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Linz's Mario Book—Updated!
It is morally defensible to establish a nation-state built around maintaining a specific and exclusive ethnic population
Total votes: 11
The Case against Hume [Excerpted by Linz from 'Distinctly Unscientific Beliefs' Thread]
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Wed, 2007-11-28 07:58
With all due respect to Hume, values are not a species of mythological beast, arbitrary, whimsical or some kind of religious invention. They are a fact about life itself.
"Good" is a teleological concept. It implies an answer to the questions: "Good to whom and for what?"
Teleology is a phenomenon of biology: since only a living being acts in order to survive, only to such a being can something be "good for" it or "bad for" it. As all of our observations show, life is value-pursuit and only living things pursue values. A plant will act to reach the sunlight, but, if it cannot, it will die. For it, sunlight is good -- failing to reach it is bad. Life is the ultimate end of all of its value-pursuing, the only standard by which we can evaluate what is "good" or "bad" for the plant.
It might be helpful to add something that was only before implicit. Rand believed that most ethical thinking started "in the middle." She believed that the question "What are the values that we should pursue?" could not be answered without first answering the questions, "What are values -- and why do we need values at all?"
Early on, I had written:
"If a value is the object of my action -- something I act to obtain or keep -- then they are very real, indeed. Every living organism I have ever observed pursues certain ends. Survival requires this. Even you [Richard Goode] have goals, I suspect.
"For human beings, who can and must choose the values they pursue, the only question is: are the values I am pursuing actually going to achieve my survival, health and prosperity. Humans, unfortunately, can act, and have acted, self-destructively.
"At the physical level, something is either nutritious for me to eat or it is not. It may even be poison. My nature dictates the range of healthy values open to me. IF I want to live, I must eat within this range of items. Period.
"Thus it is for all values.
"The 'good' is an aspect of reality in relation to human survival and well-being.
"My well-being cannot be achieved arbitrarily. As a human being, I must discover those principles, not just of proper nutrition, but of proper living in general.
"A wildfire in my neighborhood is bad thing by this standard. Running from one, if it got too close, would be a good thing by this standard. Such an evaluation is a purely factual one. IF I want to live, condition X is bad, action Y is good.
"The fact that I am alive and that my life has certain (very empirical) conditions attached to its continuation and prosperity is what makes this relationship a perfectly objective one.
"For example, I have already alluded to the virtue of rationality. As a human being, this is my most basic tool of survival. As such, let me suggest, its exercise is my most basic virtue.
"This relationship to reality exists for all objective virtues. There is only price that can buy the values of credibility and trust -- in reality -- and that is honesty. So, too, a life of initiating violence is dangerous and self-defeating and unproductive. Etc.
"That Hitler was evil is not subjective at all. It is as OBJECTIVE as math."
You questioned whether even cabbages pursued values. I answered:
"Not consciously, of course, Richard, but all living organisms pursue their values. Plants pursue sunlight through phototropism, absorb the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, etc. They do act in order to survive. Even a modest single-cell organism is a complex machine of value-pursuit, with an entire architecture for survival, thriving, and reproduction. In mobile animals, this pursuit has the added help of consciousness (indeed, that's the function of consciousness). In humans, this value-pursuit becomes self-conscious, a deliberate purpose. That is why only humans, who consciously select the values they pursue, have or need a science of ethics.
"Life can be defined as just that: the process of self-generated, self-sustaining activity."
I also wrote:
"Value-pursuit is simply a fact about living organisms. It makes life possible. The relationship of my subjective values to my actual survival is an objective one. Since this is ~ why ~ living organisms pursue values in the first place, this is what makes them objective or not. If one were to pursue the subjective values of, say, Nazism, this relationship between fact and value would be otherwise."
It is a matter of fact that Nazism (or poison) is bad for my survival and, indeed, for all human life. It is a matter of fact (see below) that freedom is good for my survival and, indeed, for all human life.
My objective values are the necessary (and very real and empirically determined) requirements and conditions of my life.
Thus, under any given set of circumstances, and assuming it has a choice of actions, what a living being is determines what it ought to do.
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