Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I O and S regarding value, Part One

I've been taken to task for stating that there are no such things as subjective values in the philosophical sense of the word subjective. I don't dispute that there is a phenomenon that the layman calls subjective value, but that's not the problematic meaning.

In the realm of philosophy I have always taken intrinsicism and subjectivism to mean two epistemological methodologies that arise out of two variants of the primacy-of-consciousness view in metaphysics. What differentiated the two was the relationship of the subject to the consciousness that has the primacy: the intrinsicist holds that the subject's consciousness does nothing, while the subjectivist holds that the subject's consciousness (privately or as part of a group) does everything. If what I think about subjectivism is wrong then it is likely that my entire understanding of the broader matter is also in error and not just in relation to values.

The whole treatise is far from complete, and is going to take me a long time to get all the necessary research done. In the meantime, here’s the summary of what I had thought in general (ie not specifically tied to value), if for no other reason than to let a reader know that I haven't forgotten the issue.


Intrinsicism, as I had thought, was the belief that concepts and values existed independently of the subject’s own mind. As primarily an epistemological issue, intrinsicism counselled that the proper method of gaining concepts, facts and values consisted either of the subject simply opening its mind to let them in or of using deductive logic to tease out what was already contained in that which had previously been let in. In all cases the subject was supposed to contribute nothing to the content, because the proper content already existed whole and complete, where all the subject did was explore it and take faithful transcripts of it on board.

The metaphysical foundation of this was the idea of a consciousness separate from the subject’s own as the creator of reality or of its structure, be that explicitly or implicitly. For the first version of the epistemology there was an explicit identification of one or more divine Creators, superior to the subject, whose Creators’ minds brought the world into being by power of thought. The subject then gets truth and value by opening itself up to communication with the Divine. It was also my understanding that in Dr Peikoff’s DIM system this was the essence of M2, the result of primitive man catastrophically mis-integrating various phenomena of reality to come up with the idea of the supernatural and of mystical connections with it, in turn leading to dogma and fundamentalism.

For the second version of the epistemology the metaphysics of a creator-mind was implicit in it by way of holding concepts and values (ie creations of consciousness) as part of reality itself. Whether the practitioner was aware of it or not this methodology necessarily ultimately leads to the conclusion of a reality-mind that controlled the order of physical reality. This is because concepts are in fact the product of an active mind, and if concepts are held to be part of reality independent of the subject’s own mind it has to result in positing the existence of another mind to do the creating and as a means of those concepts getting into the subject’s own mind. Sooner or later, method determines content, and what is implicit in the method will manifest in the content in due time, which is also why rationalists have a tendency to end up being religionists, if they didn’t actually start out as such from the get-go. It was also my understanding that this was M1, the result of a mind that hasn’t completely let go of the influences of religion while taking on board and incorrectly using deductive logic (ie rationalism) to end up giving more credence to religion by underscoring it with attempts at being reasonable. That is also why M1 is comparatively unstable, and why a school of thinkers who are M1 will in time lead to people being either M2 (most likely, because of the conclusions being more deeply ingrained in the subconscious) or I (if they recognise the need to make continual integrations of observation and start to get things right, as Aristotle set men on the part of doing).


Subjectivism, as I had thought, was the belief that concepts and values were only and could only ever be pure creations of the mind of the subject and that the state of the world beyond one's mind (if it even existed) had little or no bearing on the proper content of mind. As well as being split into the personal-variant and the group-variant, as epistemology subjectivism counselled that the proper method of gaining concepts, facts and values consisted of the subject consulting its own consciousness to discover what existed in reality or at least what was true or important about reality. In this way the subject either created the whole of reality or at least gave reality its nuances and various degrees of importance.

The metaphysical foundation of the reality-creation version of subjectivism was the idea of the subject (whether personal or group) being the creator of the actual physical world we observe. Whatever true reality there was (if one was even said to exist) is irrelevant to both perception and understanding of the observable world, where whatever we learned about the observable world only held because the subject made it so both physically and ideationally. In DIM, it was my understanding that this lead to D2, that it was impossible to use any epistemology to overcome the subject’s inescapable subjectivism, and which notion leads to advocacy of the abandonment and vehement repudiation of any firm convictions about truth or value because there was nothing other than the subject’s own fantasyland to go on. The D2-person then goes around destroying what he claims is other people’s nonsense, which basically makes him a nihilist of some stripe.

In the less megalomaniacal and destructive version, where the subject was the source of truth or importance, the subject is said to take perceptions and create concepts and values that merely touch upon the observable world but which aren’t drawn from the world. While raw perception may be common, something as advanced as truth or value can only come from the subject itself: what’s true or important for one subject may not be true or important for another subject. There is no basis in reality to give a logical structure to knowledge, and so this lesser version often includes the subject picking out bits and pieces from reality as the mood takes him, making some perceptual observations and even some logical thought about them, but never taking integration of observations and thought to any considerable degree. The result is a disconnected hodgepodge of data where any thoughts about each are either held to as a result of irrational clinging to what is felt to be important to the subject or are not held to firmly at all. It was likewise my understanding that this, the root of empiricism, was D1, wherein some empiricists had a notable amount of use of reason and others little but all rejecting the ideas of both unity and hierarchy on the one hand and of total repudiation of physical reality on the other. Likewise, it was comparatively unstable and lead either to D2 (via finally rejecting any basis for following reason in any case and so lacking justification for maintaining a firm conviction of the validity of even raw perception) or I (of recognising the existence of rationally identifiable connections between observations of many concretes and taking that to cover the whole of reality).


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