Sunday, January 02, 2005

Values

In order to determine a normative account of human existence, we have to pinpoint the substantive elements of human nature. There is a link, though, that must be delineated before we can arrive at a cogent system of ethics. This link is our values; our values serve as that which we wish to attain and maintain, and thus leads us to the method by how we should do that. What, then, are we to value?

As I've posited before, the existence of the self is the first and only assumption we might be able to hold. Keeping in mind that one must use what they know in order to discover what it is that they do not know, and remembering that we know simply one thing, that question of value becomes simple. We should value first and foremost the one thing we know, our self.

This egocentric view of the universe has been shunned in society for ages, but the idea behind it is starkly apparent in day to day life. Our very genetic nature, our animal instincts themselves push us towards self preservation, and while some might try to convince you that laying down your life for another is the greatest good, most rational beings would agree that one should preserve one's own life, even if only to help others more.

By observing the causal chains around us, we are able to extrapolate a hierarchy of values and virtues, that is, the ways in which we achieve our values. For instance, because I can observe that those who eat too much get fat and have health problems, and because being healthy of body is necessary to sustain the existence of the self, I can recognize that overeating is counterproductive to the goal of sustaining my one value, my existence, and say that moderation in eating is a virtue. On a larger scale, because I realize that in a society where I am allowed to murder someone indiscriminately that I am subject to the same random violence, I recognize that peacability is a virtue, a way in which to pursue and assure my own existence.

When we say that our self is our highest value, our system of ethics becomes clear, as will be explained in future posts. If simplicity is important to scientific and philosophical constructs, then acknowledging only one idea as our prime value seems to fit the bill perfectly.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two questions:

1. Does this value system result in "live your life as well as possible"? If so, isn't that just consequentialism?

2. Essentially, you said: (a) The self is. (b) The self ought to further the self. How did you bridge the is-ought gap?

9:05 PM  
Blogger RCowan said...

To answer your questions:
1. Yes, and pretty much. I wouldn't call it consequentialism simply because the label is too broad. More specifically, it is egoism.

2. There is a step that I probably didn't make as clear as I should have, and that is this additional supposition: That which is is good. Or at least that which is is better than that which is not.

A different way of looking at it is to turn the assumption into this: That which is known is better than that which is not known. Both of these assumptions stem from the same idea, the idea that since the existance of the self is all we have to go on, we put that assumption as the centerpiece of the philosophy. I more or less deliniate this is the second paragraph of this post, or at least I tried.

2:23 AM  

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