Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Which Existents Can Be Valued?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

A value is that which you act to gain and/or keep. Virtue is the action of gaining and/or keeping it.

Contemplating this phrasing caused me to question what types of things can be valued. Is the concept restricted to entities alone? Does it apply more broadly to other types of existences, such as actions and states of being.

When I watch a movie and I witness justice, I feel an uplifting emotional surge. And since ones values determine ones emotions, this would indicate that I value Justice. But justice is not an entity, so it seems that one can value more than just entities.

Help me irradicate my confusion.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Contemplating this phrasing caused me to question what types of things can be valued.  Is the concept restricted to entities alone?  Does it apply more broadly to other types of existences, such as actions and states of being.

I'm happy right now, and I want to keep it that way. As a virtuous person, I will act to maintain that happiness. If you want, we can discuss why I'm happy, but the actual reason is not central to the question. The point is that being happy is a state, not an entity, and it is rational to be happy.

Link to post
Share on other sites
But justice is not an entity, so it seems that one can value more than just entities.

Help me irradicate my confusion.

The definition of "entities" is something that exists as a particular and discrete unit so how can one "value more than just entities" if entities include all that exists?

A unit denotes measurement and measurement requires two things - the object to be measured and the standard it is measured against. In this case you are measuring Justice so you have the concrete example of Justice that you witnessed (the object to be measured), and you have the concept of Justice (the standard that it is measured against). Justice, just as a table, is an entity. It exists and can be measured. You form the concept of Justice in the same way you form the concept of Table, even though one is physically tangible and the other is not.

So to answer your question, all existants can be valued.

A good reference for this problem you are having might be to read the section of OPAR on concept formation.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The definition of "entities" is something that exists as a particular and discrete unit so how can one "value more than just entities" if entities include all that exists?

First, "entity" is ostensively defined, so what you describe, if it were correct, would be a characterization of "entity." Second, in Objectivist epistemology an entity, in the primary sense, is a thing; an independent, self-contained form of existence that is capable of being perceived on the human scale. It is only by extension of this primary sense that we include molecules, galaxies, or ARI as being "entities." Third, the concept of entities does not "include all that exists." There are many things that exist, such as relationships and actions, that are not entities. We use the concept "existent" to refer to something that exists, and "existent" is a much wider concept than "entity."

A unit denotes measurement ...

Though "unit" and "measurement" are related, I do not think that "denotes" is the proper word here. As Ayn Rand characterizes "unit," it is "an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members" (ITOE, p. 6), and "units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships." (ITOE, p. 7) Measurement, then, establishes those relationships quantitatively by utilizing a standard serving as a unit. So we measure entities by their attributes using a specific unit of an attribute as a standard of measurement.

Link to post
Share on other sites
A unit denotes measurement and measurement requires two things - the object to be measured and the standard it is measured against.  In this case you are measuring Justice so you have the concrete example of Justice that you witnessed (the object to be measured), and you have the concept of Justice (the standard that it is measured against).  Justice, just as a table, is an entity.  It exists and can be measured.  You form the concept of Justice in the same way you form the concept of Table, even though one is physically tangible and the other is not. 

I have never in anyway thought of myself as a deep thinker I always try to keep things simple unless the situation calls for it. So if this doesn't come out right I apologize in advance. Personally I would think that all things have value as well. The amount of value is lies in the eyes of the beholder so to speak. Rather or not an item exists though I would also have to say depends upon the person.

Using the above mentioned example of a table, you can touch a table, smell a table, see, taste and even hear a table. Now something as intangible as love can not be touched, smelled, heard, seen, or tasted. But does that mean that it exists any less. Just because all of our senses tell us it isn't there does that mean that we still don't feel it. I would have to say that anything you can feel, physically or otherwise can be valued.

Also on the same token I would say anything that you can lose can be valued. To use a different example a stereo. When you purchase a stereo it has value. Let's say you were robbed, they took the stereo, then you would determine how much value it has by maybe what you would do to get it back. Same with a person's love, once it is lost you measure it's value by what would be done to regain his/her love. Unfortunately it is many times after it is gone that we measure it's value but that is off the subject.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think anyone here disagrees that "entities", in the way that stephen explained, are a valid type of thing to value.

Although I don't think anyone answered me directly, I am inclined to think that *mental* entities are also a valid object of value. In other words you can value concepts, which goes beyond just valuing concepts of entities, it includes concepts of action, attributes, relationships, states of being (what David said about Happiness), etc.

Is the above correct?

Link to post
Share on other sites
When I watch a movie and I witness justice, I feel an uplifting emotional surge.  And since ones values determine ones emotions, this would indicate that I value Justice.  But justice is not an entity, so it seems that one can value more than just entities.

Help me irradicate my confusion.

Using introspection you answered your own question! You value the concept of justice and the concept of justice is an existent, therefore you can value more than entities you can value any existent.

QED....trust in your own thoughts Grasshopper.

It is better for you if what you value is valued rationally.....and you are safe with justice on that score too!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Using introspection you answered your own question! You value the concept of justice and the concept of justice is an existent, therefore you can value more than entities you can value any existent.

QED....trust in your own thoughts Grasshopper.

It is better for you if what you value is valued rationally.....and you are safe with justice on that score too!

Yes, but I was trying to acquire a better understanding of the issue than what I had observed on my own. I wanted to translate my vauge understanding into more explicit terms, which is what I was having trouble doing, which is why I started this thread.

Link to post
Share on other sites
A value is that which you act to gain and/or keep.  Virtue is the action of gaining and/or keeping it.

Contemplating this phrasing caused me to question what types of things can be valued.  Is the concept restricted to entities alone?  Does it apply more broadly to other types of existences, such as actions and states of being.

When I watch a movie and I witness justice, I feel an uplifting emotional surge.  And since ones values determine ones emotions, this would indicate that I value Justice.  But justice is not an entity, so it seems that one can value more than just entities.

Help me irradicate my confusion.

Try studying Plato as opposed to Aristotle specifically for this question. I can't direct you to any work or passage because I don't know of any but I know that Plato dealt with questions like this.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Although I don't think anyone answered me directly, I am inclined to think that *mental* entities are also a valid object of value. In other words you can value concepts, which goes beyond just valuing concepts of entities, it includes concepts of action, attributes, relationships, states of being (what David said about Happiness), etc. 

I don't know whether I particularly value the concept of happiness, but I'm very certain that I value having the attribute "happy". Let's take this from p. 5 of ITOE: "The building-block of man's knowledge is the concept of an "existent"—of something that exists, be it a thing, an attribute or an action". Happy is an attribute (of a specific consciousness), and it exists -- as does the consciousness. Of course it's also an exemplar of a concept "happy" that includes the same attribute of various happy beings. Just as a specific dog is not the same as the concept "dog", the attribute that I have when I'm happy is not the same as the concept "happy" which omits the measurement "who?".

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't understand the implied premise of this discussion: why must only entities be valued? An abstraction is not an entity, but something like justice can be valued. A process is not an entity, but something like a valid and proper reasoning process can be valued. A memory is not an entity, but remembering something like the sunny and hopeful days of one's childhood can be of value. Et cetera.

Link to post
Share on other sites
One values all of the concretes to which justice refers. Concretes alone can be valued, not abstractions. But concretes does not mean just physical or material objects. For example, the just eradication of the evil enemy is a concrete instance of justice, and it can be valued.

... I am inclined to think that *mental* entities are also a valid object of value.  In other words you can value concepts, which goes beyond just valuing concepts of entities, it includes concepts of action, attributes, relationships, states of being (what David said about Happiness), etc.

In light of your comments, I no longer agree with myself. Instead, It would be the *referents* of all these concepts that one can value, right? The two of you (y_feldblum and David) helped me alot. This makes much more sense to me now, thanks.

If I have any other related questions, I'll bring them up.

Link to post
Share on other sites
One values all of the concretes to which justice refers. Concretes alone can be valued, not abstractions. But concretes does not mean just physical or material objects. For example, the just eradication of the evil enemy is a concrete instance of justice, and it can be valued.

Why can't one value an abstraction?

Reason, purpose, and self-esteem are all values to me. Yet all are abstractions. I work to be rational not in isolated cases but across the span of my life. It is the principle of reason as a principle that is my concern. To value a principle is to value an abstraction. It seems very clear to me that one can value abstractions.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Why can't one value an abstraction?

Reason, purpose, and self-esteem are all values to me.  Yet all are abstractions.  I work to be rational not in isolated cases but across the span of my life.  It is the principle of reason as a principle that is my concern.  To value a principle is to value an abstraction.  It seems very clear to me that one can value abstractions.

A concept means its referents and the referents of a concept make up that concept.

To value a concept/abstraction is to value the concretes that are subsumed under it. To value the concretes subsumed under a concept/abstraction (while simultaneiously recognizing that they are instances of that concept/abstraction) is to value the concept.

As long as you recognize this, it is proper to phrase it either way.

PS: Reason, purpose, and self-esteem are what Ayn Rand called the 'Cardinal Values', right?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrew: A concept is not the same thing as its referents. It means and refers to its referents, but it is not identical to them. A concept is a certain kind of mental state, whereas its referents can be anything - other concepts, physical objects, spiritual values. Valuing a concept is shorthand for valuing everything subsumed under that concept.

Ed: Reason, purpose, and self-esteem are not necessarily concepts. When you are speaking of yourself or of any other particular person, these are concretes. You value your own faculty of reason and the benefits it brings; you value the purpose to which you are committed, by defintion; and you value your own happiness and self-esteem, taking reasoned and goal-directed action to achieve them. That they are not single instantaneous events is of no consequence; they are still concretes, even if they cover the span of your life.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Andrew: A concept is not the same thing as its referents. It means and refers to its referents, but it is not identical to them. A concept is a certain kind of mental state, whereas its referents can be anything - other concepts, physical objects, spiritual values.

I stand corrected.

Valuing a concept is shorthand for valuing everything subsumed under that concept.

My statements about concepts being equal to their referents was not corect. But my statement about valueing a concept as being equal to value its referents *was* correct. *Shorthand* is a good word to describe this, thanks.

Link to post
Share on other sites

y_feldblum, two points:

1) a Platonic value may be inappropriate, but it may still be a value, something one acts to gain or keep. Thus abstractions can metaphysically be valued without valuing any concretes they subsume.

2) I agree with you that, properly, valuing an abstraction is just shorthand for saying that one values all of its concrete instances. But that still supports my question: why is it implied that only entities can be valued? A concrete instance of justice is not an entity, yet it is fully valuable. Same for other examples I provided: a process can be valuable, as can a memory, and a host of other contents of our minds.

Link to post
Share on other sites
A concept means its referents and the referents of a concept make up that concept.

To value a concept/abstraction is to value the concretes that are subsumed under it.  To value the concretes subsumed under a concept/abstraction (while simultaneiously recognizing that they are instances of that concept/abstraction) is to value the concept.

As long as you recognize this, it is proper to phrase it either way.

I disagree.

You can't equate a concept with the concretes subsumed under it for a number of reasons, one of which is that a concept is open-ended. In the context of this discussion, I can say "I value reason" but I cannot say "I value every instance of reason."

Why not? Because I am not directly, concretely affected by or even remotely aware of every single instance of reason. There is no way I can act to gain and/or keep things that are outside of my knowledge and do not directly affect me.

I can, however, say that I value the *principle* of reason.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Free Capitalist,

A concrete instance of justice is an existent, because it exists, like a checking account exists, even though it's not made of anything.

Having concepts can be valuable - but valuing the concept of justice is entirely different from valuing concrete instances of justice. There is no similarity - if one achieves justice, one may not have achieved a knowledge of the concept, and vice versa.

But when one says "I value justice", he does not mean he values certain aspects of his knowledge - he means, he values justice, ie, all instances of justice.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Why can't one value an abstraction?

Reason, purpose, and self-esteem are all values to me. Yet all are abstractions. I work to be rational not in isolated cases but across the span of my life. It is the principle of reason as a principle that is my concern. To value a principle is to value an abstraction. It seems very clear to me that one can value abstractions.

Yes, and even more broadly than the (valid) examples of "Reason, purpose, and self-esteem," as Objectivists we certainly can say that we value ideas.

Link to post
Share on other sites

y_feldblum,

It seems you're agreeing with the original post that only existents can be valued, and you cite particulars subsumed by a concept as your reason. But even if we put that aside, because it's just one example, there are plenty of others.

You may value a process.

You may value a memory.

You may value an idea, like Stephen said. To explain the latter, someone may value the concept of a hero without ever meeting any real-life heroes.

"Existent" has a particular definition: an entity that exists. Not even your original example works here, because an act of justice, although done by existents, is not an existent itself. A relationship is not an existent - it cannot be touched or smelled, etc. So even particular cases of justice are not, strictly speaking, existents, even if they occur in the real world, and are done by real people.

So the point I'm trying to make here is: I disagree with the implied premise of the original post, and I argue that existents are not the only things that can be valued.

P.S. As I said in my previous post, Platonic values are metaphysically possible, even if not advisable. You can value something that's completely unrelated to reality.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Free Capitalist,

If certain mental states etc. would aid you, then you would value them. Valuing the concept of hero has nothing to do with valuing heros. But you would be valuing particular concepts - ie, concrete referents of the concept concept.

Existent is a broader term than entity, and anyway I am not a professional metaphysician. Concrete examples of justice exist. Neither is life an entity, but every living thing values its own life.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Free Capitalist,

I think you meant to use the term 'entity'.

You said that you can value more than just 'existents'. But there is nothing more. 'Existent' is the broadest category of 'things'. 'Entity' are the tangible/physical existents. Concepts, memories, ideas, etc. are the mental existents.

It seems like the answer to my original question is that ALL of existence is open territory for valuing. If it exists, you can value it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...