Monday, August 9, 2010

4.5 Non-objective values

4.5 Non-objective values
All properly formed values (including mistaken, potential and latent values) are objective, but this does not exhaust the possibilities open to man. Values for non-men cannot be either intrinsic or subjective, but when we identified this fact we had to note a caveat regarding certain phenomena regarding men’s values. Now we can identify that phenomena and deal with it: what if man improperly uses reason, doesn’t use reason, or can’t use reason, when forming his values? The result is the formation of either irrational values or pre-conceptual values.

Irrational values
Recall that can and should won’t automatically mean will. Since possession of a consciousness includes powers of creativity, the door is also wide open to fantasy and wilful deception even by people who do know how to use reason. Yet although dishonesty is an instance of unreasonable thinking, not all unreasonable thinking is dishonest. People can make honest mistakes in their thinking methods that go beyond simple mistakes in observation and inference. The result of unreasonable thinking, irrespective of why it is done, is the formation of irrational values. Irrational values are those formed when reason is either passively omitted or actively excluded from some part of the process by which they were formed.[32]

Passive omission is where for whatever reason other than active denial of the need for rationality, someone doesn’t stop to think and instead barrels on heedlessly. One common cause is simple short-sightedness arising from being caught up in the moment, with another being someone who hasn’t understood the nature of reason and so hasn’t integrated it into all their cognitive activity.

Active exclusion is where it is held that it is improper to use reason in one or more aspects of the valuation process and that an alternative alleged method of forming values is expressly advocated. Men who claim this are actively going by what they feel in defiance of observation and logical inference, that they are consciously attempting to use emotions as means of cognition. One common cause of this is mysticism and faith, with another being simple refusal to question feeling but without working up a complicated structure around the practice as fully-fledged mystics do. Either way, people like this also feel actual indignation at their feelings being questioned, and will actively say that there is something, somehow, that is superior to reason and which is allegedly wrong for reason to challenge.

Pre-conceptual values
The epistemological status of values applies only to man. However, it does not always apply to all men automatically just because they happen to have a conceptual faculty. There is also the issue of the ability to use that faculty. When there is an inability to use that faculty then it is improper to expect values to be formed by use of it. For those who will never be capable of reason there will consequently never be any issue of epistemology.[33] These are men who are not (or not yet) fully-functional conceptual-level beings. They are in a pre-conceptual state, be that permanently or temporarily.

Nevertheless, they can still have wants and desires, and can retain at least some ability to act upon them, which means that they can still form values. These wants and desires will only be at the perceptual level, such as food or attachment to another person, but they are still real values despite that perceptual level. For example, a mentally-handicapped patient in some care facility could just opportunistically take whatever he wants from a food-cart left unguarded in the hallway while the nurse is in a nearby room giving another patient his meal, incapable of rational judgement or considering the morality of the act and hence not properly subject to epistemological censure for his valuation or moral censure for his act.

Since the mentally handicapped and the very young cannot use the conceptual faculty the concept of epistemological status does not apply to the values they form. That means they are certainly neither intrinsic nor subjective, but nor are they objective or irrational. So, how to we view those values? By simple reference to that pre-conceptual state we may refer to the values of the handicapped or young as pre-conceptual values: pre-conceptual values are values formed by those who are biologically instances of men yet for reasons of mental handicap cannot, or for reasons of youth do not yet, mentally function at the conceptual level as appropriate for the men they should have or one day will become.

As valuing organisms they are in the same state as non-men, and to that extent the values they form are likewise in the same state as the values of non-men. This means that we should treat pre-conceptual values in the same fashion as we treat the unqualified values of other organisms, which reflects man’s shared family heritage with those organisms.

For children[34], the concept of epistemological status is inapplicable at birth, but that applicability builds up over time as their abilities improve and they become morally responsible for an increasing amount of what they think and do. At birth, they begin at a totally non-conceptual level, and their values are in the same status of being unqualified just as for those of animals and the mentally handicapped. By the time they have joined us in adulthood they are in the same position as us as having fully developed conceptual-level consciousnesses and hence their values having a status as either objective or irrational. In between it is mixed, and how we view the values of children will depend on what we know of their ability to think and what we may reasonably expect of them.

The handicapped and the young will have guardians looking after their interests. The guardians are responsible for selecting many of the things that are needed by those in their care. These guardians will have their mental abilities undamaged, and it is these guardians who must be objective to the extent that their charges cannot be. To that extent, then, the concept of epistemological (and moral) status does apply to what the guardians obtain as values for their charges, but the observer must remember to take care and properly recognise who is doing what when those observes attempt to identify the locus of epistemological and moral responsibility regarding any values pertaining to the handicapped and the young.

32 Note that one cannot associate the former with honesty and the latter with dishonesty. Someone who was raised in the latter may be a victim of the dishonest while still being a part-time active denier of reason in some fields such as value-formation. Similarly, someone who is well-honed in dishonesty may have gotten totally out of the habit of even thinking about reason at all and so passively omits it as a matter of course. However, nobody who totally denies the value of reason in dealing with the problems of life and value is honest.
33 They are still human because they still have the rational faculty but just cannot use it. In relation to the concept ‘human’ the seriously mentally handicapped are examples of what are called ‘broken units.’
34 Credit for raising this issues goes to an unknown questioner in Buechner, M, (1994) op.cit., Lecture 3

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