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What Does It Mean To Be An End In Oneself?

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TheCerebro
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What does it mean to be an end in oneself?

I find that my logic on the issue is circular, because I do not understand it.

"What does it mean to be an end in oneself?"

"To have your own happiniess as your primary moral goal."

"What makes you happy?"

"Accomplishing your goals."

"What are your goals."

"Uh... being happy?"

I've got to be missing something here, so please fill me in.

Thanks!

Edited by Felipe
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Here is a short little thing that might help you out a bit:

Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a certain difference is found among ends; some are activities, others are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where there are ends apart from the actions, it is the nature of the products to be better than the activities. Now, as there are many actions, arts, and sciences, their ends also are many; the end of the medical art is health, that of shipbuilding a vessel, that of strategy victory, that of economics wealth. But where such arts fall under a single capacity- as bridle-making and the other arts concerned with the equipment of horses fall under the art of riding, and this and every military action under strategy, in the same way other arts fall under yet others- in all of these the ends of the master arts are to be preferred to all the subordinate ends; for it is for the sake of the former that the latter are pursued. It makes no difference whether the activities themselves are the ends of the actions, or something else apart from the activities, as in the case of the sciences just mentioned.

If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is, and of which of the sciences or capacities it is the object. It would seem to belong to the most authoritative art and that which is most truly the master art. And politics appears to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains which of the sciences should be studied in a state, and which each class of citizens should learn and up to what point they should learn them; and we see even the most highly esteemed of capacities to fall under this, e.g. strategy, economics, rhetoric; now, since politics uses the rest of the sciences, and since, again, it legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from, the end of this science must include those of the others, so that this end must be the good for man. For even if the end is the same for a single man and for a state, that of the state seems at all events something greater and more complete whether to attain or to preserve; though it is worth while to attain the end merely for one man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for city-states. These, then, are the ends at which our inquiry aims, since it is political science, in one sense of that term.

-Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

It might help you to think a LOT about what I just posted. Then, think about what it means to be an END in yourself, and an END in other people-ie. focus on WHAT the end is (self or other).

Hope this helps ;).

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If I understand Aristotle right, he is stating that all human endevours (science, politics, philosophy) are done by man, for man.

However, that doesn't explain being an end in oneself. While all of man's endevours exist for man, one could still say man exists for another purpose, such as God.

Correction:

"What does it mean to be an end in oneself?"

"To have your own life as your primary moral goal."

But what is the goal of your own life? Prolonging that life? Happiness? Life is a thing, but how you live it shows what you think it's purpose is.

Edited by Felipe
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However, that doesn't explain being an end in oneself. While all of man's endevours exist for man, one could still say man exists for another purpose, such as God.

Are you saying that the fact that someone can say something makes it so? There is no fact that establishes a god exists. Therefore, in your example, they can say man exists for the purpose of a god, but it wouldn't be true.

VES

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Since you're asking this question, I presume you have some motivation for asking it; in other words, your question serves some purpose. You want to know the answer because the answer will help you achieve some end. If you think about what exactly that end is--what it was that prompted you to ask this question--you'll likely find the answer to the question itself.

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Are you saying that the fact that someone can say something makes it so?  There is no fact that establishes a god exists.  Therefore, in your example, they can say man exists for the purpose of a god, but it wouldn't be true.

VES

However, IF God, or anything greater then man existed, the post using Aristotle's comments would be only an observation on the use of the universe, not the purpose of man.

You assume God does not exist, and that it would be impossible for a logical proof of him to exist. I was merely using the opposite of that as a working premise in order to show that what you considered a proof of Objectivism, was already based off Objectivist assumptions.

Since you're asking this question, I presume you have some motivation for asking it; in other words, your question serves some purpose. You want to know the answer because the answer will help you achieve some end. If you think about what exactly that end is--what it was that prompted you to ask this question--you'll likely find the answer to the question itself.

This sounds much like Descartes "I think therefore I am" proof.

I asked the question, because I wanted to know the answer, and I wanted to know the answer so that I could understand, and I wanted to understand so that I might live life correctly. Thus, my own life was the reason for asking.

Hmm... I'm gonna have to think on that a bit... Perhaps I'll post a followup to this later.

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However, IF God, or anything greater then man existed, the post using Aristotle's comments would be only an observation on the use of the universe, not the purpose of man.

You assume God does not exist, and that it would be impossible for a logical proof of him to exist. I was merely using the opposite of that as a working premise in order to show that what you considered a proof of Objectivism, was already based off Objectivist assumptions.

You can base the reasoning of you purpose in life on IF's if you want to, but those IF's will likely remain unanswered. Rather, a tenet of Objectivism (if I understand it correctly) is to avoid basing your answers on that which is unknown, unproven, or not substantiated as reality.

You state that I assume there is no god, whereas I stated there is no evidence that a god exists. There is no rational reason for me to assume (believe) there is a god. In my mind, the active assumption is on the part of those people who DO believe there is a god when there is no evidence to support that claim. If you can establish to me that you have proof of the existence of a god, I'll accept your premise that I was the one assuming.

However, I will take an amateur stab at addressing the question in your earlier logic circle.

"What are your goals."

To be moral and productive, because that makes me happy. The only way I see this to be a circular issue is if you have the idea that the goal can accomplish itself. If the goal is to happy, you have to have an activity, method or means to get to the goal, or a series of smaller goals. Virtually any "ultimate" goal has a series of lesser goals or activities necessary in order to achieve the larger goal.

I'm not sure this helps you, but I tried.

VES

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You assume God does not exist, and that it would be impossible for a logical proof of him to exist.
There is no assumption involved. God is a contradicition of logical proof; a beleif in god is the rejection of that logic. God is an example of the claim that A is not A.

Enough said.

But what is the goal of your own life?

The extention of that life and the values which arise from it.

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Cerebro, let me explain in greater detail the purpose of my post.

You can read anything and KNOW it. For example, you can read a text and "know" what happiness is ("Ahh, Roark was happy when he created his buildings-THAT is happiness"). However, you can not UNDERSTAND it by reading it. The only way to understanding is through yourself-through the process of your own thinking and reasoning. Nothing that anybody will say here can/will make you understand what it is you are seeking. Thus, the way to understanding..what it means to be an end in one's self...is to look within yourself and discover the answer. All that can be provided are the knowledge (Rand gave this to you-you've read it), and the tools to decipher the knowledge...which is what I was showing you.

The quote I gave was a perfect, textbook-like example of a hierarchy of values, or ends. I suggest you re-read what I quoted, and try and discover the TOOLS that will get you out of the circular reasoning, and in a path that will help you understand what you are looking for. Once you are free of the circular reasoning, then I can offer more knowledge to aid you :angry:.

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I am an end in myself

Therefore the goal of my life is extending my life and the values that arise from it.

This is why the passion-less man is worthless, because he values nothings, and therefore has no goal.

To the passion-less man, being an end in himself offers him no goal because he has no goal to start with.

Since objectivism offers no purpose higher and more significant than your own self-interest, it cannot direct a life,

only focus whatever direction already exists and remove the distractions of seeking fulfillment in things

outside of your own egoism.

Whatever you do find that you are passionate about can serve as the purpose of your life so long

as it is consistent with objective reality.

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There is no assumption involved.  God is a contradicition of logical proof; a beleif in god is the rejection of that logic.  God is an example of the claim that A is not A.

Correction, God is the applications of A is A! God is God!

God is defined as "the greatest conceivable thing". The greatest conceivable thing must exist, since a thing which exists is greater then a thing that does not. Therefore, by definition, God exists.

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God is defined as "the greatest conceivable thing". The greatest conceivable thing must exist, since a thing which exists is greater then a thing that does not. Therefore, by definition, God exists.

God "exists" the same way Santa Claus or Bugs Bunny exists -- as a fictional character.

That's true.

So what?

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Correction, God is the applications of A is A! God is God!

No, a belief in God is a belief in an omnipotent being, i.e. a beleif that A may be non-A.

God is not defined as "the greatest concievable thing," God is--and must be, in order to be significant--the suggestion that an omnipotent, omnipresent being exists. Both are rejections of the law of identity, and so is "God."

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I think that JRoberts made the best attempt so far to answer marotta's question.

Excuse me while I borrow liberally from an example in Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" lecture.

The question:

"What does it mean to be 'an end in oneself,' and how do we establish that Man is in fact an end in himself?"

First, it is necessary to to establish what 'end' means in this context. An "end" here means: a value; i.e., that which one acts to gain or keep.

Say that a man wants to have a house. So, he builds it, and he also takes care of it once it's built, kills termites, chases away the kids who are waving torches, etc. The end that he is pursuing, the value that he is acting to gain and keep, is his house.

This raises the question, "Why is he acting to gain/keep his house?" The answer is, "So that he has someplace nice to live." So, we see that some values are actually means of attaining other values. "Someplace nice to live" is an end that is gained and kept by gaining and keeping a house. So, we have a chain of values.

The man:

Builds and maintains a house

In order to have -> A House

So that he'll have -> A nice place to live

In fact, he wants a nice place to live in order to attain still other goals and values. He does A to get B so that he can keep C which he needs for D, etc.

There are two possible ways this could unravel. Either there is some "ultimate end", or there is not. If there is an ultimate end, then the chain of values stops there.

Do A to get B to keep C which he needs for D ... to gain/keep N, which is the ultimate end.

If there is not an ultimate end, then the chain goes on forever.

In the quote from JRoberts, Aristotle rejects the infinite chain of values, for the simple reason that it makes no sense. And it doesn't make any sense, so let's reject that, as well. Read the quote again if you missed that.

So, once you get all that, put it on the back burner, and let's take a look at valuers, life, and Happiness.

What kinds of things "value", and what should we say is their ultimate end, the final link in their chain of values?

All living things must act to gain and keep their own lives. If you think about what living things do, from plants to animals to humans, they must act in order to survive. Without some sort of action, they die. A plant must bend towards the light, a snake must catch mice, and so on.

They all act towards the ultimate end of preserving their lives as the sort of things that they are.

Take a closer look at "as the sort of things that they are." A flower doesn't catch and eat mice, because it does not further it's life as a flower. A snake lives as a snake, and acts to gain and keep it's snakely life.

What makes living things so special? Simply the fact that, if they do not perform this self-generated action, then they will die, and no longer be a "living thing." (I'm using the term "action" very loosely, by the way. A plant photosynthesizing would qualify as "self-generated action" in this context.) Life can thus be called "self-generated and self-sustaining action." In simple terms, living things act in order to stay alive.

This is fine and good for lower organisms that cannot choose their values. A snake won't wake up one day and decide that it's going to try to live as a flower - and eons of evolution have surely killed off any who might have had this defect! However, for a human, life is not so simple as following one's instincts.

The man in the example above would not know, without some sort of intellectual effort, how to build a house, or even that a house would provide him with a nice place to live, or that he would even benefit from a nice place to live, or what one is, and so on. Humans must choose their values. Therefor, while it's perfectly fine to talk about what snakes and flowers do automatically, with humans, we have to talk about what they "should" do. A human may (mistakenly!) believe that life is pointless and filled with suffering, and then kill himself.

Thus,

Humans ought to pursue a life appropriate to a rational being as their ultimate value.

Objectivism makes this normative claim based on the metaphysical claim that the nature of life in general is self-generated and self-sustaining action.

When you want to determine whether or not something is a value, look at whether or not it brings you closer to the ultimate end. For example, if you're playing chess, then the ultimate end is to capture the opponent's king. The queen is a valuable piece, because using it makes it easier to capture the opponent's king. But, if you can checkmate the opponent by losing your queen, then the best move (the move with the highest value) is to lose your queen. So, in the context of chess, the queen is not a value in itself. It is a value because it helps you capture the opponent's king. If keeping your queen does not serve that ultimate end, then it is not a value.

Happiness is the emotion that correllates to a state of successful living. It is the emotional barometer that tells a person whether or not they're doing a good job of pursuing their values.

So, when you say, "The purpose of [human] life is the attainment of Happiness," what you're saying, really, is "The purpose of a human life is to live a life appropriate to a rational being, which is evidenced by Happiness." If it looks circular, that's because it is, in a way. Life qua Rational Being doesn't serve any further purpose - it's the end of the chain of human values.

Happiness is an emotion. As such, it is the result of the lightening-quick calculations of value attainment and loss performed by your subconscious. When your subconscious determines that you are getting closer to or farther away from your ultimate end, it tells you through an emotion. This saves a lot of time and conscious effort, so that you can do other things and not be paralyzed every time you have to make a decision. If you've programmed your subconscious properly, then you will experience Happiness when you attain values - i.e., when you are succeeding in living the life appropriate to a rational being. If your emotional computer is corrupted by bad ideas, then it will be set in reverse, and your internal works will be like a set of funhouse mirrors, always pointing you in the wrong direction.

So, to recap,

The life appropriate to a rational being is the proper ultimate goal for a human.

When he's got his head on straight, he experiences Happiness when he attains that goal, or comes closer to attaining it. (It's not that simple, of course, but that's the general idea.)

A major point is, life is not necessarily the ultimate end of any particular man's life. Each of us must choose the end that we will pursue. But, true Happiness can only be attained when one has chosen the proper goal, and is working to gain and keep it. It's quite a different thing to say that "each man is an end in himself" and "every man acts to attain the life appropriate to a rational being." The first is true, and is a statement of how we ought to interact with others and with ourselves. We can keep working and hoping for the second. <_<

Isaac Z. Schlueter

http://isaac.beigetower.org

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Isaac had it right, that bit taken out of Peikoff is basically what Aristotle was saying:

In order to find Man's purpose, you must find the ultimate goal which serves no other goal (ie the goal that is an end in itself) which Aristotle concluded was Happiness.

A man who is an end in himself is serving no other goal than himself, no other cause than his own. His highest value is himself and therefore his values and his ability to live his life by those values.

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No, a belief in God is a belief in an omnipotent being, i.e. a beleif that A may be non-A.

God is not defined as "the greatest concievable thing," God is--and must be, in order to be significant--the suggestion that an omnipotent, omnipresent being exists. Both are rejections of the law of identity, and so is "God."

I don't understand. How is the belief that the "the greatest concievable thing" is omnipotent, omniscient, and exists a rejection of the law of identity? Wouldn't "the greatest concievable thing" have to be omnipotent, omniscient, and exists in order to be the greatest, since a being that is not all powerful, does not know all, and does not exist be a denial of the law of identity? Doesn't deifying humanity as an end in themselves deny the law of identity?

Please explain.

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Wouldn't "the greatest concievable thing" have to be omnipotent, omniscient, and exists in order to be the greatest, since a being that is not all powerful, does not know all, and does not exist be a denial of the law of identity?

Firstly, if you try to imagine an omnipotent, (or) omnipresent, (or) omniscient being, you will find that such is not concievable. Such would be like imagine, as was pointed out in another thread, a circle-square.

And NO. There can exist nothing which is omnipotent, because such a quality would allow that being to be (or force something else to be) both a circle AND a square, to be A AND non-A.

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I never argue reasons for or against the existence of God anymore because I have found the arguments don't matter. I have dialogued with hundreds of theists and it is never the case that someone is a former atheist who was convinced by an argument for God's existence. Arguments for God are always after-the-fact justifications for a position somebody is holding for other reasons. What other reasons? Ask him.

Ask a theist why believing in God means something to him and is important and what he would lose if God didn't exist. Then you will find the real reason he believes.

Here are some common ones:

Security. Until a person is an adult able to provide for his own needs, it is comforting to imagine someone is watching out for him and will take care of him.

Fear of social conflict. Everybody he knows believes in God.

Indifference. Ask many Americans if they believe in God and they'll say "Yeah, why not?" but religion plays no part in their lives at all. They're not really theists. I call them "apatheists."

Happy associations. He loves singing in the choir, church picnics, and Christmas and Easter celebrations with friends and family. That's good stuff he doesn't want to give up and God is part of it.

Loyalty to values. He wants people to be honest and to treat each other decently and properly and he feels threated by the "anything goes" subjectivism of modern intellectuals. The only institution he knows of that defends moral values is religion and the only enforcer of moral values he knows of is God.

Etc.

===

I find that when I address and deal with the real reason someone believes in God, I often add yet another "convert" to my side.

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I don't understand. How is the belief that the "the greatest concievable thing" is omnipotent, omniscient, and exists a rejection of the law of identity? Wouldn't "the greatest concievable thing" have to be omnipotent, omniscient, and exists in order to be the greatest, since a being that is not all powerful, does not know all, and does not exist be a denial of the law of identity? Doesn't deifying humanity as an end in themselves deny the law of identity?

Please explain.

You can never establish the factual existence of something by this sort of rationalistic argument. It operates on the primacy of consciousness premise. It amounts to saying, "X exists because I can conceive of it," which is never valid, no matter what kind of other twists of logic you throw in. The fact that you can conceive of something proves nothing. Proof properly consists of reduction to the perceptual level. To accomplish what this argument purports to, namely prove the existence of God, you would actually have to reduce the concept of God down to its basic perceptual evidence. Which obviously can't be done, else everybody would know that God exists and believers wouldn't have to use these kinds of rationalizations to make themselves feel better.

Betsy is right though, there is no point in arguing this with someone who accepts that kind of argument.

By the way Betsy, I like the term "apatheists." Cute!

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It seems your categories are consistent with most of the mind sets of the individuals involved in religion, however, besides the last one, I can't see a viable place to put most priests. While I'm relatively sure that they feel their institution is one which increases values which are good and that may serve as a good enough reason for them to believe, aren't there those people who honestly come to the conclusion that, outside of values, there is a reason to believe in an "immovable mover" like it or not?

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