Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

In Defense of Superiority

Posted by Jerry on March 12, 2007

In a world where mediocrity is not only permitted but also defended on the grounds that this is the nature of life and reality, wherein the “common man” is the level of existence that all men must aspire to reach, where “warts and all” is considered the distinguishing trait of human existence, a voice that unflinchingly fights for and reveres human heroism, the human practical ideal, is sorely missing.

 

Notice, much of modern jabber is in apologetic terms; almost as if everyone wants to apologize to everyone else for whatever it is that they are, do, or say. And when one does state terms in black and white, unapologetically, and with conviction, they are derided as insensitive, rude, antisocial, naïve, or idealistic.

 

Notice, it is considered praiseworthy by society to defend the weak, the retarded, the disabled, and the poor: in other words, it is considered noble to dedicate your life as a social worker to “human flaws, lacks, failures, miseries, vices, and evils, to the morally, spiritually, intellectually or psychologically inferior–to those who lack value, with the lack of value as the claim and the incentive.”

 

Notice, here, that an act is made a virtue only if it is done in service to vice, an evil, a failure, a flaw, a lack, a zero. It is virtuous to help the retarded, the alcoholic, the drugged-out pothead, or the poor; whereas, society is indifferent to an act of kindness towards what a man actually values. There is indifference towards an act of kindness for a friend, or appreciation for a loved one, or praise for an achievement at work, or generosity toward a deserving man. These acts are not considered virtuous at best, indeed, a vice at worst: for what value is in it to love your friends. Love your enemies more.

 

Thus, the standard of evil is the self and the standard of the good is others. That which is of value to oneself is selfish and therefore must be avoided.

 

If a person were indeed “motivated by a love of values and a desire to relieve human suffering, she would not begin in the slums and with the subnormal: she would look at what our present society does to the talented, the unusual, the mentally superior children, in schools, in colleges, and in their subsequent careers; she would go out to fight for them and to help them, before they perish psychologically in loneliness and bewilderment.”

 

A social worker like Mother Teresa, whose entire adult life was dedicated to the weak, the flawed, the diseased, the disabled–has contributed nothing from a long-term perspective to the preservation of values and human life. Beyond the momentary range of her efforts (for which she heavily depended on wealth-producers), no lasting benefit has been derived for the advancement of humanity.

 

Society does not climb out of the jungle of primitivism and tribalism by the efforts of people like Mother Teresa. Humans do not achieve civilization by dedicating their lives to a valueless ZERO. So long as one advocates charity as a primary act of virtue among men, one promotes parasitism and poverty. Just as a trader needs another person to trade with, a giver needs and sustains someone to take what is given.

 

Human beings stepped out of the cruel existence of the jungle on the shoulders of men of superior intelligence who chose to think. “There is only one great debt that men owe others–and it’s not a material one. The only real benefit we receive from others is the benefit of the accumulated thinking of the men who preceded us, or of our own contemporaries who have superior intelligence. It’s the thinking, the ingenuity of the exceptional men who discovered and showed me better ways of doing things, which I would not have discovered myself.”

 

“The lesser man gives the genius only a material product; the genius gives him a material product–plus the knowledge of a discovery that adds to his, the lesser man’s, effort.”

 

“No man produces any extra material value for another man–except the man of superior intelligence and to the degree of that intelligence. Most men just carry their own weight. Some do not even do that. And some give an inestimable extra benefit–free–to all mankind: the thinkers, the new discoverers.”

 

These are the ones who invented the wheel, discovered fire, learned how to cultivate land, make weapons, build roads, erect homes, construct skyscrapers, travel at the speed of sound, study the universe, and create a unparalleled standard of living for generations past and those to come, here on Earth.

 

Rand’s life and work was to boldly champion and revere such men, and the greatness possible to man. She believed in human perfection, heroism, and the achievement of the practical ideal. Indeed, there should be no doubt that she herself stood as the best evidence of and a testament to the fact that such greatness was possible to man.

 

“In 1934, [Rand] wrote a letter to thank an actor she did not know, whose performance onstage ‘gave me, for a few hours, a spark of what man could be, but isn’t… The word heroic does not quite express what I mean. You see, I am an atheist and I have only one religion: the sublime in human nature. There is nothing to approach the sanctity of the highest type of man possible and there is nothing that gives me the same reverent feeling, the feeling when one’s spirit wants to kneel, bareheaded. Do not call it hero worship, because it is more than that. It is a kind of strange and improbable white heat where admiration becomes religion, and religion becomes philosophy, and philosophy–the whole of one’s life.”

 

*Note: All quoted text has been taken from “Letters of Ayn Rand.”

24 Responses to “In Defense of Superiority”

  1. […] In Defense of Superiority […]

  2. Oh Well said

    Hmm. Eloquently argued. But are you absolutely sure that none of the children Mother Teresa rescued/saved/provided opportunities for education went on to achieve anything meaningful? I don’t know, but are you sure that her charity didn’t provide somebody a platform to achieve better things than dying on the street?

    And what really is mediocrity? Einstein’s physics papers were considered mediocre at some point in time, one recalls. Isn’t mediocrity a subjective judgment too?

  3. Ergo said

    Oh well, when do I something for selfish reasons and it happens to have direct benefits for others around me, have I thereby acted altruistically? No. The benefit to others was not my primary intended purpose and was perhaps accidental. The same logic applies to Teresa’s actions; her primary intended purpose was altruistic service to the weak, the disabled, the wretched, the sick, the ill, the lepers, etc.; not in service to fostering the intelligent, the gifted, the promising, the man of potential. Insofar as any of the latter were given any care, it was an unintended consequence of her actions.

    What really is mediocrity? I reject your inclination to perceive it as subjective. That others at any certain given time might not recognize genius or might regard something as mediocre does not change the objective nature/fact of the matter. Were that to be the case, I’d like to regard myself today as the greatest genius alive, and you, as a rather mediocre person. Can we hold these judgments credibly? By what standard of credibility? If there can be no standards, then there can be no judgments, no moral evaluations, no morality, no ethics, no justification for laws, punishment, or reward. I’d urge you to re-think your premises.

  4. Oh, and I do like this post as well.

  5. Justin said

    Wow! Implicit in your arguments is the idea that there is an absolute set of values (mainly of talent and intelligence). You evidence this idea by suggesting that without a single set of standards that we are unable to evaluate situations or justify our actions. This is nonsense. You fail to distinguish between the diversity of human experiences. There is a marked difference between the world you can measure consistently with a ruler and the world that is only open to our feelings. Surely when you want to judge the length of an object you can be reasonably satisfied that your conclusion is justified. But how do you justify feeling that the length of the object is meaningless? Are those feelings not relative to what you wish to achieve as an individual?

    Just because you can measure intelligence, it doesn’t follow that each individual wishes to expand their own intelligence or is concerned about the intelligence of the world at large. It is this diversity of human concerns that demonstrates the diversity of human values. It is the debate over things like law and punishment, how we use our resources, and the importance of education that demonstrates that humans have a diversity of values and subsequently different ways of judging a shared reality.

    By trying to establish that your own values are more valuable than those of others, you have only convinced me that you are as ordinary as any other person.

  6. evanescent said

    Justin, I think you seriously missed the point of the article. This shows in that I can’t pick out enough of your comment and tie it to the original article in order to debunk it. I think you’re attacking a strawman.

  7. Justin said

    Evanescent, I found your comment very interesting.

    You interpreted your inability to tie my previous comment to the original post as a misunderstanding on my part. In a way I do take responsibility for your lack of ability. I critiqued the original post at the epistemological level. That is, I questioned the philosophical assumptions in the original post about what it is that we can know. I appreciate that arguments at that level are meaningless to a lot of people. I made the mistake of assuming that most people who read this blog would be able to appreciate the points I was making. I apologise for my mistake.

    I was also interested in the language you use. You called the original post an “article” and you described my comment as “attacking a strawman”. Your choice of words gives too much credit to the original post. They suggest that the original post formed the beginning of an academic debate. Your words suggest to me that you see the original post as being superior to everyday blog posts. What you are doing with these words is socially clever, but shows an academic poverty. To paraphrase Mark Twain, you can call the original post an article but it is a sarcasm nonetheless. Let me be more explicit.

    The Bell Curve (Hernstein and Murray, 1994) used science to establish the same arguments made in the original post. To that extent, The Bell Curve is more convincing because it was written by academics who actually cited real research. I’m not trying to say that the original post is less academic than The Bell Curve. I’m trying to say that the original post is not at all academic. The Bell Curve is the only piece of academic work that comes close to supporting the arguments made in the original post. The problem is that The Bell Curve bases all of its arguments on a flawed assumption. They infer causality from correlation coefficients. This is something that you would not expect from a research assistant, let alone a Harvard professor. The authors got around this problem by not submitting their work for peer-review. The problem then is that the original post is less academic than a piece of work that is thoroughly flawed.

  8. evanescent said

    Blah blah blah. Your self-indulgent mental masturbation aside, Justin, do you actually have anything to say about the ARTICLE?

    Specifically, I’d like to see you justify this statement: “I questioned the philosophical assumptions in the original post about what it is that we can know.”

    Really? What “assumptions” in the article do you think are unreasonable? What is it exactly that you think we cannot know? I can sense some concept-stealing in the offing…

  9. Justin said

    Evanescent, two points.

    Firstly, you don’t justify any of your arguments. Not that “Blah blah blah” or “mental masturbation” are arguments. They are simply dismissive. I often find that people become dismissive when they have nothing constructive to say.

    Secondly, have you actually read my first comment? You suggest that I have not questioned the philosophical assumptions in the original post. Yet, I questioned the assumption that we are able to know an inherent value like intelligence. I observed that that there cannot be an inherent value.

    I don’t accept the validity of your arguments. Perhaps if you offered evidence I could take you seriously.

  10. Ergo said

    Justin,

    If you can’t think independently beyond what your college professors feed you in each year of your studies, then that’s your handicap. But don’t pass your disability as virtue and insist that I do the same. This article was neither intended as an academic article nor appears even remotely as one. Therefore, pointing this out in some detail is like belaboring a very self-evident and obvious point.

    With regard to your utterly irrelevant comments, nowhere in my article do I discuss the issue of intelligence. Indeed, I place relatively little importance on intelligence qua intelligence. It is useless, and sometimes even destructive: just look at shining examples of intelligent minds preoccupied in rather usless endeavors (chess grandmasters, for example) or downright evil agendas (Peter Singer, for example).

    Try reading the above obviously non-academic article one more time; and this time, exercise your mind critically rather than relying on the fresh results of an empirical study that negated some previous results all of which you mugged up in class. And then, even if you have something worthwhile and *relevant* to comment, re-think your decision to post it.

  11. Justin said

    Ergo

    I am glad that you do not consider your blog as academic. Especially since you use the concept of intelligence (indeed the very word) within your original post and yet consider yourself to have mentioned it ‘nowhere’.

    I base my opinions on a critical reflection of science. This is probably because it is my field of work. Opinions that are based on introspective thought alone are no more use to me than common-sense. Anyone can give me those sorts of opinions and they hold no value in terms of informing my own opinions. If you place yourself within a field of pundits then you are just another voice making noise.

    As for your suggestion that ‘even if you have something worthwhile and *relevant* to comment, re-think your decision to post it’, I think that that one sentence says more about you than anything else. Talking on a topic and expecting silence from your critics suggests that you value your own perceived superiority far more than democracy, freedom of expression, or truth.

    Perhaps you could type a post titled ‘In Defense of my blog’. It seems more meaningful.

  12. evanescent said

    Another whole load of words from Justin, but again, nothing relevant to the discussion. Is this Justin debating the philosophical and intellectual merits of Ergo’s article, or a chance for Justin to talk for the sake of talking whilst saying nothing of note? Decide for yourself.

  13. Ergo said

    Obviously, Justin, your reading skills are lacking much like your critical thinking skills, and you are bent on displaying them to all of us.

    I wonder if you realize that “nowhere in my article do I discuss the issue of intelligence” has very different meanings from “you use the concept of intelligence (indeed the very word) within your original post and yet consider yourself to have mentioned it ‘nowhere’.

    This post is *not* about intelligence qua intelligence. To think I was *discussing* intelligence merely because I mention that word in my post is like arguing that I was also discussing skyscrapers because I used that word in my post. Both those concepts are instrumental to the larger point I make, something that totally went above your head.

  14. Justin said

    Ergo

    Nobody can argue with definitional retreat.

    If you reread the original post which was on superiority, you will see that you only ever use the word superior in conjunction with the words mental or intelligence. If I was wrong to believe that you value intelligence then it is only because you failed to clarify your position.

    The force of the argument that I made in comment 5 applies to the whole of your original post and to comment 3. That is, it is not possible to know an inherent value. Despite many responses I am still waiting for a comment that addresses that issue.

  15. Ergo said

    Yes, you are wrong to believe that I value intelligence, and if this wasn’t clear from my post, it should certainly have been clear from my comment, which I shall repeat for you:

    “I place relatively little importance on intelligence qua intelligence. It is useless, and sometimes even destructive: just look at shining examples of intelligent minds preoccupied in rather usless endeavors (chess grandmasters, for example) or downright evil agendas (Peter Singer, for example).”

    Now, notice the italics that convey emphasis in the following excerpt from my post:

    “Human beings stepped out of the cruel existence of the jungle on the shoulders of men of superior intelligence who chose to think.”

    To be very explicit, the theme of the above post is to condemn the worship of weakness (of any kind–mental, intellectual, or physical) as a virtue, like that done by the likes of social workers and Mother Teresa. My post argues that mankind has derived inesteemable benefit from men of superior *ability* (of all kind–mental, intellectual, and physical), and yet these men of ability are not the ones receiving our gratitude and appreciation. Instead, we bind these men up in a web of arbitrary laws that restrict their movement, their ability to produce, to trade and do business, their ability to think and write and speak what they please, and so on. We impose minimum wage laws on the men of mediocre skills and abilities, yet we challenge and condemn CEOs for their great wealth and profits. We look upon Mother Teresa, who worshipped at the altar of sacrifice and ZERO, as the epitome of a virtuous human being, but look at industrialists as cheap materialists who deserve our scorn.

    My post, therefore, was to condemn this behavior and champion superiority–in all forms among men.

    I hope this is now clear enough to you.

  16. Justin said

    Ergo

    You have made your position much clearer.

    However, you still haven’t persuaded me that your value of “superiority-in all forms” is inherently valuable. Firstly, “in all forms” suggests that a person who is much better than others at belching, stealing, or dancing in the middle of a busy road qualifies to be valued. Surely that sort of person would be valued by some but not by all. I would be more convinced if you were more discriminating in terms of the characteristics of a ‘superior’ person. I am aware that you specifically mention ‘ability’, but I think you need to be much more explicit about the types of ability (rather than “of all kind”).

    Secondly, I am concerned that this will be a wild goose chase. The broad categories of people that can be identified as ‘superior’ (e.g. CEOs) will be based on your values alone. To convince me otherwise, you would have to demonstrate that at least most of these types of people have at least one shared feature that qualifies them to be considered collectively. You would also need to demonstrate that this shared feature has some inherent value. However, everything is of value only to the extent that it ‘adds’ something which we want. Consider that even air only has value when it is wanted. A person who is trying to suffocate does not value air. Given that that is the nature of our values I think that you would succeed if you could demonstrate that these ‘superior abilities’ are always wanted by everybody.

    I genuinely want you to succeed. I could use the same principles that you establish to spread my own values. I’m only critical of your arguments because I want to see them grow stronger.

  17. evanescent said

    Justin, nothing is inherently valuable, if by that you mean intrinsically, which I assume you don’t given your latter comments.

    It is clear from Ergo’s post and the comments that he is referring to superiority in all forms, that is, that which objectively benefits the life of a rational being. This is only accomplished by reason and its result is productivity. Therefore, stealing or dancing in the middle of a road is not superior in any way. It is never is one’s self-interest to steal, nor is it ever in one’s self-interest to dance in the middle of the road, not if life is your ultimate value (there can be no other, save death, in which cases values don’t apply).

    The values that are objectively good are: reason, self-esteem, purpose. They are cardinal values to all people, and to each person. They are not values because of anybody’s subjective opinion or any “greater good”. They are values because of man’s nature and his relationship to reality.

    A perfect example of these values in practice can be seen with big business. Yet Ergo makes the point that we cripple the productive, the intelligent, the creative, the efficacious, but reward the non-productive, the non-intelligent, the uncreative, and the lazy. Society regards big businesses as greedy hoarders yet social workers or Mother Theresa as paragons of virtue. Virtue is the means by which one acheives a value. And if one’s values are reason, self-esteem, and purpose, a corollary of which is production, to reward the opposite of this is positively non-virtuous, in fact, it is immoral.

    You are correct that value only applies to a valuer. But values are not intrinsic in existence, nor are they subjective whims. They are objective because they arise because of a lifeform’s fundamental metaphysical nature. In man’s case: as a rational being.

  18. Justin said

    Evanescent

    The points you make are very seductive. I like the idea of objective values. I also like the idea that reason is valuable because of its result, productivity.

    However, I think that we measure the value of productivity in terms of how it benefits us as individuals. Subsequently we measure the value of the reasoning behind the productivity in the same terms. Otherwise we would champion the productivity of our enemies as they manufacture weapons. We would also champion the great mind of the person who makes their factory more efficient enabling our enemies to kill more people. Surely we only value reason that is of utility to ourselves.

    I appreciate that you take this argument further by stating that reason is of value to people in more general terms. That is, in our relationship with reality. I would definitely agree that in our daily living we derive benefit from our own reason and some benefit from the reason of others. However, we are not discussing every individuals ability to derive benefit from their own reason. We are trying to establish that some people are superior because of their reason. This necessitates an external measure. Otherwise I would value a person with advanced reasoning skills who is using those skills to my detriment. I certainly don’t value their reason at those moments in time. In fact, I only value reason when it is of benefit to me. Consequently I see the value of reason as being relative to the way it is used and the context in which it is used. That is, I do not see that reason is of benefit per se.

    You’ve introduced me to some interesting new ideas. If you could establish that reason is valuable even on those occasions when the individual perceives its consequences to be detrimental you will succeed in convincing me.

  19. Ergo said

    Justin,

    It’s a strange demand you make that to convince you about the value of reason, one must first show you how using reason can of value to you even when its consequences are destructive to you.

    I wonder if you see the contradiction there. A value to you presumes that you desire to have it, gain it, keep it on the basis of an objective standard of value. If your reason were to lead to something destructive to you, then–by definition–reason cannot be of value to you. Or, to put it in another way, being rational is never destructive to you.

    Further, you are confusing the use of your reasoning abilities with the practice of rationality; the two are not the same. I think you are using the former concept in the sense of “intelligent calculation” or just plain “smart.”

    One can use one’s superior reasoning skills and still be dangerously irrational (like Peter Singer, for example; or any theist intellectual). Reason is man’s basic tool of survival. But *how* to use this tool of cognition is up to you. Thus, you could use it to pursue irrational ends on the basis of irrational value-standards of sacrifice, altruism, hedonism, faith, mysticism, subjectivism, etc. Or you can use your reason in accordance with the laws of logic and in consonance with the nature of reality. This latter refers to the practice and cultivation of rationality. Rationality–using reason in this particular manner–is more than just “smarts” or “intelligent calculation” or sophistry. Here reason is meant as a practical tool of survival.

    Thus, there can be absolutely *no* conflict between the interests of *rational* men (I’m not speaking of men who merely use their reason, but of men who use their reason in accordance to objectivity, i.e., reality and its epistemological imitation–logic.) Why can there be no conflict of interests between rational men? Because those who practice rationality are adhering to an epistemic policy of non-contradiction, which reality is also grounded upon.

  20. evanescent said

    We are trying to establish that some people are superior because of their reason. This necessitates an external measure.

    No it doesn’t. It necessitates on OBJECTIVE measure that is neither intrinsic (external) nor subjective. By the standards of the life of a rational being, reason is of highest value.

    Otherwise I would value a person with advanced reasoning skills who is using those skills to my detriment.

    It is never in the rational self interest of a human being to use their reason to your detriment, except in self-defence. In other words, it is not in their interest, or yours. So this example doesn’t work. I’ll explain this in detail below.

    In fact, I only value reason when it is of benefit to me

    On the contrary, properly practiced, you should value reason qua reason, because reason is of benefit to you whether it is practiced by you or not. Nobody else’s reason is a threat to you. This is because reason never leads to the use of force, except in self-defence.

    Consequently I see the value of reason as being relative to the way it is used and the context in which it is used. That is, I do not see that reason is of benefit per se.

    Reason is man’s primary means of survival qua man. Therefore, inasmuch as reason is of utmost value to a human being, and you are a human being, reason is always of value to you, all the time.

    If you could establish that reason is valuable even on those occasions when the individual perceives its consequences to be detrimental you will succeed in convincing me.

    It is impossible and also unnecessary for me to explain Ayn Rand’s philosophy in one comment, however I would point you in the direction of Objectivism for further research if you desire.

    To summarise my previous points: man is a rational being. Reason is one of man’s primary values, because without it survival qua man is impossible. As rational beings, human needs a code of values to guide our actions. This is what morality is for. Therefore, morality is based on rational egoism; what is of objective benefit to the life of a rational being (your life). It is never in the rational self-interest of a rational being to use force against others, except in self-defence against those who initiate the use of force. Therefore, your ability to reason never conflicts with anybody else’s. That is why Ayn Rand said that the rational interests of men never conflict. If there is a conflict, one of the premises must be wrong so check the scenario, in other words: one or more parties will not be acting rationally.

    Notice that “value” here and rational self-interest is not decided by a collective, or an individual whim, but objectively arises from reality.

  21. Justin said

    Evanescent

    Thank you for pointing me in the direction of Objectivism. It proposes an interesting perspective on reality. Reading around the subject certainly clarifies the arguments you have been making.

    Ergo

    I can now see that you are trying to show me an alternative form of reason. That is, not one based on our current scientific understanding of reason. Rather, reason as the ability to derive values from the facts of reality. I can see how this form of reason would remove conflict. If there is conflict then somebody has not observed the facts of reality.

    I have a couple of problems with this position. Firstly, the facts of reality do not relate to axiomatic assumptions. That is, a great deal of what we ‘know’ about reality is not factual but rather axiomatic. For example, our geometric principles are axiomatic in that they are useful but not independently observable. This problem might not extend to the ‘facts of reality’ relating to the objective reason that you subscribe to. However, this is only because objective reason is defined in terms of facts of reality which are observable to the reasoning mind. This logic is circular.

    Secondly, I’m not sure why I should derive my values from the facts of reality. That is, just because something is objectively real it doesn’t follow that it has objective value. Just because something objectively furthers my life it doesn’t follow that it is a good thing. For example, many people who are close to death will betray innocent people for their own survival. While such behaviour is understandable in that it objectively furthers the life of the individual, such behaviour can objectively end in the death of others. I don’t see the sacrifice of the many for the benefit of the individual as objectively valuable.

  22. evanescent said

    Justin, Ergo will probably explain better than I can, but I’ll field a couple of your questions.

    Firstly, the facts of reality do not relate to axiomatic assumptions.

    The facts of reality relate to existents; the nature of existence is identity; A = A. Any existent is itself and nothing else. Humans can perceive reality directly, that is an axiom.

    our geometric principles are axiomatic in that they are useful but not independently observable.

    What do you mean “independently observable”? Independent of what? Of perception itself??

    I’m not sure why I should derive my values from the facts of reality.

    What else would you derive them from and still consider them objective?

    That is, just because something is objectively real it doesn’t follow that it has objective value.

    True, value only exists in relationship to a lifeform capable of valuing it. Your equivocating between “real” and “value”.

    Just because something objectively furthers my life it doesn’t follow that it is a good thing.

    You seem to be divorcing the word “good” from value – which makes no sense. There is no “good” or “bad” except in relation to a living being, in terms of what is of objective value to that being or not.

    For example, many people who are close to death will betray innocent people for their own survival. While such behaviour is understandable in that it objectively furthers the life of the individual, such behaviour can objectively end in the death of others.

    A rational person neither seeks the unearned, nor seeks to live at the expense of others. A rational person does not regard other peoples’ lives as his property to use or dispose of, not even to “further” his own life in the short term. Whatever that parasitic immoral being is, it isn’t a rational man.

    I don’t see the sacrifice of the many for the benefit of the individual as objectively valuable.

    No one has suggested such a thing. No man should be sacrificed for others, nor should others be sacrificed to him.

  23. Justin said

    Evanescent

    You are very thorough! I’ve enjoyed discussing this with you. However, I don’t feel any closer to resolving our differences of opinion. I will post this as my final comment, but I will come back to read any reply you might post.

    I agree that A=A is an axiom. However, I was trying to distinguish between two types of knowledge. That which exists independently (such as the sun) and that which is useful assumption (such as geometric principles). Comparing euclidean with non-euclidean geometry demonstrates that even the sum of the degrees of the angles of a triangle does not have to be universally consistent to be useful. Skyscrapers and space exploration are testament to that.

    When I tried to distinguish between objective reality and objective value I was not trying to suggest that objective reality must be objectively valuable independently of a life form that is capable of valuing. You are right to dismiss such an idea. No, I was stating that I myself do not observe objective value in objective reality. This is true on two levels.

    Firstly, I am able to value that which is not objectively real, such as the extremely useful axioms of geometry which have been employed in ways that enable me to live in a home and travel abroad.

    Secondly, I am able to observe objective reality and not objectively value it. I think the fundamental objective reality is my own life. I am able to see that my life is real but also absurd. By absurd I mean that my life is meaningless. I will die, others will eventually forget me, and everything that I have contributed will lose its impact. In order to live in the face of the pointlessness of life I have to create meaning. The absurdity is that I will never overcome the meaninglessness. The real hero from my perspective is the person who knows they will fail but tries anyway. So it is possible to perceive the reality of my existence, but also acknowledge that it has no objective value. I must create meaning to try to give my life value.

    I don’t think you have answered the dilemma I set before you. If an individual is forced to choose between their own life and the life of many others, who should die? I appreciate that nobody should be forced to make this decision and that the sacrificing of any life is repugnant. However, this dilemma has and does face many people. They must make a decision, it is their decision to make, and somebody will die as a consequence. If the philosophy you espouse can only answer that every life has objective value and therefore we should not choose between lives, the only satisfactory answer is that everybody deserves the same outcome. Everybody should die. Please tell me that if you were forced to choose between your own life and the lives of many innocent people you would react differently.

    I look forward to your reply.

  24. evanescent said

    If an individual is forced to choose between their own life and the life of many others, who should die?

    You will have to be far more specific than that! The life of whom? Criminals? Enemies? Lovers? Friends? In what circumstances?

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