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You should define the concept, and tie it to a concrete. (for instance, intrinsic value means ... , and an apple has intrinsic value, because....-sorry, the dots are because I can't think of a meaning and a reason that's in any way sensible)

Until you do, all I can say is that in Objectivism, we don't define value in such a way, and I don't think there's anything amiss because of it. But I can't shoot down all the definitions one might come up with for intrinsic value, and shootin dow two or three would not prove that all the others are wrong too.

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Ok.

The intrisicist school holds that values, like universals or essences, are features of reality independent of consciousness (and of life).

And an apple would have intrinsic value if it JUST IS good. Good would JUST BE a property attaching to the apple. Or maybe on another account, good would JUST BE part of the action of eating the apple. You get the idea - goodness is just there in the thing or the action or whatever.

Edited by ctrl y

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This probably fits better in the Metaphysics/Epistemology forum.

And that's actually not the most elaborate way to start a thread.

But if I understand the Oist position correctly, there are no 'packets' or 'nuggets' of 'value' inherent to objects in reality. In order for something to be of value, you have to be able to answer these two questions: Of value to whom, and for what?

A value presupposes a valuer.

To elaborate a little bit: What's the difference between an apple, a gold bar, and a puddle of mud? If you aren't looking at this from the perspective of a valuer, they're just piles of mass. The reason they have value is because they have different uses (or non-uses) to us as living, valuing beings.

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Goodness is a concept that denotes a certain type of relationship. This would be meaningless where there was only the one thing (say an apple) and nothing else to relate it to (say the earth, or an insect, or a man, or a stomach).

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And an apple would have intrinsic value if it JUST IS good. Good would JUST BE a property attaching to the apple. Or maybe on another account, good would JUST BE part of the action of eating the apple. You get the idea - goodness is just there in the thing or the action or whatever.

snow-white-poison-apple.jpg

What are you looking for here exactly? PROOF that any given thing can be either good, bad or neutral, and therefor nothing is intrinsically valuable? Seems kinda obvious. Things have value depending on whether they make things better. Do you have an argument in favour of intrinsic value?

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Oh, I thought he came here to argue against our arguments against intrinsic value. I may have interpreted his post wrong. But I stand by the argument I just gave.

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And an apple would have intrinsic value if it JUST IS good. Good would JUST BE a property attaching to the apple. Or maybe on another account, good would JUST BE part of the action of eating the apple. You get the idea - goodness is just there in the thing or the action or whatever.

The problem with this is that you haven't given me a criteria behind this value system. Are all things and actions equally good, or are some better than others? Your apple happens to be good to me too, because I like apples. On the other hand, a poisoned apple would not be good for me because it would kill me. On the other hand, that poisoned apple might be good for me, if I was a wicked withc minding my own business in the forest and this annoying girl and her damn midgets kept causing hullabaloo and bedlam with their incessant singing and dancing.

My biggest problem with your definition of value, at this point, is that there's no way to tell whether that poisoned apple (or anything except the one thing you mentioned) is intrinsically good or bad, and why. It's still not defined enough to say anything definitive about it, beyond that.

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What are you looking for here exactly? PROOF that any given thing can be either good, bad or neutral, and therefor nothing is intrinsically valuable? Seems kinda obvious. Things have value depending on whether they make things better. Do you have an argument in favour of intrinsic value?

Er, no.

People seem to think that I am actually in favor of intrinsic value. I thought I could get away with just posting a question, but maybe I should explain my purposes in asking it.

I sometimes argue in favor of the Objectivist ethics. I begin by stating that psychological factors determine what moral code we end up accepting b/c the base of ethics is ultimately inarguable. (This is what Tara Smith argues in Viable Values as I understand it, and it is the position people on this forum like David Odden seem to take. It is the position commonly known as moral subjectivism.) From there I proceed to say that given the correct psychological factors - a correct conception of life and so on - we find ourselves taking life as the ultimate value. Then I explain the Oist ethics in more detail.

Now, in response, it is common for people to say that the base of ethics is not ultimately inarguable because intrinsic (or as they call them, "objective") values exist. These values are just out there in the world. Goodness and badness just inhere in things and/or actions as I described above. So the metaethical presuppositions of Objectivist collapse if this is true. Their argument in favor of this is that the Objectivist cannot cross the is/ought gap and they can. There is no "oughtness" in the Objectivist ethics, and there is "oughtness" in objective values.

Now, the accusation that Objectivism does not cross the is/ought gap seems obviously right to me. Yeah, what a thing's life "is" determines what it "ought" to do. But that doesn't cross the gap because there is no "oughtness" to life, it's just something we arbitrarily called good. So that move doesn't cross the is/ought gap as conceived by Hume. So I have no idea how to argue against that. But if no moral code crosses the is/ought gap as conceived by hume, there is no unique problem for Objectivism, and Objectivism is still is viable moral code. Now, intrinsic value seems the only moral code that could possibly cross that gap. So if I show that intrinsic value is nonsense, I'm still ok. So to that end, I launch a counterargument:

I respond that I can't imagine how values could be objective. The idea of a value just OUT THERE makes no sense to me. It's totally inconceivable. They give two responses here.

(1) The first guy I spoke with said something like this, as I recall: "Get more imagination. It makes sense to me. I see no incoherence in the proposition 'There is some action A, such that goodness is a property of A.'"

(2) The other guy said that he was an externalist about epistemology, so he knows that there are objective (aka intrinsic) values just in case he has an experience X such that X inclines him to believe in intrinsic values, and X is veridical of intrinsic values. (or something like that. It was very technical.)

I don't find either of those convincing, FYI. The first is arbitrary and the second looks awfully like mysticism in philosophical verbiage. But, I would like to have a solid argument against intrinsic value to cut all of this off at the beginning.

NOW, about the arguments that have been presented by you guys so far. They seem question begging. That is, I don't think a person who believed in intrinsic value would accept the premise that values presuppose a valuer and a purpose. Are there any arguments that show, I don't know, an incoherence in the position or at least begin with some foothold within the intrinsicist position?

Edited by ctrl y

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"Now, the accusation that Objectivism does not cross the is/ought gap seems obviously right to me. Yeah, what a thing's life "is" determines what it "ought" to do. But that doesn't cross the gap because there is no "oughtness" to life, it's just something we arbitrarily called good. So that move doesn't cross the is/ought gap as conceived by Hume. So I have no idea how to argue against that. But if no moral code crosses the is/ought gap as conceived by hume, there is no unique problem for Objectivism, and Objectivism is still is viable moral code. Now, intrinsic value seems the only moral code that could possibly cross that gap. So if I show that intrinsic value is nonsense, I'm still ok."

Have you read OPAR lately? You have a different way you are using the term "arbitrary" here than what we normally mean and object to by "arbitrary" such as it is defined in OPAR. It is bad for something to be "arbitrary" when "arbitrary" means basically totally made up, without any kind of basis in reality. So telling somebody they may be a brain in a vat and until or unless they can disprove this, which they are basically defining to be impossible anyway, they should actually worry about it is arbitrary in a bad way. However, just because something doesn't have one and only one acceptable or best choice doesn't mean it is bad, like if you need to buy a car but have two equally good options and so you just "arbitrarily" picked one instead of the other. Also, we don't have an arbitrary - in any sense of the word - reason we call what aids our life and well being to be good. Life is the only thing which can basically have something existing or not existing, so it's the only thing for which there is cause to really require and need anything because your existence requires maintenance. So life as the only thing thing which needs anything, which has any interests really, is where the concept of "good" comes from. All non-living things are basically indifferent to whatever does or doesn't happen or exist or not exist and "good" therefore as something to be sought and maintained is incompatible without life. As far as is/ought goes, Oism holds that "ought" does not exist as a built in commandment in reality. It isn't even like you just "ought" to live. All the "oughts" come up in the context of a living thing pursuing life, when you have the ability to choose to do or not do things. So all "oughts" are that you "ought" to do certain things IF you have chosen to pursue life, to pursue remaining in existence.

Guy number one's argument's problem I think may be a floating abstraction as he's using a concept derived from life but saying it exists without regard to life. He doesn't know where the concept comes from, he really thinks it is just something floating out there, maybe built into things, like reality put a little stamp on them "ingredients: 5 grams of iron, 2 grams of salt, a dash of goodness . . ." I think in the midst of all that technical terminology in guy 2's position is the same flaw, especially as he doesn't seem to get how concepts work anyway, thinking they are purely products of out there that just impress themselves upon us.

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And an apple would have intrinsic value if it JUST IS good. Good would JUST BE a property attaching to the apple.
This leads to massive contradictions. Fresh water is good (for some fish) and bad (for others), and vice versa with salt water. Goodness is a relationship between two things, and "intrinsic" means that it's good in relationship to everything. That which prolongs the life of cockroaches is good for the roach and bad for me. The Law of the Excluded Middle rules out intrinsicism.

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I've been wondering about this lately. How about health or justice? I can't think of examples where these can be bad.
The health of a cockroach is never good, and I don't care about the perspective of the cockroach. For me, justice is good, but for Saddam Hussein or anyone hoping to exist by avoiding objective moral judgment, it is not good. Your judgments about health and justice are based on particular purposes -- your life, qua rational being. Intrinsicism says that a thing / action is good without considering the relation of the thing to anything else.

Of course, "goodness" is always good; it's a linguistic trick, meaning "That which is good is good". That's the best that intrinsicism can do.

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This leads to massive contradictions. Fresh water is good (for some fish) and bad (for others), and vice versa with salt water.

Right, but that's on the Objectivist conception of good. For the intrisicist, there is no "for x" attached to a value-judgment. A thing JUST IS valuable or not all by itself, out there. So this objection seems to beg the question.

Goodness is a relationship between two things,

This also seems to start from the Objectivist conception of value. But an intrinsicist does not accept the Objectivist conception of value.

and "intrinsic" means that it's good in relationship to everything.

Rather the opposite. It's good all by itself, in relationship to nothing, if it's intrinsically good.

That which prolongs the life of cockroaches is good for the roach and bad for me. The Law of the Excluded Middle rules out intrinsicism.

I seem to have covered the gist of objection this above.

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Have you read OPAR lately? You have a different way you are using the term "arbitrary" here than what we normally mean and object to by "arbitrary" such as it is defined in OPAR.

David Odden seems to be a reasonably smart guy with a decent grasp of Objectivism. He called the choice to live "arbitrary," so, on his authority, I doubt that I mischaracterize that choice when I call it arbitrary. But the choice to live just is calling life good, i.e., calling it what we should go after.

It is bad for something to be "arbitrary" when "arbitrary" means basically totally made up, without any kind of basis in reality.

But there is no RATIONAL basis in reality for calling life good. According to orthodox Objectivism, it is based on arational psychological factors. So the choice seems to be arbitrary, on your definition.

So telling somebody they may be a brain in a vat and until or unless they can disprove this, which they are basically defining to be impossible anyway, they should actually worry about it is arbitrary in a bad way. However, just because something doesn't have one and only one acceptable or best choice doesn't mean it is bad, like if you need to buy a car but have two equally good options and so you just "arbitrarily" picked one instead of the other.

Okay, so the choice is "good arbitrary", but the choice is still arbitrary. I didn't claim that the choice was "bad arbitrary" but only that it was arbitrary.

Also, we don't have an arbitrary - in any sense of the word - reason we call what aids our life and well being to be good. Life is the only thing which can basically have something existing or not existing, so it's the only thing for which there is cause to really require and need anything because your existence requires maintenance. So life as the only thing thing which needs anything, which has any interests really, is where the concept of "good" comes from.

Other ends would also require action. Following the Categorical Imperative, for example, or doing what was intrinsically good.

All non-living things are basically indifferent to whatever does or doesn't happen or exist or not exist and "good" therefore as something to be sought and maintained is incompatible without life.

Life is necessary for the pursuit of values, but it does not follow that life is itself a value. Life becomes a value after you choose to live.

As far as is/ought goes, Oism holds that "ought" does not exist as a built in commandment in reality. It isn't even like you just "ought" to live. All the "oughts" come up in the context of a living thing pursuing life, when you have the ability to choose to do or not do things. So all "oughts" are that you "ought" to do certain things IF you have chosen to pursue life, to pursue remaining in existence.

This seems question-begging. Why can't oughts just be out there?

Guy number one's argument's problem I think may be a floating abstraction as he's using a concept derived from life but saying it exists without regard to life. He doesn't know where the concept comes from, he really thinks it is just something floating out there, maybe built into things, like reality put a little stamp on them "ingredients: 5 grams of iron, 2 grams of salt, a dash of goodness . . ." I think in the midst of all that technical terminology in guy 2's position is the same flaw, especially as he doesn't seem to get how concepts work anyway, thinking they are purely products of out there that just impress themselves upon us.

So this is really an epistemological issue. Thanks. This was useful to me.

Edited by ctrl y

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This also seems to start from the Objectivist conception of value. But an intrinsicist does not accept the Objectivist conception of value.

Of course an intrincist does not accept the Objectivist conception of value, what's your point? I can't even conceive of a reason, even an obviously wrong reason, to suggest values don't require a valuer. There really isn't much else to say. In my opinion intrinsicism is so weak that you almost begin to question yourself by asking "is that all intrinsicism really is?"

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Right, but that's on the Objectivist conception of good. For the intrisicist, there is no "for x" attached to a value-judgment. A thing JUST IS valuable or not all by itself, out there. So this objection seems to beg the question.
However, there are not actually any intrinsically good things, nor is it possible to show that there exists some thing with intrinsic value. Anyhow, there are no arguments for intrinsic value, so your question has been answered.

BTW you misunderstand the status of the choice to live in Objectivism. It is not arbitrary.

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Of course an intrincist does not accept the Objectivist conception of value, what's your point?

That an argument which BEGINS with the Objectivist conception of value is not a good argument against intrinsicism. And I'm looking for an argument against intrinsicism.

I can't even conceive of a reason, even an obviously wrong reason, to suggest values don't require a valuer.

If the intrinsicist is an externalist about epistemology, he can say that he has certain experiences in which he just experiences certain things as valuable. Sophisticated people argue this.

There really isn't much else to say. In my opinion intrinsicism is so weak that you almost begin to question yourself by asking "is that all intrinsicism really is?"

Okay, but I want a strong rational argument against it.

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NOW, about the arguments that have been presented by you guys so far. They seem question begging. That is, I don't think a person who believed in intrinsic value would accept the premise that values presuppose a valuer and a purpose. Are there any arguments that show, I don't know, an incoherence in the position or at least begin with some foothold within the intrinsicist position?

The best argument against intrinsicism is a demonstration that a supposed intrinsic attribute is actually relational.

Physically there are attributes that are intrinsic, so it cannot be argued there are no intrinsic attributes. For example, the mass-weight distinction where the mass is an inferred intrinsic attribute causing the observed and measured forces. The question is whether value is the type of thing that is relational or not.

In the field of perception, intrinsicism takes the form of Naive Realism. Every instance of perceptual relativity is a factual demonstration that Naive Realism is wrong. The same sort of demonstration can be done for value, and to keep the demonstration at a low level of abstraction use biological examples of plants and animal where the same thing is both a benefit for one organism and a danger to be avoided by another.

Value is ultimately biological. Abstractions that are of value gain their status as values in virtue of being instruments to achieve biological value, but you can't demonstrate this additional point without also undertaking to teach the Objectivist epistemology.

A demonstration of intrinsic value cannot be done at all, it can only ever be an arbitrary claim. Any demonstration of value that could be made would necessarily entail exhibiting a relation, so there is no possibility of disentangling value from a relation.

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However, there are not actually any intrinsically good things, nor is it possible to show that there exists some thing with intrinsic value. Anyhow, there are no arguments for intrinsic value, so your question has been answered.

There are some arguments for it.

BTW you misunderstand the status of the choice to live in Objectivism. It is not arbitrary.

Sure it is. See Tara Smith. The choice is based on psychological factors. You can point to facts that will incline a person to choose to live but the choice is not rationally arguable.

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I'd like to see these people define words like "good" or "value" without regard to some thing which they are good for or a value to. Quite frankly I think there may be some equivocation in these arguments too, so it would be beneficial to show what exactly they are talking about anyway. Also, I think saying you need something which says we should live is begging the question because it already assumes you must have the standards of value be something else out there in reality which command we should live. I think not being satisfied with your life as your source of value if you choose to pursue it (and with nothing else really able to count instead, it's either you choose to live and that becomes what dictates value or else you just have no standard of value and will probably be quickly wiped out of existence) is similarly flawed to people who aren't satisfied with existence just existing as a final fact and who say there needs to be a reason for it existing, which means they will just have an infinite regress of "so then why did/should that happen?" repeating on and on. You need something somewhere to be final grounds for value, for why to do anything, just like you need some final end point where there is no more "why", where it becomes what just is, the grounding for all reasoning to be built up off of.

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Their argument in favor of this is that the Objectivist cannot cross the is/ought gap and they can.
The same objection can be made to an altruist's notion of good; so, the nature of the standard is somewhat incidental to the core question. As an altruist, something is good because it achieves some end that supports my standard. As an Objectivism, something is good because it achieves my standard.

I don't see how anyone who claims the good "just is" can have bridged the is-ought gap. I can see how they can claim to have done so, if we believe their assertions about what is good and what is not. However, the moment they try to justify why something is good, they're stuck. So, in effect, they're saying: "If you accept certain things as simply being good, without reason, then you can bridge the is-ought gap". However, if we're going to accept something without reason, then why are we bothering to bridge gaps in the first place?

Edited by softwareNerd

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Where intrinsic value is concerned, simply ask for a concrete definition of intrinsic value, including what determines which objects have it and which do not. The argument against intrinsic value is simply the fact that this request does not have a satisfactory response.

You can point to facts that will incline a person to choose to live but the choice is not rationally arguable.

I would better characterize the choice as pre-rational. By this, I generally mean that life is a metaphysical end in itself; the choice to live is not made for some more basic reason. However, it must also be remembered that the choice to live is not a simple choice that you make once; it's not like choosing whether or not to buy a sandwich. The choice to live is not concrete in the same way, because life is a continuing process, not a static object. Any pursuit of value implies choosing life in *some* respects; adhering perfectly to Objectivism is equivalent, philosophically, to always choosing life in all respects. Most people pursue values that reinforce some elements of the process of life and hinder others.

Implied in everything above is "as I understand it," of course.

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