Monday, August 9, 2010

4.3 Man’s formation of values

4.3 Man’s formation of values
Man stands alone among all known organisms by virtue his power of reason. In his thinking, he has the ability not just to make perceptual-level observations but also to achieve a conceptual understanding of all the issues involved, both when he engages in the formation of values and when he pursues values by deciding upon and undertaking action to gain or keep them. Even though there are underlying commonalities of method in principle with other animals, these commonalities being in the four prerequisites of value, the concrete practice of how a man forms values is separate from how other organisms form theirs.

The principle of varying urgencies to review
Values and standards do not all exist at the concrete level, but exist in hierarchical means-ends structures. It so happens that creatures other than man cannot change those means-ends structures, and can only judge concrete-level values against the bottom-level ends. The means-ends structure of a non-man organism is set at its birth.

Man is different from other organisms, he can consider the value of the more abstract ends, not only all the way up to consideration of the entirety of his own life but also the lives of others as well. For instance, he can judge the concrete needs of what he may want to take with him to the beach, but he can also judge going to a beach versus going to a park, and in turn judge whether he wants to take the day off or stay at work. He can also judge what others’ needs may be, and act accordingly, such as watering his houseplants, feeding his pet lizard, and setting up the kitchen for his wife’s breakfast before heading out to work for the day.

Here again, however, the principle of working from operative standards[20] remains. What happens is that the operative standard in question is just at a more abstract level. For instance, just as the concrete “day at the beach” is a means to the end of “enjoying a day off ”, likewise “a day off” is an instance of a means to the end of “need for relief”. Similarly, just as want of enjoyment is the standard of value used to evaluate a particular day at the beach, so the broader category of “stress-relief” is the standard of value for judging days-off of any kind and also other means of relieving stress. He can take this all the way up to the top of means-ends structures, wherein a man can consider the whole direction that his life is taking and plot another course for it, such as whether he wants to stay with his present employer or even retain that career path.

Although a man can overtly consider higher-levels of abstraction in the ends his actions serve, the urgency to review the merits end being contemplated tends to decrease as the abstraction-level of that end increases. It is not as though he has to reconsider his entire life’s meaning each time he has a simple decision to make: for instance, he need not explicitly consider the principle of life as an end in itself when wondering whether his wife might like orange juice or coffee this morning, and she’d probably jokingly reconsider the merits of her marriage to him if he did! Certainly, as circumstances change so must values be reconsidered, a principle that holds for all levels within means-ends structures, but the higher in the means-ends structure that an end is the less frequently it is required to re-evaluate at that level.

For instance, although a man might reasonably reconsider whether to take a coming Friday off to go to the beach (or park) several times during the prior month he does not and need not reconsider his chosen career with anything like that frequency without good reason to do so. A good reason to reconsider his career, for instance, may become evident in his thinking about why he is so anxious to take a day off, or he may not consider it at all and not be harmed by this lack of reconsideration. And, at the top-most level, in regards to him setting up the kitchen in the morning, it may well be that his wife is dying and under doctor’s orders to avoid caffeine because its consumption may reduce the time she has left. She may well enjoy her coffee so much that she’d rather enjoy a lesser amount of remaining time than drag it out without enjoying such of life’s little pleasures as she is still capable of enjoying. We can then understandably expect the pain her husband must feel and his perfectly justifiable express consideration for the principle of life as an end in itself when he in his own mind weighing up his want of enjoying more time with the love of his life versus his want of her getting maximum enjoyment of what time she has left, a pain and thought triggered by the simple act of putting his hand on the coffee jar. The fact that a terminal illness is not a routine occurrence means that this kind of judgement of such a high-level principle is not something that men would ordinarily do, yet it is something that men can and should do as the circumstances require: a man acting rationally in this instance would consider it once, most likely when she tells him of her desire to ignore doctor’s orders and he then complies for the first time, and thereafter he’d please his wife without further question. Thus it is perfectly fine to re-evaluate higher levels of means-ends structures less often than more concrete levels, so long as all levels are considered at the appropriate times.

Man’s mechanism of connection
There are no values for any organism without an operation of that organism’s particular mechanism of connection.[21] In plants, the evaluation mechanism was built directly into the action mechanism, while from the simplest animals on up a separation between the two began to develop. In man, because he is a volitional being, capable of both forming values and then choosing to do nothing about them, the separation becomes complete.

In relation to man and his conceptual consciousness, this mechanism is that values do not exist for him until they are grasped by him.[22] At the conceptual level there will be a two-part process of cognition and evaluation for the formation of values, followed by planning and execution for the action to gain or keep the values. In contrast to plants’ and animals’ evaluation and action systems these four are now identifiably separate operations.

In cognition, man has to identify in his mind all three of the other pre-requisites of values as apply to this situation. That is, he has to observe and identify the nature of something that might be of value, think about to whom this something might be of value (usually himself but not always), what end it would serve for that someone, and what this someone and also he himself (if not one and the same person) has at stake in the outcome of whatever action he might take.

In evaluation, man has to use his mind to identify the relationships that connect his understanding of all three of those other requirements together to calculate a value of some kind.

In planning, man has to identify all the concrete steps involved in gaining or keeping the entity under the conditions he has already identified when calculating values.

Finally, in execution, man must carry out all the steps he planned to do, communicate with and lead others as required, be aware of the possibility of new information that he ought include in reconsideration of values, reassess value judgements as required and figure out what to do if in that reconsideration he finds that the values or action needed have changed.

20 See above, section 3.4
21 See above, section 3.3
22 Rand, A, (1964), op. cit, pp21-25

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