One is Not one's own "Standard of Value"


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For "a standard" to exist, presupposes an objective measure by which to compare and assess any entity. E.g. linear measurement has the standard of a one meter length.

There have been instances I've argued against the manner, which I believe has been quite often accepted, of the Objective ethics put this way:

"I am [one is] my own standard of value".

I remarked critically about it on another website recently and was tackled by another Objectivist on that. But how can one BE one's own "standard" (of anything)? To whom? To oneself? For others? No, one HOLDS one's own standards. I argued this is circular and self-referencing and counters the concept of "standard".

My concern is that this approach - of being one's own standard of value - must lead an internal conflict with rational selfishness and a drift into subjective egotism. In effect, this version says - Whatever I judge to be a value is of value because I chose it.

But Rand is clear: "The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the *standard* of value -- and *his own life* as the ethical *purpose* of every individual man". p.25

"The difference between "standard" and "purpose" in this context is as follows: a "standard" is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man's choices in the achievement of a specific, concrete purpose". p25

"The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics -- the standard by which one judges what is good or evil -- is *man's life*, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man". p.23

"Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man -- in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life". p.25

------

I think a misreading of "man's life" may be to blame. Not "a" man's life, an "individual's life", but rather this is a metaphysical abstraction, entailing all that "man" is and should be to survive ("properly") - a principle which one has, by which to measure oneself as an objective "gauge".

(Abstraction (the standard of value for the life of man, qua man) ---> application by each individual to his concrete purpose, values, goals etc..)

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1 hour ago, anthony said:

For "a standard" to exist, presupposes an objective measure by which to compare and assess any entity. E.g. linear measurement has the standard of a one meter length.

There have been instances I've argued against the manner, which I believe has been quite often accepted, of the Objective ethics put this way:

"I am [one is] my own standard of value".

I remarked critically about it on another website recently and was tackled by another Objectivist on that. But how can one BE one's own "standard" (of anything)? To whom? To oneself? For others? No, one HOLDS one's own standards. I argued this is circular and self-referencing and counters the concept of "standard".

My concern is that this approach - of being one's own standard of value - must lead an internal conflict with rational selfishness and a drift into subjective egotism. In effect, this version says - Whatever I judge to be a value is of value because I chose it.

But Rand is clear: "The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the *standard* of value -- and *his own life* as the ethical *purpose* of every individual man". p.25

"The difference between "standard" and "purpose" in this context is as follows: a "standard" is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man's choices in the achievement of a specific, concrete purpose". p25

"The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics -- the standard by which one judges what is good or evil -- is *man's life*, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man". p.23

"Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man -- in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life". p.25

------

I think a misreading of "man's life" may be to blame. Not "a" man's life, an "individual's life", but rather this is a metaphysical abstraction, entailing all that "man" is and should be to survive ("properly") - a principle which one has, by which to measure oneself as an objective "gauge".

(Abstraction (the standard of value for the life of man, qua man) ---> application by each individual to his concrete purpose, values, goals etc..)

One does not need a fiduciary standard of length  (like the meter stick in Paris)  to compare lengths. One can subjectively determine that one pain is greater than another  without having an "objective"  measure of pain.  One can decide subjectively that thing A  is more desirable than thing B.   Once can decide Thing A more desirable than Thing  B  purely by subjective means.   Conclusion:  for the purpose of comparison, one does not necessarily require an objective standard.

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9 hours ago, anthony said:

Rand is clear: "The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the *standard* of value..."

I've been reluctant to comment recently because MSK takes a literal reading of Ellsworth Toohey's statements as honest and reliable. Now we come to another strange bit of the Rand canon, a metaphysical abstraction instead of self-directed choice. "Man's life" cuts no ice, if the man in question thirsts for something else, willing to gamble his life to get it, right or wrong, win lose or draw. Too tired to quote The 51% Solution. Just have to take my word for it. Life isn't the standard that powers art or valor.

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10 hours ago, anthony said:

 

But Rand is clear: "The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the *standard* of value -- and *his own life* as the ethical *purpose* of every individual man". p.25

Which man's  life?  Stated as an abstract principle  the phrase "man's life"  has no specific referant. 

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12 minutes ago, BaalChatzaf said:

 

10 hours ago, anthony said:

 

But Rand is clear: "The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the *standard* of value -- and *his own life* as the ethical *purpose* of every individual man". p.25

Which man's  life?  Stated as an abstract principle  the phrase "man's life"  has no specific referant. 

 

Bob,

Your comment is exactly what happens when you don't recognize what a principle is and conflate it with a purpose.

When used to guide one's actions, there is a world of difference between a principle and a purpose (or goal). 

A principle summarizes a whole lot of observed instances, generally by a whole lot of people, in terms of the nature and action of the thing it deals with (usually in the form of what causes what or how things act). Not only that, the principle has to be observed from a whole lot of instances by the person using it for the person to be certain of it. Otherwise, it's a belief gleaned from others or from speculation.

A goal (a purpose) is a specific outcome a specific person or group wants.

A principle is knowledge from the past used to gage what is true for the present and most likely true for the future.

A goal (purpose) is a focus on something specific sought for the future.

Here's a principle (without a lot of blah blah blah): People are like that (pointing to a group or an individual who embodies a bunch of a group's characteristics).

A goal or purpose (without a lot of blah blah blah): I want to be like that (pointing to the same group or individual). 

If you hold a goal (or purpose) as your standard of measurement, you ultimately deal yourself out of measuring because you eventually obtain or fail to obtain the goal. And once that happens, you are done. But with a principle as standard, you can set ever new goals. You can even set goals to exceed the standard. And you can judge the past with it (as you can with a goal or purpose). 

The principle: Avoid lions if you are alone in the wilderness because they eat you.

The non-principle thinking person: Which lion?

:) 

Michael

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3 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

I've been reluctant to comment recently because MSK takes a literal reading of Ellsworth Toohey's statements as honest and reliable.

Wolf,

Word gotcha is not my way of looking at things, thinking or interacting. Just a cursory glance over my posts makes that clear. So I agree that just because someone says something (even a fictional character), that, by itself, does not indicate motivation. You also have to add deeds. Without accompanying deeds, I would agree with your idea of "literal interpretation." But there are deeds.

You contend Toohey wants to kill Roark, or at least wants him dead. And you criticized me for being naive or something like that for believing otherwise.

However, as I quoted from The Fountainhead, Toohey stated the exact contrary--in an emotional outburst at that. (A shocked Peter jumped up and yelled out his name and he calmed down.) That's the words part.

Now let's look at what he does during the book, the deeds part. Is Toohey a gunslinger? Nope. Does he poison drinking water? Nope. Does he take out contracts to kill people? Nope. Did he kill animals as a child? Nope.

On the contrary, in terms of violence, he was the one shot by Mallory.

When I look at what Rand says through Toohey in precise words (i.e., that he does not want to kill Roark), in the emotion with which he delivered them (salivating over the image of Roark being imprisoned and ruled), and in the actions she wrote for this character (total avoidance of violence except for Toohey squirting a water hose on a bully in his new suit when Toohey was young), I do not see a literal killer or someone who is motivated by literally wanting Roark dead.

So how am I naive to conclude that the way Rand portrayed him (in all dimensions) is the way he is? And since I am the naive one, what is the enlightened form of knowledge I am missing and never learned to access to become aware of the true un-naive truth? How do I climb to the heights so I can see farther across the horizon?

:) 

Granted, I do see a spiritual killer in Toohey. He's a friggin' spiritual vampire. (In one passage dealing with his past, some character, I can't remember who, called him a maggot who feeds off sores.)

And, to be fair, I can imagine him ordering Roark's execution if he ever got the power and needed to make such a judgment. And if he learned of Roark's death, I can imagine him making a snarky put-down of Roark. But I do not see Roark's death as his motivation at all. I don't even see a hidden wish. Nor, I might add, did Rand portray him that way in word, emotion or deed.

In fact, I see him as worse than a literal killer. Spiritual pain--protracted spiritual pain--in others is his thing. That's what I see.

To go pathological for a minute, if his character were developed to become a killer instead of an intellectual, I see him as the kind who would drown and revive his victim over and over. That way he could savor the suffering. The final death of the victim would be a moment of sadness for him, not a payoff. The fun would be over. The repeated instances of the victim's terror of dying right before losing consciousness would be his payoff.

Michael

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10 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

I've been reluctant to comment recently because MSK takes a literal reading of Ellsworth Toohey's statements as honest and reliable. Now we come to another strange bit of the Rand canon, a metaphysical abstraction instead of self-directed choice. "Man's life" cuts no ice, if the man in question thirsts for something else, willing to gamble his life to get it, right or wrong, win lose or draw. Too tired to quote The 51% Solution. Just have to take my word for it. Life isn't the standard that powers art or valor.

There is "man" the abstraction and "a man" as a literal referent.

Man's life or man qua man doesn't mean necessary congruence in any man. A man rationally strives for congruence for the sake of maximizing his life and happiness. That's why a man needs a rational philosophy to stay on his man qua man tracks. Or, he needs philosophy because he has free will and a rational philosophy guides his choices.

If man doesn't have free will philosophy itself is 100% pure bunkum and "rational philosophy" a contradiction in terms. One makes a choice between rational and irrational as rational is understood and that itself is an expression of free will.

Rational philosophy is not a contradiction in terms. To say all our choices are determined is unless "determined" by the answer to what is rational? But that's not determinism, which is 100% pure bunk, even when applied to physics. The reason is when that happens the motivation is not exploration of physical processes but to throw determinism at physics to catch it on the rebound as some kind of irrefutable argument visited upon you and me et al. A physicist doesn't care about a cheap philosophical argument applied to his scientific investigations of physical phenomena. He is looking for identification and causality using scientific methodology as verification. There is no sticking "determinism" into that anywhere. That's when the scientist stops being a scientist.

--Brant

"determined" is not determinism--"determined" requires (a) literal referent(s) in all cases

determinism as such makes no sense as it's basically a negative, derivative concept for that which is not determined, generally expressed, for which I don't know through one word--this lack of one word gives determinism a lot of artificial intellectual gravitas ("free will" requires a lot of explanation; "determinism" hardly any at all and it's mostly implicit sneering at perceived human conceit out of fear it's not conceit at all except from the sneerer whom, one may suppose, is determined to be an intellectual and moral low life through determinism [but I say he made that choice!])

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16 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

u.

The non-principle thinking person: Which lion?

:) 

Michael

Better:  which kind of lion.  Baby lion's are not that dangerous. 

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16 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Bob,

Your comment is exactly what happens when you don't recognize what a principle is and conflate it with a purpose.

When used to guide one's actions, there is a world of difference between a principle and a purpose (or goal). 

A principle summarizes a whole lot of observed instances, generally by a whole lot of people, in terms of the nature and action of the thing it deals with (usually in the form of what causes what or how things act). Not only that, the principle has to be observed from a whole lot of instances by the person using it for the person to be certain of it. Otherwise, it's a belief gleaned from others or from speculation.

A goal (a purpose) is a specific outcome a specific person or group wants.

A principle is knowledge from the past used to gage what is true for the present and most likely true for the future.

A goal (purpose) is a focus on something specific sought for the future.

Here's a principle (without a lot of blah blah blah): People are like that (pointing to a group or an individual who embodies a bunch of a group's characteristics).

A goal or purpose (without a lot of blah blah blah): I want to be like that (pointing to the same group or individual). 

If you hold a goal (or purpose) as your standard of measurement, you ultimately deal yourself out of measuring because you eventually obtain or fail to obtain the goal. And once that happens, you are done. But with a principle as standard, you can set ever new goals. You can even set goals to exceed the standard. And you can judge the past with it (as you can with a goal or purpose). 

The principle: Avoid lions if you are alone in the wilderness because they eat you.

The non-principle thinking person: Which lion?

:) 

Michael

A principle is a member of the set of universally  quantified  propositions.   Of which there are a countable infinity.   Which principle should I pay attention to? 

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2 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Which principle should I pay attention to? 

Bob,

The ones that you use to keep you alive.

I, for one, wouldn't worry about falsification if a lion were chasing me.

Your own ancestors who did that kind of thinking are not your ancestors. They were dinner and, as dinner qua dinner, they were not able to pass on their genes.

:)

(In today's world, you can get away with it sometimes because--in those cases, but not all--other people carry you when you get silly in the face of danger.)

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Bob,

The ones that you use to keep you alive.

I, for one, wouldn't worry about falsification if a lion were chasing me.

Your own ancestors who did that kind of thinking are not your ancestors. They were dinner and, as dinner qua dinner, they were not able to pass on their genes.

:)

(In today's world, you can get away with it sometimes because--in those cases, but not all--other people carry you when you get silly in the face of danger.)

Michael

I handle one problem at a time.  The only principles I really require is the principle of noncontradiction and the laws of thermodynamics.  All the rest  is ad hoc resolution of problems.  So far so good.  I have survived 81 years. 

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22 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

I've been reluctant to comment recently because MSK takes a literal reading of Ellsworth Toohey's statements as honest and reliable. Now we come to another strange bit of the Rand canon, a metaphysical abstraction instead of self-directed choice. "Man's life" cuts no ice, if the man in question thirsts for something else, willing to gamble his life to get it, right or wrong, win lose or draw. Too tired to quote The 51% Solution. Just have to take my word for it. Life isn't the standard that powers art or valor.

"Life isn't the standard that powers art or valor".

If we unpack the concept "man", we see it does. Man is a being with a specific nature, along with his biology, a particular consciousness - and each man has to act according to that objective identity to be fully man and to live (fully). "Man" and "life" are inseparable (for a man, living is not just owning a pulse) - and man's life in turn can't be separated from "value".  (And in reverse).

So - "man's life" has objective value and an individual derives all he thinks and does from that abstract standard to give to his own life and acts that ultimate (objective) standard, and to produce, look for and find further (objective) values derived from that individual standard.

"Valor", yes, without a doubt. One has to make choices and take actions which are sometimes hard. Where nobody else can see it and ever know, he/she staunchly needs to stay firm to their goals and principles at those times, alone or among people, when it is toughest to do so. (Why not just give up? Few others will see what we did, but we do).

And these metaphysical abstractions can be mentally/conceptually hard to hang onto, too. That's where art comes in on two counts. For the concretization of "man", "life", or "value" into one, reduced, isoloated, physical chunk created by an artist which one can directly apprehend, to give one's abstractions perceptible form; second, that important jolt of encouragement, inspiration or "valor", from some art, in order to go on staying true to one's volitional purpose.  As far as I read you above, this must be agreeable to you, if only the last part.

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13 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

I appreciate the above comments. I'm probably misquoting Rand by saying the only direct knowledge we have of man is our own experience

We have a direct knowledge of reality, only by direct perception and experience (I roughly think Rand put it). We have direct knowledge of individual men/women by continuous experience with and observation of them, aided by our introspection, and by artists/writers who often have an insightful awareness of humanity - but only up to a point. Conceptually, it is still not enough (which ought not put off one's interest, enjoyment and discoveries of individuals or mankind). Since, make no bones about it, to truly know and identify "man" at his topmost abstraction, is a feat of an ultimate level of magnitude that few genius philosophers have achieved. Let alone the average individual (beginning from scratch) who'd have limited ability and lifespan. The few, like Aristotle and then Rand who got it right, (I conjecture) had to put into the 'conceptual blender' all their knowledge of the individual, his behaviors, similarities, distinctions (etc.), further on up the chain to humanity,  and to all mankind - forever - and through a leap of concentrated introspection, finally distill a few drops of 'man-ness'. That conceptual common denominator which includes every individual, ever. In there is a large part of the justification of rational selfishness. Men have to be rational, volitionally. Reasoning can't come instinctively and automatically. One chooses to be "man" - and chooses "value", in man's life and as his own highest.

'Modern' philosophers have attempted to circumvent and to dispense with such metaphysics, by all accounts. It shows. Right down the line to 'modern' epistemology and finally a 'modern', anti-egoist morality.

 

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25 minutes ago, anthony said:

We have a direct knowledge of reality, only by direct perception and experience (I roughly think Rand put it). We have direct knowledge of individual men/women by continuous experience with and observation of them, aided by our introspection, and by artists/writers who often have a more insightful awareness of humanity - but only up to a point. It is still not enough (which ought not put off one's interest, enjoyment and discoveries of mankind). Since, make no bones about it, to truly know and identify "man" at his topmost abstraction, is a feat of an ultimate level of magnitude that few genius philosophers have achieved. Let alone the average individual (beginning from scratch) who'd have limited ability and lifespan. The few, like Aristotle and then Rand who got it right, (I conjecture) had to put into the 'conceptual blender' all their knowledge of the individual, his behaviors, similarities, distinctions (etc.), further on up the chain to humanity,  and to all mankind - forever - and through concentrated introspection, finally distill a few drops of 'man-ness'. That conceptual common denominator which includes every individual, ever.  

'Modern' philosophy has attempted to circumvent and to dispense with such metaphysics, by all accounts. It shows. Right down the line to 'modern' epistemology and finally a 'modern', anti-egoist morality.

 

Introspection is subjective and cannot be independently witnessed.  Therefore it is worthless as objective evidence.  Introspections are wills o the wisp dancing about in one's head. Only the introspector can experience the introspection.   Therefore introspection cannot be accepted as scientific  evidence or as legal evidence in court.  

In a word --- introspection is ka ka. 

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2 minutes ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Introspection is subjective and cannot be independently witnessed.  Therefore it is worthless as objective evidence.  Introspections are wills o the wisp dancing about in one's head. Only the introspector can experience the introspection.   Therefore introspection cannot be accepted as scientific  evidence or as legal evidence in court.  

In a word --- introspection is ka ka. 

I know, Bob. Just as "metaphysics is ka ka". There's a connect here, somewhere...

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23 minutes ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Introspection is subjective and cannot be independently witnessed.  Therefore it is worthless as objective evidence.  Introspections are wills o the wisp dancing about in one's head. Only the introspector can experience the introspection.   Therefore introspection cannot be accepted as scientific  evidence or as legal evidence in court.  

In a word --- introspection is ka ka. 

Suppose there is a car accident that comes to trial.  You were not a witness. You are on the jury and hear the plaintiff, defendant, their attorneys, and any other witnesses. You cannot independently verify when they tell the truth and when they don't. Even those relying on their memory of the accident are introspecting.

To Baal on Cloud 9 or in his ivory tower: Does that make all testimony worthless? Is all introspection equally worthless? Are you going to simply throw up your hands and declare, "It's all subjective!"? 

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1 hour ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Therefore it is worthless as objective evidence.

Bob,

Since you only think inside your head, that means everything is subjective to you. Right?

And if you say other people can verify something, how do they think? Inside their own heads, right? And that is their form of subjective, right?

So that means--according to your system--objective evidence does not exist and cannot exist.

:evil: 

If objective evidence does exist according to your system, how do you know it?

Is there some God mode for your brain where things become objective?

In other words, what do you think with that is objective if not your own subjective brain?

:)

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Bob,

Since you only think inside your head, that means everything is subjective to you. Right?

And if you say other people can verify something, how do they think? Inside their own heads, right? And that is their form of subjective, right?

So that means--according to your system--objective evidence does not exist and cannot exist.

:evil: 

If objective evidence does exist according to your system, how do you know it?

Is there some God mode for your brain where things become objective?

In other words, what do you think with that is objective if not your own subjective brain?

:)

Michael

Intersubjective witness.  a group of people can exchange information about what each saw  and an observer independent composite can be constructed.   That would be the view of no one.  This works most of the time.  But if you consult the story  Rashomon,  sometimes it does not work.  The way we operate is to give credence to what other's say if it tallies with one's own experience and is corroborated by others.  That is why multiple witness testimony has standing in court.  Corroboration by consulting independent witness helps us distinguish accurate seeing from  incidental error.

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3 hours ago, merjet said:

Suppose there is a car accident that comes to trial.  You were not a witness. You are on the jury and hear the plaintiff, defendant, their attorneys, and any other witnesses. You cannot independently verify when they tell the truth and when they don't. Even those relying on their memory of the accident are introspecting.

To Baal on Cloud 9 or in his ivory tower: Does that make all testimony worthless? Is all introspection equally worthless? Are you going to simply throw up your hands and declare, "It's all subjective!"? 

It makes singular witness not  supported by circumstantial  evidence suspect.  If one person's testimony is backed up by photographic evidence (or something like it)  then the singular witness is more credible.  One person eye witness testimony  unsupported by circumstantial  evidence   is a hard sell to a jury,  particularly if the charges are serious. 

Here is an instance indicating just how "good"  eyewitness testimony is:

 

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2 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Back on the topic of standards, it seems to me that I wrote that standards are uniform units of measurement. Emphasis on units.

What about cases of standard colors or standard shapes.  There is no unit for those.

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11 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Introspection is subjective and cannot be independently witnessed.  Therefore it is worthless as objective evidence.  Introspections are wills o the wisp dancing about in one's head. Only the introspector can experience the introspection.   Therefore introspection cannot be accepted as scientific  evidence or as legal evidence in court.  

In a word --- introspection is ka ka. 

Subjectivity is "ka ka"?

It would seem your understanding of introspection is ka ka.

"Objective evidence" is a redundancy at best and wrong as such most likely. First you have evidence then an evaluation of the evidence by objective standards. The evaluation does not objectify the evidence for the verdict only rests on the evidence without affecting it. As with the evidence, the verdict isn't objective either. It just is what it is in situ.

Note your first two sentences are correct. So too the last two. The third is your invariable ignorant sneering if not also smearing. You could say the same about any thinking yet to be written down. You have effectively already done that many, many times using philosophy as your whipping boy. But you do think, don't you?

--Brant

 

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