued.

    This seeks almost tautological. It is not completely tautological because one must realize that any actuality entails the correlative potential.

    The next question is, if intelligibility is based on the capacity to inform, what is ontological basis of value? Let me suggest that the answer is fundamentally teleological. Things are valuable insofar as they are capable of advancing our ends -- and that is consequent on what they are capable of doing (their essence). To a reasonable approximation, human ends are reflected in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. So, things capable of meeting our needs are objectively valuable, even if they are not actually valued.

    This allows us to dispose of the is-ought objection of Hume and G. E. Moore's claim of a naturalistic fallacy. Our ends are objectively knowable as are those things that can advance our ends. "Ought," then, refers to objectively effective behavior with respect to the attainment of human ends.
  • Galuchat
    671
    Our ends are objectively knowable as are those things that can advance our ends. "Ought," then, refers to objectively effective behavior with respect to the attainment of human ends. — Dfpolis

    I agree, but would suggest that Manfred Max-Neef's Fundamental Human Needs has superseded Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

    Max-Neef, Manfred A. with Elizalde, Antonio; Hopenhayn, Martin. (1989). Human Scale Development: Conception, Application and Further Reflections. New York: Apex.

    Maslow, A.H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–96.
  • Dfpolis
    907
    Thank you for the reference.
  • InfiniteZero
    12
    Following a hint from Plato in the Sophist, I take existence as convertible with the capacity to act. Anything that can act in any way exists, and anything that exists can act in some way. Thus, existence is an unspecified capacity to act. What makes a thing the kind of thing it is how it can act. What can do everything a duck can do and nothing a duck can't do is a duck, So, we can understand essence as the specification of a being's possible acts.Dfpolis

    I guess one could say the essence of an object or a substance is its identity particular dispositional powers. And identity particular would refer to the "type" of power an object has, rather than a token specific dispositional power i.e. "what can do everything that duck can do and nothing other ducks can't do is that duck" to use your example. But, let us leave the premise of type specific dispositional powers for objects to the side for now.

    Physical objects are intelligible because they can act on our senses in specific ways that we can be aware of. In acting on us in the way that they do, they reveal some of their possible modes of action and so inform us about their existence (since they are acting) and essence (since they are acting in this specific way).Dfpolis

    In other words, this seems to pertain a view similar to the "causal theory of perception". And something similar to what Kant and many others have said regarding the passivity of the senses and objects being in a causal relation to us, where things become intelligible and we are "acquainted" with objects that causally affect us (acquainted being a more Russellian term of course)

    In the same way, physical objects are valuable because they can stand as actually valued objects to a valuing subject. Valued objects have an intrinsic potential to be valued (are intrinsically valuable), for nothing can be actual unless it is possible. In other words, an object is valuable if it is capable of being valued.Dfpolis

    Now, here I fall somewhat out. First of all, what I do not quite get is this value relation between the valuer and the valued. Is the relation a form of projected value from the valuer onto the valued object? or is the relation the other way around, that the object itself - having the intrinsic disposition to be potentially valued by affecting our senses and perception causally - is what makes itself be valued by the subject it affects?

    Call the first type of relation Type 1 valuing and the second Type 2.

    The problem with Type 1 valuing is that if value is simply projected from the valuer on to the object, then there is little need to invoke the idea of dispositional intrinsic potential of value in the objects themselves. Because the value gets projected on to it, it may have the intrinsic potential to have value be projected on it in virtue of being an object, but it doesn't thereby have the intrinsic potential to merely be intrinsically valuable. Worse still, without a valuer, the objects are devoid of having any value at all. I take that this is probably not what you meant.

    But, if it is Type 2 valuing you may be after, then value in objects is necessarily dependent on there being subjects that can value them, value them insofar as these objects causally affect them. But, given value is yet again being based from an anthropocentric starting point, without the anthropocene, no object has any value. It will be merely left with the dispositional power to be valued insofar as it can affect a subject valuer, without them, this dispotional power is mute, and again we are devoid of any value in the universe.

    So, both types of valuing here give a relativist type of notion, or at least relative to the anthropocene. There is nothing inherently or intrinsically preexisting in the objects that in virtue of its reality has any value according to what has been concluded by what you say.

    The next question is, if intelligibility is based on the capacity to inform, what is ontological basis of value? Let me suggest that the answer is fundamentally teleological. Things are valuable insofar as they are capable of advancing our ends -- and that is consequent on what they are capable of doing (their essence). To a reasonable approximation, human ends are reflected in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. So, things capable of meeting our needs are objectively valuable, even if they are not actually valued.Dfpolis

    This seems to imply an instrumentalist view on value, or simply the view of instrumental value. Now, if it was the case that value was teleological i.e. instrumental, that something has value for us insofar of how it advances our needs and helps us achieve something or a goal, then this would also apply to other subjects as well. our kin as objects, given that a relation between two human valuers between eachother would be something like: Valuer 1 has a value relation to Valuer 2 as an object O2, while Valuer 2 has a value relation to Valuer 1 as an object O1. We can shorten Valuer 1 and 2 with V1 and V2. If what you say follows, then V1 values O2 instrumentally, and so has no value to V1 unless it fulfills its instrumental needs, and vice versa for V2. If that is the case, then an ethical system based on this framework of instrumental value clearly makes us hold humans as mere means to an end. As you say yourself "Things are valuable insofar as they are capable of advancing our ends" and that would seem to offer us a morality that wouldn't be regarded as morally right or good by many by their subjective and non-subjective standards. But, I do not deny that there are people who hold this view, and defend this view

    What is worse is that if we go further and consider God as a subject and a valuer, then clearly God itself becomes object to our instrumental valuing, and so God itself may be a means to some end. God need not necessarily be actual or real either, the mere idea itself can be objectified, as can any ideological idea or ideas in general. I do sympathize more with the notion of instrumental value for ideas, however, for the ontological, and the physical objects, instrumental value seems to imply that the universe is devoid of intrinsic value, there is no value in objects in virtue of their being. And so, there is no value in anything inherently or intrinsically, and that may be somewhat worrying for a moral framework that builds on this idea of value. If value is as such, then morality is followingly just as relative and subjective. So, someone valuing for instance Plato's four virtues may not be something another subject has in mind as being valuable to them, and perhaps vices such as greed may be on their list of properties and attributes that are more valuable to them. Given that two distinctly different individuals would clearly have different telos.

    Either way, I simply wanted to grasp whether this is what you intended to mean with what you said regarding value, and the consequences that follow from the type of "teleological" valuing that you propose, or if this is a consequence you do not intend to have?
  • Dfpolis
    907
    Is the relation a form of projected value from the valuer onto the valued object?InfiniteZero

    No, valuing is the recognition of the worth of the object to the subject -- just as knowing is the recognition of object's notes of intelligibility. Before valuing an object, it was valuable, but its value was unacknowledged. In valuing an object, we form a new, intentional relation to it, but we do not change its intrinsic nature. We don't project anything into it.

    the object itself - having the intrinsic disposition to be potentially valued by affecting our senses and perception causally - is what makes itself be valued by the subject it affects?InfiniteZero

    This isn't it either. The object's capacity to help us toward self-realization (the endpoint of Maslow's hierarchy) is intrinsic to the object and why it's valuable. Still, unless we recognize it as valuable and integrate it into our life plan, it will not be valued. So, the object can present itself as valuable, but it can't force the subject to value it. Just as we have to turn awareness to intelligibility to make it actually known, so we have to integrate the object into our life plan to value it. In both cases, personal agency is required for to actualize the presented potential.

    if it is Type 2 valuing you may be after, then value in objects is necessarily dependent on there being subjects that can value them, value them insofar as these objects causally affect them. But, given value is yet again being based from an anthropocentric starting point, without the anthropocene, no object has any value. It will be merely left with the dispositional power to be valued insofar as it can affect a subject valuer, without them, this dispotional power is mute, and again we are devoid of any value in the universeInfiniteZero

    As I said, type 2 isn't quite it. Still, while being valuable is intrinsic, being actually valued depends on a valuing subject. I can be argued that the Creator values all His creation by the very act of creating it. Still, on a more mundane level, to be actually valued requires a valuing subject, even if it is not human.

    o, both types of valuing here give a relativist type of notionInfiniteZero

    Exactly. Value is a relation between a valued object and a valuing subject, just as knowing is a relation between a known object and a knowing subject. That is my main point. My second point is that in these relations have an objective basis in both the subject and object. The subject is able to know and value. The object is intelligible and valuable.

    If that is the case, then an ethical system based on this framework of instrumental value clearly makes us hold humans as mere means to an end.InfiniteZero

    No, it does not. One aspect of human potential that a fully realized human being actualizes is the capacity to love unselfishly. We have the the power to make our beloved's good our good. While we can't do this without a beloved (the object of our love), and while to be valued in this way one must have valuable attributes, we cannot make the good of the beloved our good while simultaneously demoting the beloved to the instrument of our satisfaction. So, the instrumental model does not fit.

    What is worse is that if we go further and consider God as a subject and a valuer, then clearly God itself becomes object to our instrumental valuing, and so God itself may be a means to some end.InfiniteZero

    And so God is presented in some religions, viz., those that make personal salvation the ultimate end. In orthodox Christianity, our ultimate end is not salvation, but love -- love of self, neighbor and God. Salvation is an incidental side effect of being loving. Indeed, if the ultimate goal is personal salvation, all other acts are necessarily selfish.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.