Monday, August 9, 2010

4.6 Full rejection of intrinsic and subjective values

4.6 Full rejection of intrinsic and subjective values
With the foregoing discussions of objective and irrational values in place we are now in the position to fully reject the existence of any intrinsic values and any subjective values whatever. With regards to men’s values, it is not that intrinsic values and subjective values are bad, but that they do not exist. In men’s actual values there are only objective values or non-objective values, and where the latter are either irrational values or pre-conceptual values.

Terminology and equivocation
The beginning of this rejection has to be recognition of the proper meaning of the terms invoked and identification of which meanings are being rejected here. There is a marked contrast between the philosophical use of the terms “intrinsic value” and “subjective value” and the use of these terms in non-philosophical contexts. For example, those with some exposure to financial topics may have heard of the term ‘intrinsic value’ being applied to financial products such as derivatives.[35] More critically for economics, the identification of “subjective value” was held to be a major breakthrough (and the principle as properly identified was indeed a breakthrough) that solved an old riddle regarding what was previously held to be a paradox regarding value.[36]

What makes this pair of uses problematical for economics is that, while the financiers use the non-philosophic meaning of “intrinsic value” but never touch on the philosophic issues of value, economics must use the non-philosophic meaning intended by “subjective value” while also being highly concerned with the topic – epistemology as applied to valuation – in which the existence or non-existence of subjective values in the philosophic sense is a vital issue. In regards to this, the sanction to the term “subjective value” by means of its non-philosophic use is often used to support the philosophic use when in fact such a procedure is highly improper irrespective of whether or not subjective values actually exist in the philosophic sense: the honest do not know what they are doing and the dishonest know full well what they are doing, and the former allow the latter to get away with equivocation.

What is being rejected here is strictly the philosophical meanings of these two terms. The philosophic meaning of “intrinsic value” in relation to men’s thoughts is the idea of values being in things totally apart from the judgements of men. The philosophic meaning of “subjective value” in relation to men’s thoughts is the idea of values being created by the minds of men totally out of the blue, without relation whatever to the nature of what is being valued nor with any consideration as to why a man might value it. The non-philosophic meaning of intrinsic values is a comparatively arcane technicality we needn’t worry about here. The non-philosophic meaning of subjective value, that of values being related to the valuer and dependent on that valuer’s context (his physical nature and his goals to the extent he can choose them), is true. These allegedly “subjective” values are actually unqualified values for non-men, objective values for men when they make rational judgements to arrive at these “subjective” values, and irrational values when men avoid making such judgements.

The rejections
The rejection of intrinsic value specifically in relation to men’s values needs little further evidence than as has already been presented for intrinsic values for non-men. There cannot be a value anywhere any time without reference to whom something may be of value, without reference to a standard of value, and without someone somewhere actually formulating that value. Valuation is by its nature a quantitative measuring process, and its fruits cannot exist without someone to be a measurer and performing this process. When a man makes this claim what he really has is the result of him taking what his subconscious offers up to the forefront of his mind and then accepting it without question on the grounds of imputing his awareness of it in his forefront to some form of communication with a higher power outside himself. He is of course talking total nonsense: there are no higher powers and no magical means of communication. This value is still created by him – its content being created by his subconscious in a measurement process of some stimuli against the standards of value he has internalised, and its elevation to the status of value arising from him consciously and volitionally accepting it as a value and trying to act on it – but it is certainly not an objective value. This is not an intrinsic value he holds, just an irrational value, because he is actively avoiding rational judgement of what his subconscious served up.

Similarly, the rejection of subjective values specifically in relation to men’s values also needs little further evidence. The same fundamental reason holds, where this time the focus is on the fact that all valuation is a measuring process of what is being valued against a standard. The fact that a man may not know or care to know this fact, or what standards his subconscious using, is neither here nor there. His pretending that these issues do not exist does not in fact make them go away. When he is saying “that’s just the way I feel” and he is avoiding the issue of why (as opposed to simply not wanting to go into a long discussion with someone) he is overlooking the fact that the standards his subconscious is using came from somewhere ultimately originating in external experiences that he internalised by choice. They are not pure creations of his consciousness, and are not subjective in the proper philosophical sense of the term. Likewise then, this is not subjective value he holds, just another irrational value, because he is again avoiding rational judgement of what his subconscious served up.

Another problem with asserting the existence of intrinsic or subjective values, even by those who say that men shouldn’t form them, is that, by confusing the attempt to hold them with what is actually held as a result of that attempt, these assertions are also overlooking the common root they have.[37] Both intrinsicism and subjectivism, not just subjectivism alone, rest upon the attempt to elevate the arbitrary and the irrational to the status of legitimacy by reference to bogus theories of their origin and moral validity, both accepting the content of the subconscious as unquestionable givens, both denying man’s need to take full charge of his cognitive processes through proper exercise of reason. The difference between intrinsicism and subjectivism lies in the details of imputed origins and what morally justifies action on their basis. Intrinsicism is a primacy-of-consciousness theory that says the all-powerful consciousness is outside oneself while subjectivism is a primacy-of-consciousness theory that says the all-powerful consciousness is inside oneself (either wholly or in part as a member of the collective); and also that the subjectivist is less disinclined than the intrinsicist to identify the arbitrary and the irrational for what they are.

Both intrinsicism and subjectivism are wrong for the same reasons: primacy-of-consciousness is nonsense and the attempt to implement either merely results in the individual allowing himself to be lead around by the nose by external influences via his subconscious as programmed by his peculiar history and which programming he refuses to reconsider. In both cases the attempt to have intrinsic or subjective values fails and so he and his actual values are irrational irrespective of which poor methodology and validation theory he subscribes to.

Urges and cognitive responses
We must also address the issue of how to deal with the phenomenon of arbitrariness. The problem with taking its existence (and its root) as proof of subjective values is that it ignores the distinction between an urge and an actual value. For men, values proper are not created by the subconscious: all that the subconscious can do is make the preliminary measurements. It takes an operation of the forefront of the mind to elevate these measurements into actual values. It is that action by the forefront of the mind, which part of the mind is the seat of volition and reason, that is subject to judgement of epistemological status that is then imparted to the result of that action. When a man is acting arbitrarily on the basis of accepting his subconscious without question, be this in value or other epistemological issues, he is not being subjective philosophically so much as just irrational and trying to justify the decisions he made in the forefront of his mind (or avoiding the need to provide justification) by reference to subjectivism.

In fact, standing back from subjectivism and looking at intrinsicism in contrast to it, we find that the man who claims to have experienced revelations – ie an intrinsicist position – is being no less arbitrary and irrational than the subjectivist. He likewise is not following the intrinsic so much s just also being irrational and similarly trying to justify himself or evading doing so. When intrinsicism held intellectual power it turned out that people’s subconsciouses tended to be programmed the same way in regards to value standards, which in turn meant that the whims and value judgements of the revelatory mystic resonated easily with the common feeling. The observation of this commonality in turn reinforced the belief in intrinsicism and enforced continued similarity in subconscious programming and responses. Looking back at subjectivism again, now in the same light, we see today that subjectivism has the intellectual power and that that people’s experiences are much more varied. Not surprisingly their subconscious value-measurements are equally varied, and likewise the observation of this lack of commonality in turn reinforces the belief in subjectivism and enforces continued separation of subconscious programming and responses. In both cases we see the same root phenomenon: false theories of epistemological method directing content and action, which action then leads to the theories self-perpetuating themselves to the extent that men fail to question.

Moreover the mere fact of the subconscious performing the bulk or even all of the measuring processes is by itself not even enough to lay a claim of irrationality of any kind. As far as the moment to moment operation of the subconscious is concerned it is effectively in the same position as an animal’s measurement system – indeed, we have a subconscious because we share ancestry with the other animals. What makes man special is that he also has a forefront to his mind that can generate a greater variety and cognitive complexity of content for his subconscious to store and process through processes of volitional abstraction. Again, the locus of epistemological responsibility is that forefront, where what makes for objectivity or irrationality is how that forefront operates and chooses to deal with the material presented by the subconscious. When a man experiences urges and he also operates on a premise of always pursuing rational values, it can still be perfectly rational for him to follow through on those urges and so for the values he forms and pursues be accounted objective. For example, for physiological reasons someone may have an urge for a particular type of food, be that peanuts, a glass of orange juice or gherkins in ice-cream, but the values thus pursued are only irrational if that someone refuses to judge the urge before following through, whereas if instead that someone makes a rational judgement of means and ends (which, by the way, pregnant women can do for gherkins-in-ice-cream etc if they are knowledgeable enough) then the values pursued are objective. It is also this principle, for instance, that allows optional values to be counted among objective values even though the particular options someone chooses may even be exclusively particular to that someone.

Recommendation regarding non-philosophic meanings
Anyone who uses these terms needs to make very clear in their own minds and whenever they use them in writing or speech just which meanings they intend. Ideally what people ought do is abandon the non-philosophical use of the terms altogether and use other terms – invent new ones if necessary. By being crystal clear or by using new terms entirely people will no longer be making room for equivocation in what is a crucial topic for both ethics and economics.

This work and its author will never use the terms for their non-philosophic meaning: intrinsic values and subjective values do not exist, full stop. In regards to men, there are only objective values of various kinds and non-objective values of various kinds, where among the non-objective values irrational values do exist and arise chiefly out of attempts to hold intrinsic or subjective values – attempts that fail miserably.

35 See below, section 20.5
36 This was the “paradox of diamonds and water”: diamonds have (had, at the time) very little use besides ornamentation yet were very expensive, whereas water was vital for life yet treated as of little or no value in many places. The breakthrough consisted of identifying that values were related to valuers and thus paving the way for marginal value theory. See below, section 7.6
37 For the really philosophically inclined, this means that asserting the existence of subjective values is actually a breach of the principle of the hierarchy of knowledge because it is not placing subjectivism and intrinsicism on their proper hierarchical level as equals. It is this breach that then leads people not to understand how and why intrinsicism can be viewed as a peculiar form of subjectivism (the intrinsic as the subjectivity on the part of the all-powerful deity) and likewise that subjectivism can be viewed as a peculiar form of intrinsicism (the subjective as value-standards intrinsic to the subject’s consciousness), depending on what implementations of the same one root phenomena one focuses on.
38 How the big cultural shift from intrinsicism to subjectivism arose is a fascinating topic in philosophical history, but well beyond the scope of this work.

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