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Objectivist values and the personal.

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Akilah
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Very simply, the three cardinal values are reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Which I presume are ranked in that order as well. My question is, how does one integrate his own values with the three cardinal values and remain consistent? Exempli gratia, 'health', or 'wealth' and so on.

Edited by Akilah
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The way I understand this, usually cardinal means primary in some sense, but here I think these also refer to the generic or universal goods that we need, that can't really be sized per se, whereas health and wealth are more particular goods, I need them in some amount, but the size can vary depending on what form your individualized flourishing takes.

You may be a health nut that is way more fit than me, I may be less into sports and more intellectual pursuits, but I still have some degree of health and you have some degree of wisdom, etc. But you can't really say, well I sorta have some reason some of the time, but my self-esteem is huge, or I really lack purpose in life, but hey I'm super rational. This is more of an Aristotelian interpretation, I don't think Rand was super clear on her three cardinal values.

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10 hours ago, Akilah said:

Very simply, the three cardinal values are reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Which I presume are ranked in that order as well. My question is, how does one integrate his own values with the three cardinal values and remain consistent? Exempli gratia, 'health', or 'wealth' and so on.

What is health and how do you achieve it?  Reason supplies the answer

Why do you want to be healthy?  Purpose supplies the answer

Are you good at being healthy?  Yes?   Self esteem is the result

Now substitute wealth for health and ask the same three questions.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/18/2018 at 8:15 AM, Akilah said:

Very simply, the three cardinal values are reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Which I presume are ranked in that order as well. My question is, how does one integrate his own values with the three cardinal values and remain consistent? Exempli gratia, 'health', or 'wealth' and so on. 

Depends on those existing values. Just saying that you value "health" and "wealth" doesn't really explain your values. Everybody values health and wealth. Some too little, some the right amount and for the right reasons, and some too much and for the wrong reasons.

For starters, health and wealth can conflict as values: you can spend all your time striving to perfect your health, or you can spend all your time at work. Can't do both. So even just with that, you have to prioritize one over the other, in any given situation, and end up with a compromise between two priorities. Then there are all the other values you have, that you also have to set time aside for. That's where Objectivism comes in: Objectivist principles, once they are well understood and thoughtfully applied, can help decide which of these non-fundamental values deserves priority over the other, in any given situation.

And then there's the longer conversation about the reason for pursuing any given value. People chasing wealth for the sake of wealth, for instance, aren't going to have fulfilled lives. Same is true for someone who's main obsession is having the perfect body, just like the models do on TV. Both those values are actually motivated by vanity and a phenomenon someone (forgot his name) dubbed the exceptionalism syndrome, not rational selfishness.

[note: the 'exceptionalism syndrome' is this societal phenomenon, built up through mass media , where the bulk of our attention is directed towards the 0.001% of the human population that has done something that rare...causing the rest of the 99.999% of the population to feel inadequate in comparison...not only that...even that 0.001%, if they allow themselves to be swallowed up by this, will feel inadequate: because they're only exceptional in one tiny way, and inadequate in every other way: the greatest athlete in the world is probably an uneducated fool, with no charm or personality; the smartest person in the world stinks at sports, has bad social skills, etc...and even if they're decently charming and charismatic, they're still really, really bad at it compared to George Clooney, the guy they end up measuring themselves against.

The fact that, since the 60s, new generations have been raised being told of their exceptionalism, whether they've done something worthy of the adjective or not, doesn't exactly help matters either.

So, if you get swept up in any of that stuff (and, guess what: you do, because pretty much everybody does, to some extent), you just have to give up the values it caused you to have. Just say: Nope. Thanks, but no thanks. I don't want to have the perfect body, I don't want to be a billionaire, I don't even want to be the smartest or most charismatic person in the room every time). Being exceptional (which just means being in the 0.001% at something, and is not a selfish pursuit) isn't my goal. I want to be a person who recognizes and accepts who he is, and the many ways in which he is lacking, and strives to identify and work on the important, meaningful problems in his life, each day, while dismissing everything else. That's what "perfect morality" is. Not someone going around pretending to be perfect at everything they take up. Rand's heroes made all kinds of bad decisions...what made them heroes is the unwavering focus on the small number of problems they considered most important. Even Galt made the mistake of going to work at 20th Century Motors (is that the name?) instead of starting to solve the most important problem facing him (and everyone else, it's just that he was the one to recognize and solve it, first).

And I'm not suggesting that discarding values is easy to do. Far from it. You have to look at every action, every emotional reaction, see what caused it. Was it the right value, or the wrong one? Can I keep this habit or pattern of behavior, or do I need to make gradual changes? It's a long, arduous process of constantly looking at, and taking personal responsibility for, every single event in one's life. Including the ones that are "somebody else's fault". Guess what: if you're depressed because you girlfriend cheated on you and then dumped you, it's still your responsibility to fix it, not hers. Same if it wasn't just cheating, but someone violated your rights and hurt you physically. Yeah, it's their fault, but your responsibility to deal with it, and everything else that ever happens to you...including to prevent it from ever happening again. Positive ones, too, not just the negatives: there's an entire perverse morality that consists of chasing pleasure (hedonism)...so you can't just rely on short term positive outcomes to validate your choices: evasion (not just substance induced: plain old denial, blame-shifting, playing the victim, engaging in distractions to avoid facing problems, etc.) generates a short term high.

Edited by Nicky
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  • 3 years later...
On 7/18/2018 at 1:15 AM, Akilah said:

Very simply, the three cardinal values are reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Which I presume are ranked in that order as well. My question is, how does one integrate his own values with the three cardinal values and remain consistent? Exempli gratia, 'health', or 'wealth' and so on.

David Kelley has added to Objectivist thought about virtue. He emphasizes that we are motivated by the desire to achieve our goals, not by the desire to conform to our principles. “One’s motivation flows from one’s purpose. One does not live for the sake of being moral; one acts morally in order to make the most out of one’s life” (IOSJ Spring 1992). He takes virtue to consist “in the rules of conduct, the traits of character, that are required for living successfully. . . . The purpose of virtue is to help us live in the world. . . . This is not to say that virtue is merely an instrument. Because we are beings of self-made soul, because our character is itself a crucial achievement, virtue ought to be a source of satisfaction in its own right—and a matter of concern in any action we take. But it nevertheless must take second place to achievement as a global value” (IOSJ May 1993).

In Rand’s conception, “productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values” (OE 25). Kelley elaborates this conception. Recall that moving, final scene for Eddie in Atlas: “not just business and earning a living . . . but Dagny, business and earning a living and that in man which makes it possible—that is the best within us.” (Cf. NE 1177a12–18.) Kelley thinks that “productive work expresses ‘the best within us’ because it reflects man’s basic relationship to reality: the use of reason to create the values his survival requires” (IOSJ May 1993). Kelley generalizes from work (in the sense of making a living) to achievement, which would include work, raising children, maintaining a house, sustaining a happy marriage, organizing a civic cause, or overcoming a physical handicap or psychological problem. “An achiever is a doer: someone who projects a goal, who takes responsibility for bringing it about, and who takes pride in doing it well” (ibid.)

This generalized value, achievement, Kelley calls a global value. Global values cut across many, more particular values. Other global values would be enjoyment and virtue (virtue as a value). Such values have enough breadth and depth to be serious possible answers to the questions, “what do I want out of life? What is it that gives my life meaning and would leave me feeling empty and aimless were it taken away?” (ibid.). Kelley argues that the values of enjoyment and of virtue are intimately connected with the value of achievement, but that achievement should be the central global value, if our ultimate value is life and our highest purpose is happiness.

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3 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

One point that might call for some clarification: criminals, dictators, and people "scoring" drugs can have achievements that are bad.

 

Or *good* if you take a longer term view of after they have failed in those "goals", been defeated, and/or completely f-ed up their lives and lessons were truly learned "the hard way".

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5 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

One point that might call for some clarification: criminals, dictators, and people "scoring" drugs can have achievements that are bad.

 

Gwen Bradford has written a book on the nature and value of achievement (2015). She hangs the value of achievements on intrinsic excellency of characteristic human capacities. She treats evil achievements from that perspective; they have a negative intrinsic value, though they are genuine achievements by the descriptive part of her account of achievement. She does not take the descriptive account for a complete account of achievement. She takes loving the good as a good, and she takes loving the good as governing the process and product of achievement as a whole. An evil achievement is not compliant with loving the good as good, and this spoils its organic unity, even if the process of the achievement itself has positive intrinsic value. Following Moore/Nozick on organic unity as basis of value, an evil achievement is barred as valuable.

That kind of thinking is in some friction with the Objectivst view of Rand/Kelley, and not only with the vocabulary in which Objectivism is generally set out. In Objectivism characteristic human capacities are valuable by their service to and constitutive contribution to rational, integrated human life. Dr. Kelley argues ACHIEVEMENT, like its conceptual subspecies PRODUCTIVITY, as having its worth from integrated human-life maintenance and growth. He argues its greater fundamentality and centrality to value, thence its superiority, to other commonly operative global values—power, prestige, enjoyment, and virtue.

Edited by Boydstun
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