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John McVey

The Concept of Value

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His basis is that all values, like all knowledge, is the result of processing of facts by the mind. There are no intrinsic values because _man's mind_ has to be involved in processing the facts, and that there are no subjective values because man's mind has to be involved in processing _the facts_. All knowledge, and all values, are the joint product of both reality and consciousness. The question is how that product is formed. A man therefore has two basic choices: take control by reason in the forefront of your mind or allow your psychology to take over in defiance of reason. The result is the division of values (as considered by a conceptual-level consciousness) into the objective and the irrational. (And, at a subsidiary level, he notes that optional values are those in which man has a choice as to the particular form that values may take within the category of objective value).

Not all values are knowledge.

His concept of the subjective is the idea of the content of mind being an exclusive primary. To be a true subjective value, a value placed on something has to be completely divorced from the nature of that something. He gives the analogy of the value-meter: one walks down the aisle of a supermarket, then suddenly the needle on the meter shoots up because one passes say a box of cornflakes, and purely as a result of that one grabs the box and puts it in one's trolley. There is no consideration whatever of why cornflakes might be valuable, there is only the value-meter. His argument against subjective values is that in reality one's mind is always going to consider the nature of the cornflakes (or whatever) themselves and a standard of value when evaluating them. The values do not spring causelessly to mind, "there are no baseless, causeless, arbitrary convulsions of consciousness." The abdication in favour of emotion is as close to subjectivism as one can get, such that the values might as well spring causelessly to mind because this method does not allow a man to understand the causes. Nevertheless, it is still not subjectivism because it always remains an identification of facts and their judgement against a standard of value. By saying that no emotion is causeless he is noting that there are always reasons as to why a man will experience a particular emotion, and that any given emotion is the result of subconscious processing of the facts. That is straight out of Objectivism, and he even quotes Galt's speech on the matter.

By using the phrase "true subjective value" he is literally committing the No True Scotsman fallacy by redefining subjective so as to exclude emotionalism as an example of subjectivism. I continue to maintain that the redefinition itself is an equivocation between two legitimate senses of the word.

I am going to speculatively define the fallacy of "defining away the opposition". This occurs when a definition of a word is taken to exclude the undesirable elements from the field of debate. Example: Non-representative art is not merely bad art, but not art at all. Or: Kantian ethics is not merely bad ethics, but not ethics at all. Or ultimately: Kant is not merely a bad philosopher, but not a philosopher at all. This is a fallacy because a definition is an attempt to identify the referents of a concept but is never equal to the referents.

There are a variety of definitions because definition is contextual. The most inclusive definition delimiting a concept will not be the same as the definition of what is proper within the concept because a standard of what is proper is hierarchically later than the concept itself. A proper definition of man is "the rational animal", but infants are not thereby inhuman due to their inability to be rational.

This attempt to deny subjective values exist is "defining away the opposition". If there are proper values and improper values, it is "defining away" to deny improper values are values at all. Regarding the value-meter example, when a person buys the box of cornflakes and then takes it home and eats it it is because of his actions that the cornflakes are ennobled into value status, not the value meter. Men's actions are caused by their minds, in this case it is an unjustified reliance on the value-meter as indicating true values motivating the subsequent actions. It is not obvious the the value-meter is wrong (corn flakes are not poison), some abstract understanding of proper epistemological method is required for that. It is true that 'invalid knowledge' is a contradiction in terms. It might seem plausible to say that considering value as a type of knowledge, an 'invalid value' is a contradiction in terms also. But in epistemology there is a more general classification of mental phenomena than knowledge: ideas. A false idea is not thereby not a idea for being false. And values remain ideas even when they are not knowledge. An idea still is a content of consciousness and can be focused upon to motivate action, and the element of action is the essence of value. By every other feature than the abstract epistemological standard, the man's action is one of valuing. It is non-objective valuing, arbitrary in the sense of unjustified and so appropriately described as subjective valuing.

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Not all values are knowledge.

By using the phrase "true subjective value" he is literally committing the No True Scotsman fallacy by redefining subjective so as to exclude emotionalism as an example of subjectivism. I continue to maintain that the redefinition itself is an equivocation between two legitimate senses of the word.

I am going to speculatively define the fallacy of "defining away the opposition". This occurs when a definition of a word is taken to exclude the undesirable elements from the field of debate. Example: Non-representative art is not merely bad art, but not art at all. Or: Kantian ethics is not merely bad ethics, but not ethics at all. Or ultimately: Kant is not merely a bad philosopher, but not a philosopher at all. This is a fallacy because a definition is an attempt to identify the referents of a concept but is never equal to the referents.

There are a variety of definitions because definition is contextual. The most inclusive definition delimiting a concept will not be the same as the definition of what is proper within the concept because a standard of what is proper is hierarchically later than the concept itself. A proper definition of man is "the rational animal", but infants are not thereby inhuman due to their inability to be rational.

This attempt to deny subjective values exist is "defining away the opposition". If there are proper values and improper values, it is "defining away" to deny improper values are values at all. Regarding the value-meter example, when a person buys the box of cornflakes and then takes it home and eats it it is because of his actions that the cornflakes are ennobled into value status, not the value meter. Men's actions are caused by their minds, in this case it is an unjustified reliance on the value-meter as indicating true values motivating the subsequent actions. It is not obvious the the value-meter is wrong (corn flakes are not poison), some abstract understanding of proper epistemological method is required for that. It is true that 'invalid knowledge' is a contradiction in terms. It might seem plausible to say that considering value as a type of knowledge, an 'invalid value' is a contradiction in terms also. But in epistemology there is a more general classification of mental phenomena than knowledge: ideas. A false idea is not thereby not a idea for being false. And values remain ideas even when they are not knowledge. An idea still is a content of consciousness and can be focused upon to motivate action, and the element of action is the essence of value. By every other feature than the abstract epistemological standard, the man's action is one of valuing. It is non-objective valuing, arbitrary in the sense of unjustified and so appropriately described as subjective valuing.

To understand your argument it would be helpful to see a couple examples of truely subjective values that don't fit Dr. Buechner's approach, please.

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To understand your argument it would be helpful to see a couple examples of truely subjective values that don't fit Dr. Buechner's approach, please.

The "value-meter" hypothetical works just fine. The "value-meter" itself is just an imagined externalization of the emotional response, and emotionalism is pure subjectivism.

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The "value-meter" hypothetical works just fine. The "value-meter" itself is just an imagined externalization of the emotional response, and emotionalism is pure subjectivism.

If I understand this thread correctly, you critized Dr. Buechner because he maintained that there wasn't a true subjective thing, because the mind was always connected to reality. The "value-meter" was his idea as an example of the subjective, but then denied that it was, saying that it connected to the emotions which are connected to the values whcih are connected to the ideas which are connected to reality all of which could be wrongly put together and wrong, but are still not completely subjective.

This is why I asked for two examples, because I don't see that your reference to emotionalism is different from Dr. Buechner's.

You are right that emotionalism is subjectivism, as an individual's policy. But, I think that Dr. Buechner is suggesting that the mind cannot be actually cut off from reality, and that complete subjectivity cannot exist. You disagreed, I thought, and I wanted examples to understand what you regarded as truely subjective.

As a practical matter, a person who functions on his emotions is cutting himself off, consciously. How does that contradict Dr. Buechner's point?

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The point is that being actually cut off from reality in a metaphysical sense, meaning having an acausal mental process, is in fact impossible (a point of agreement) and not what creates subjectivity in epistemology (the point of disagreement).

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The point is that being actually cut off from reality in a metaphysical sense, meaning having an acausal mental process, is in fact impossible (a point of agreement) and not what creates subjectivity in epistemology (the point of disagreement).

Well, I've asked twice. I'm sorry, this one line does not add to my understanding.

If someone can explain Grames' point I would appreciate it. From reading the last several entries more than once I don't see where the disagreement ocurrs or why.

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Well, I've asked twice. I'm sorry, this one line does not add to my understanding.

If someone can explain Grames' point I would appreciate it. From reading the last several entries more than once I don't see where the disagreement ocurrs or why.

Fair enough. I cannot grasp the perspective that prompts you to ask such obvious questions, which you have answered yourself in the very posts formulating the questions!

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Hi Grames

I had think, and I believe there are a few chief errors in the advocacy of the existence of subjective values. I do apologise for not getting back to you way way sooner than this. Also, there's so much accumulated that I've broken it up into bits.

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The first problem is that going straight from identifying that someone is trying to conceptualise or evaluate by reference purely to emotions on the hand to making a claim of subjectivism on the other is a case of jumping the gun. I believe that this mistake arises from not properly considering the distinction between the forefront of one’s mind and one’s subconscious. As part of that, wilfully ignoring the origin of the latter’s content in epistemology is an allied mistake of compartmentalisation – and one that Miss Rand did not commit, which you will identify if you actually read the whole of “Art and moral treason” (from which the second entry in the Lexicon under “subjectivism” is taken and which you quoted).

What I think is the proper view of the relationship of those two parts of the mind and how each operates is my main basis for my position, which I arrived at from thinking about Dr Beuchner’s original all-values-as-processed-values point that you most objected to, plus what elements of a structure-of-the-mind discussion were made as foundational context for Lecture 1 in Dr Peikoff’s “Art of Thinking” series. My understanding also fits in with everything I recall from Objectivist literature on the matter, including the Lexicon under both “subconscious” and “subjectivism,” though that is not my touchstone.

Standing back from subjectivism alone and looking at it in contrast to intrinsicism, consider also what intrinsicism depends on. You wouldn’t accept the existence of intrinsic values just because some people take intrinsicism seriously and try to act on it, so why be so quick to do so for subjectivism? Surely you recognise that the same one root phenomenon that gives rise to one also gives rise to the other? In fact, either one can actually be identified as a special case of the other, because they are alternative takes on the same one mistaken principle of judgement. They are both primacy-of-consciousness methodologies, both instances of someone taking the content offered up by their subconscious as implicit or explicit pronouncements made by an all-powerful consciousness that creates content ex nihilo. The intrinsicist is one who thinks this all-powerful consciousness is external, while the subjectivist is one who thinks it is internal. In turn, intrinsicism can be cast as subjectivism on the part of the greater consciousness, and subjectivism can be intrinsicism on the part of one’s inner self (be that personal or collective). Either way, the content is declared beyond the power and propriety of reason to question.

Both intrinsicism and subjectivism are wrong for the same reason: primacy-of-consciousness is wrong. I reject the existence of subjective values for the same reason I reject the existence of intrinsic values, that the metaphysics is nonsense and the attempt in epistemology to act on that metaphysics merely turns one’s mind into a hall-of-demented-mirrors and that the peculiar content of the moment is the combination of each individual’s history and the particular stimuli they experience. To lend extra weight to the subjectivist variant of the process is a failure to keep a proper system of conceptual hierarchies on the matter by failing to recognise their equality as variants of the same one flawed view of concepts and values.

Moreover, it is not even proper automatically to call all acts of follow-through on emotional responses as irrational of any kind, because action to pursue what feels best after rational vetting of alternatives is the basis for optional values - and they are objective when chosen on the premise of that vetting giving the all-clear. So, again, blithely equating all judgement-by-emotion with subjectivity is very much a case of jumping the gun.

JJM

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The second is a confusion of a method with its results. Yes, absolutely, emotionalISM is subjectivISM as a theory of validation for concepts and values. The point is that this methodology doesn’t work, which you yourself identified. In application to value, this means that subjectivism in evaluation attempts to but fails in creating (philosophically) subjective values, and that instead the result is irrational values with a particular history and methodology of rationalisation for on the part of the valuer. Exactly the same holds for the intrinsicist (eg religious types, environmentalists, and so on).

This is where the distinction between the philosophical meaning and the popular meaning of “subjective” come into it. You can use the latter meaning to refer to the individual values that people form for themselves and which are dependent on their personal value standards, and interpret much of you read in economics in that light, as I saw you did on the other subjective value thread, but that then leaves you without simple concepts for distinguishing between what are perfectly rational personal values chosen by proper deliberation and what are irrational values chosen by whim in some fashion. Therefore I refuse to use the word in that manner in my own thoughts and writing because it is more trouble than it is worth, partly because of the need to make frequent caveats ad-nauseam when using the word ‘subjective’ like that, and also because it lends way too much of an appearance of efficacy to metaphysical subjectivism.

Hence I formulated what I believe is a defensible taxonomy that gives a system of easily used concepts for clarity and efficiency, which taxonomy avoids the word “subjective” entirely and so does not require me to make keep on making caveats and warding off the equivocation that use of the word makes possible. For those who don’t want to dive into the big set of blogposts, the taxonomy is:

“Values” divided into “non-men’s values” and “men’s values” (the former aren’t further examined)

“Men’s values” divided into “objective values” and “non-objective values”

“Objective values” divided into “objective values more specifically” (they’re not actually given a formal name, just identified as being objective), “optional values,” “mistaken values,” and “potential and latent values”

“Non-objective values” divided into “irrational values” and “pre-conceptual values.”

JJM

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The third problem you wrongly claim that I effectively deny the existence of volition and arbitrariness. Why I think that’s wrong should be clear now from the above, because what I said also tells you what I understand intrinsicism and subjectivism to be in both metaphysics and epistemology. That in turn indicates where volition comes into it (and that your claim about volition as the only cause of anything in consciousness is true but misleading in how it is expressed), and clearly foreshadows what I understand the place of arbitrariness in this whole affair to be.

Going back to the distinction between the forefront and the subconscious, one of the things one must do (ie in the forefront of the mind) is to avoid taking the offerings presented by one's subconscious for granted. This is what a man has to do by choice, but perforce he can also choose to do otherwise. He can either submit what his subconscious offers up to rational judgement, or, himself be guided directly by his subconscious and so become hostage to content he refuses to challenge. If he chooses reason then the result will be objectivity in concepts and values, whereas if he avoids reason the result will be irrationality in concepts and values.

Intrinsicism and subjectivism are two (but not the only) methods by which a man is failing to judge properly in his forefront. They are methods by which a man attempts to justify his obedience to what is actually (whether he knows it or not) the content of subconscious as the fickle nature of his history lead to him having. Aside from the metaphysics and erroneous ascription of origins, in epistemologically the difference is that the subjectivist is less disinclined to recognise arbitrariness and wilful irrationality for what they are (at least compared to modern intrinsicists anyway). The subjectivist knows very well that what gurgles up from his subconscious is “just me,” but refuses to face the question of where the content originally came from. The theory of subjectivism is a means of avoiding that question and avoiding censure for being knowingly arbitrary – “all evil philosophies are systems of rationalisation,” noted Miss Rand.

So yes, I do happily accept that there is such a thing as arbitrariness, and that this today is most prevalent among subjectivists, but as before the results of being arbitrary are only “subjective” in the sense of being the product of an individual’s peculiar psychology and history and their refusal to judge rationally. Failure to recognise this fact, and effectively holding the material thus arbitrarily emitted as though it were created ex-nihilo, is committing compartmentalisation. When this mistake is taken to its logical conclusion it leads the one who thinks like that to lose sight of how all this ties in with philosophy being the driver of history and a host of derivative phenomena under that banner (eg development of cultures). That is done through losing track of the role of philosophy in how individuals think, what they teach to and learn from others, how they respond to events, and how these responses become events for others in turn, because compartmentalisation of acts of arbitrariness from the origin of the content of subconscious blinds the compartmentaliser to those links of cognitive action and reaction. Miss Rand bent over backwards trying to teach these points, and persistence in the use of “subjective” to mean “individual-dependent in general” is a major hindrance against learning from her on the matter.

JJM

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A word about your claim “the only cause of anything in consciousness is volition.” On the face of it, restricting it to reference to content, this is completely true. It is on the basis of that truth that Miss Rand correctly noted that “man is a being of self-made soul.” However, it is misleading because it does not take into consideration the actual nature of the subconscious. In making that claim you are ignoring the fact that the subconscious has to be programmed over the long run. Yes, absolutely, there’s nothing in there that the individual did not himself put in there, but once it is in there the individual has no power to remove it on the spot at any given point in time.

Most of the time people act on semi-autopilot. That is not a moral fault in itself, and in any event there is no other way to live because it is simply not practical for a man to constantly re-evaluate every single thought, premise and automatised action whenever he has occasion to have a thought or perform an action (Dr Peikoff discussed this in more detail in one of his recorded lectures somewhere, I forget which). What a rational man does is take responsibility for the content of his subconscious, he makes the effort to make or remake his soul as required over time, and though operating on semi-autopilot he constantly keeps himself on watch for indicators that what he is doing or thinking about is in error.

The upshot of this fact for evaluation is that such a policy absolves evaluations made on the basis of semi-autopilot from the charge of actual subjectivity. Everything that goes into the rational man’s judgements, including his subconscious content, has been rationally scrutinised, and will explicitly be scrutinised again when there is sufficient indication that this is warranted. This is also what is covered by the principle of varying urgencies to review, as I identified in my chapter on value.

The irrational man, however, has no such policy. The arch-subjectivist just says “that’s me” and runs with it. The arch-intrinsicist either says “that’s God/Gaia/whatever” and likewise runs with it, the most extreme case being prophets and the like, or, perhaps more commonly, if he finds it clashes with a point made by someone or something he holds as higher authority than himself then he will recognise it as “that’s me” and berate himself for it. Either way, he strengthens whatever content of subconsciousness is affirmed. Yet, as before, neither of these facts makes subjectivism or intrinsicism actually true.

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Btw, one little point:

This 'remote valuation' idea is novel to me.

Why should it be? Everyone does it all the time when we think about whether so-and-so would like to have this or that and how strongly. All I am doing is grounding this phenomenon, and also setting one of the foundations for business and marketing judgement.

JJM

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This is a good place to note that Rand concept of value is biological and includes the actions of nonsentient life: microbes, trees, dogs.

Hey, watch whom you call nonsentient!

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Worthwhile criticisms of Northrup Buechner’s Objective Economics (a, b) are put forward by Richard Salsman (a, b) in a hostile review in The Objective Standard, Spring 2012. Last summer at OCON 2011, Prof. Buechner was present, and his book was being sold (like hotcakes) independently of the ARI Bookstore, though in the same room.* Mr. Salsman will be an instructor at OCON 2012.*

“The Law of Supply and Demand” – Northrup Buechner (2012)

~~ I ~ II ~ III ~ IV ~ V ~ VI ~ VII ~~

Grames:

The first thing I did was check to see if I had committed an injustice against Dr Buechner. What I said was correct but I did leave out some of the context. What I did put in was his recognition that the other view of the subjective, that which depends on the context of the subject, is a valid one, where he says he wants to stress the 'philosophical' meaning rather than the layman's meaning.

His basis is that all values, like all knowledge, is the result of processing of facts by the mind. There are no intrinsic values because _man's mind_ has to be involved in processing the facts, and that there are no subjective values because man's mind has to be involved in processing _the facts_. All knowledge, and all values, are the joint product of both reality and consciousness. The question is how that product is formed. A man therefore has two basic choices: take control by reason in the forefront of your mind or allow your psychology to take over in defiance of reason. The result is the division of values (as considered by a conceptual-level consciousness) into the objective and the irrational. (And, at a subsidiary level, he notes that optional values are those in which man has a choice as to the particular form that values may take within the category of objective value).

His concept of the subjective is the idea of the content of mind being an exclusive primary. To be a true subjective value, a value placed on something has to be completely divorced from the nature of that something. He gives the analogy of the value-meter: one walks down the aisle of a supermarket, then suddenly the needle on the meter shoots up because one passes say a box of cornflakes, and purely as a result of that one grabs the box and puts it in one's trolley. There is no consideration whatever of why cornflakes might be valuable, there is only the value-meter. His argument against subjective values is that in reality one's mind is always going to consider the nature of the cornflakes (or whatever) themselves and a standard of value when evaluating them. The values do not spring causelessly to mind, "there are no baseless, causeless, arbitrary convulsions of consciousness." The abdication in favour of emotion is as close to subjectivism as one can get, such that the values might as well spring causelessly to mind because this method does not allow a man to understand the causes. Nevertheless, it is still not subjectivism because it always remains an identification of facts and their judgement against a standard of value. By saying that no emotion is causeless he is noting that there are always reasons as to why a man will experience a particular emotion, and that any given emotion is the result of subconscious processing of the facts. That is straight out of Objectivism, and he even quotes Galt's speech on the matter.

As to the rest of your charges, that's between you and Dr Buechner, and I am not fit to speak on his behalf. What does concern me is me, what I think and what I have written. You're right to note that AR holds the subjective as the arbitrary and the emotional (this is just from a quick check of the Lexicon), but I still tend to think there's a confusion between subjective meaning subject-as-creator (all consciousness as self-consciousness) and subjective meaning requiring knowledge of the subject's context in order to comprehend. I also have disputes with other things you've said, but I am still thinking about this topic and I will get back to you once I have more time.

JJM

Edited by Boydstun

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