Monday, August 9, 2010

3.3 The prerequisites of value

3.3 The prerequisites of value
There are four prerequisites of value[15], all observable as inherent in and descriptive of the methodology underlying the process of life[16]. It is the presence and the details of all four of these factors that determine the existence and magnitude of value[17]. A change in any one of these elements changes the value of what is being evaluated, and if any one of these is absent then value does not exist. They, like an organism’s life, are an integrated whole.

There must be someone to whom something may be of value
Something can only be a value if there is an organism to whom it may be of value. Something has value only because an organism has an interest in it. Sunlight, for instance, is just there, and has value neither in its own right nor in relation exclusively to the non-living. It only has value to organisms such as plants, reptiles, and so on, where sunlight has no value and can have no value to a non-living entity such as a comet.

There must be an end
Something can only be a value if an organism can use it as means to an instance of an end. This is the nature of the interest that an organism takes in something. Something is only treated as having value because the organism can do something worthwhile with it, that it can use the particular available material circumstances to meet a particular instance of an end of some kind. We know that a plant can value sunlight because it is means to meeting the end “gaining a source of energy and a reptile can value sunlight because it is means to meeting the end “warming its blood to proper operating temperature”, and so on.

Any particular end to be achieved is often the means to a yet further end, and that in turn means to another, and so on. Therefore, for something properly to be a value it must possibly be fitted into an entire means-ends structure. These structures consist of top-level ends and broad arrays of subsidiary level ends that are simultaneously means to higher ends and are the ends that govern even lower subsidiary means. With regards to man, however, a caveat must be identified: because he is a conceptual creature, he is capable of calling something a value and acting accordingly even though proper reflection would have found that his ideas of structure used to make this judgement were flawed and hence that his judgement was somehow in error. We will deal with this in the next chapter.

These structures must have top-level ends that are not means to other ends because there can be no infinite regress. There must be one or more ultimate ends, some goal or goals that are ends in themselves and serve as the highest points in the means-end structures. In point of fact, the only thing in principle that is an end in itself is life. Thus for all structures, equally in principle, there is one and only one goal and ultimate end: life. In application to each actual structure it is the life of the organism as that type of organism that serves as the actual life used as the ultimate end. This then determines the structure of that array of subsidiary ends serving it. In turn, since it is the nature of that organism and what it needs to do in order to live that sets the nature of its means-ends structure it must act in accordance with, the more complex the organism the more complex is its appropriate means-end structure.

There must be the ability and need to act in the face of an alternative
Something can only be a value if possession or use of the value by an organism is not a foregone conclusion. The organism must have a stake in the outcome of action. It must face an alternative of gaining and/or keeping the value as the result of action versus not gaining and/or losing it in the event of unsuccessful action. There must be an uncertain opportunity or threat, which uncertainty the action can change to the organism’s favour. A lizard, for instance, has to decide when act to gain warmth from time to time by sitting in the sun, taking neither the available sunning opportunities nor its own warmth for granted, and must also consider the potential for being attacked while exposed.

There must be the operation of a concrete mechanism of connection
Something can only be a value to the organism if some process within that organism actually connects the concrete facts regarding that something and the ends to which it may be means into that organism’s mechanism of valuation and action. Values do not arise unless evaluation is actually performed, usually the organism itself for its own needs. The valuer has to be able to bring the first three prerequisites to bear upon any given situation, and at a level in the means-ends structure appropriate for the scope of valuation and action.

The precise mechanism will change depending on the type of organism in relation to whom values are being identified, as applied for the appropriate level of abstraction operative within the organism’s means-end structure. Plants and many other organisms have chemical and other environmental sensors built directly into their action-generation systems – this means that their valuation and action mechanisms are the same one system. Animals also have sensory perception and consciousness to judge what is perceived and what to do about it, but their valuation mechanisms at this level of living thus becomes separated somewhat from the action mechanism though still connected. The more complex the animal’s consciousness, the greater scope the mechanism has and the greater the separation between valuation and acting upon valuation. Man’s mechanism in this regard is the current height of complexity, and the separation between valuation and action is stark.[18]

15 The original specification of three prerequisites comes from Rand (1964) op.cit, pp15-17, though see also pp19-21. To these are added a fourth, and the list thus becomes parallel to Menger’s four pre-requisites of goods: Menger, C, (1871/1994), Principles of Economics, Libertarian Press, p52
16 “Life is written all over [the prerequisites]” Buechner, M, (lecture recorded 1994) Objective value versus modern economics, Second Renaissance Books, Lecture 2
17 See below, section 7.1
18 See below, section 4.3

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