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Do Objectivist Virtues belong to a subcategory of "Value"?

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Matthew Nielsen
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“Value” is that which one acts to gain and keep, “virtue” is the action by which one gains and keeps it.

Examples of Virtues: Rationality, Independence, Honesty

How are these "actions"? I think that they are character traits that you have to develop over time through action, and when you have them, you need to keep it. So they are, basic, or fundamental values that allow you to pursue higher(less fundamental) values. You could define "virtues" as I mentioned earlier, but according to the original Objectivist definition, I would categorize only "the act of focusing one's mind" as "virtue".

After second thought, I think that Virtues could be worded as rational action, independent thinking, honest thinking, but wouldn't they still, technically, be values that you developed through focusing your mind?

But it still remains that "Rationality", "Independence", "Honesty" are character traits that you have to develop and keep.

Edited by Matthew Nielsen
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But it still remains that "Rationality", "Independence", "Honesty" are character traits that you have to develop and keep.

Hmm, doesn't this answer your question? They are actions because only by acting in that way does such a trait exist. Mostly, they're ways of acting which are always required for leading a good life (i.e. as long as you choose to live, you'll need to act virtuously all the time). In a sense it's okay to see a virtue as a value in the sense you want to be honest, as long as you know character traits are what you do, not something you "have" or attain.

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Can you explain that image? It seems odd to me to say exercising rationality increases rationality, since rationality is not a quantity like Vitamin A or Calcium where certain actions increase the amount. Rationality is something you practice, or fail to practice. Some people are better at acting rational, but it's not as though rational people gather rationality. What you attain is a value or a quantity of value, while virtue is a way of being. Whether someone else is less rational is a matter of consistency.

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The variable factors in these values, example of rationality:

1) The easiness with which you exercise rationality, the degree to which it is a habit

2)

rationality - an actively sustained process of identifying one's impression in conceptual terms, of integrating every event and every observation into a conceptual context, of grasping relationships, differences, similarities in one's perceptual material and of abstracting them into new concepts, of drawing inferences, of making deductions, of reaching conclusions, of asking new questions and discovering new answers and expanding one's knowledge into an ever growing sum

(OPAR)

Now this is rationality as a Virtue, and I agree that this can be justly described using a Boolean value - rational/irrational.

But there is also rationality as a Value - it increases your value as a person, and it can measured by degree:

  • the amount of rational integrations in your mind, some people are less rational, some are more, the rocket scientist that believes in God is more rational than the drug abuser who wants to achieve Nirvana through LSD, Aristotle was irrational to some degree, but Aristotle ≠ Plato
  • the amount of time that you've spent exercising rationality - how consistent you are over time
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... a Boolean value - rational/irrational.

As an aside, most people are a mix. Even when someone presents an idea of medium complexity, that presentation contains some things that are rational and some that are not. So, the "micro-boolean" black and white dots end up presenting a picture that can be various shades of grey.

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Your image lists honesty as a moral value. But that seems to miss how virtues lead to values, and I don't know how that's different than exercising honesty. The outside world part is unclear, too. My point is that you can value acting rational, but it's not something you quantify. Actions can be quantified in degrees of effort or skill for example, while not in terms of being more of an action. You can talk about length of time performing an action. A person doesn't "have" running or gets increases of running. Rationality is supposed to be like a skill that leads to particular values. So although it's all quite similar, virtue is a means to get somewhere.

Virtues, then, are a practice. I did not mean to imply it's a boolean trait. If you want a computer science analogy, then it's an honesty algorithm that you run. You can see how the algorithm works, based on the happiness it gets you. It's possible to ignore the algorithm or only use pieces of it. You can add to the algorithm as well, so that it works better than before. In this way, no one "has more" honesty like we would if one algorithm has fewer lines of code. After all, the code can be rewritten internally, so all you really look at is if the algorithm is being practiced. If the honesty algorithm breaks, or is no longer followed, then there is no honesty. At best, it works at times, but it's faulty. Prior performance of the honesty algorithm has no bearing on its performance now.

If you stop practicing it at any point, you are then dishonest. Whether or not you practice does not allow you to accumulate a pool of honesty. If you were dishonest for years but are now consistently honest, you aren't any less honest than someone who was honest longer than you. Also, I wouldn't say a theist rocket scientist is necessarily more rational than a drug abuser. Both are failing to practice rationality perhaps just as often.

Also, quantifying number of rational integrations is too varied to be a good measurement. I'm not sure how you'd judge what the "right" number of integrations is. People who know more and were once great at integrating their knowledge aren't necessarily rational anymore. Overintegration can happen as well. See Stadler, in Atlas Shrugged.

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What I meant by "value" there was how habitual it is for you to act virtuously. But now I see it is virtue by definition.

Also, quantifying number of rational integrations is too varied to be a good measurement. I'm not sure how you'd judge what the "right" number of integrations is. People who know more and were once great at integrating their knowledge aren't necessarily rational anymore. Overintegration can happen as well. See Stadler, in Atlas Shrugged.

There is no right number of rational integrations for man, the more the better. Overintegration(qualitatively) can happen, but then it's no longer rational integration (as in true to reality).

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There is no right number of rational integrations for man, the more the better. Overintegration(qualitatively) can happen, but then it's no longer rational integration (as in true to reality).

But how do you count "an" integration? An integration is a process, not a distinct thing like a concept. An integration isn't by definition rational, otherwise we define anything we disagree with as irrational. Like with virtues, integration is a process, and it's not something to literally count any more than counting sadness. Besides, performing integration more often also doesn't promise it was needed, so in any case, more isn't always better. Being rational, i.e. being virtuous, entails doing the right things to the right degree at the right frequency. That doesn't mean -every- piece or method used to act rationally is always better more often. Counting up anything won't indicate amount of virtue. Aristotle used the Golden Mean, but I'm focusing on the methodology to gauge what is best.

You can quantify results, though.

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But how do you count "an" integration? An integration is a process, not a distinct thing like a concept.

I meant: number of integrated concepts. You can't count it, but it is quantitative.

An integration isn't by definition rational, otherwise we define anything we disagree with as irrational.

An "integration" = integrated concept. An integrated concept is by definition rational.

Besides, performing integration more often also doesn't promise it was needed, so in any case, more isn't always better.

I agree, the more useful integrations, the better.

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I meant: number of integrated concepts. You can't count it, but it is quantitative.

Well that isn't a good measurement for one's rationality. If I had 5 integrated concepts, and you had 10, it wouldn't make a difference. Part of integration is integrating your context of knowledge, which isn't going to lead to identical number of concepts. That may be due to age or time spent studying a field and nothing to do with degree of virtue. That's also why I brought up Stadler, where he once was rational, has the same concepts, but now fails to act rationally with regard to his knowledge. Virtue is about doing, not having.

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  • 1 month later...

To the OP, you can value a virtue, this is from Peikoff, so no, they are not a subcategory.  Virtues are a means of achieving values, as action.  It's important to note that thought is action as well.

The chart is wrong, all other virtues are derived from Rationality, they can be thought of as rationality from different aspects.  It's definitely good to chart things, though.  Helps with conceptualization.

I can see your approach in increasing individual values by acting on them, but this isn't exactly how it works.  Values are achieved by means of virtue(s), and once a person thinks he has achieved that value, a judgment is made (an evaluation), and if that evaluation is positive (in accordance with values)--you are contributing to your Self-Esteem, which _can_ be built up psychologically (more specifically, psycho-epistemologically).  And the more self-esteem you have, the more efficacious your mind is--and actually is--rationally, objectively, in reality.

An integration  integrated concept.  An integration = An integration.  A is A.  An integration of concepts (note the usage of integration as a noun, it has a verb form as well) is a connection made between concepts, hierarchically.  This is often done by means of a principle, but that's not necessitated.

 

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An integrated concept is by definition rational.

Yes, but not for the reasons you've stated in the previous post.  An integrated concept is rational because to be an integrated concept it is one that underwent the process of redownment, which is another process of integration by going back down through the hierarchy of its necessitated concepts, back down to reality--thus concretizing it.  Only then does it become rational to the individual.  If a concept can't be, or wasn't, traced back to reality, it is a floating abstraction, and irrational.

 

Quote

I meant: number of integrated concepts. You can't count it, but it is quantitative.

Why would you want to count them anyway?  It is quantitative, but the capacity of the mind if limitless so there is no need to hold this idea of counting them.

Edited by KorbenDallas
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  • 2 weeks later...

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