3.5.1, Value

In our next stage of apriori analysis of action I want to handle value. Ends are chosen because they have value. Means are chosen because they have value for achieving ends. If there is action, if there is self-directed movement toward goals with means (resources), toward the satisfaction of demand with supply, there is value. Maybe most important to deal with is the subjectivity of value for the analysis of action.

The big question in life is, in some sense, the attaining of THE good. It is everything. But, if we want to understand action, if we want to understand what it presupposes, what it included necessarily, we have to understand that which is present in action and not what we wish, or hope, or desire is present in action. Any particular action is always performed by a self-director. The value that is a part of the action is the value relative to the self-director. The value is, in this sense, subjective. It is the value to the subject.

Value comes in better or worse, more or less, and amounts to hierarchy, ranking, and order. Without value choice would not be possible, without choice no action. We do not assert, though, anything as precise as cardinal ranking in this notion. At least value is ordinal. Ends are rank-able. Means are rank-able. What we will be approaching soon–cost, profit and loss, are all full of value weighing.

The importance of the ordinal/cardinal distinction is that when I say that a portion of an afternoon is worth weeding and planting garlic as opposed to working a third or fourth job I cannot say precisely what the distance is between those to ends. I cannot say that one has this number of value units and the other that number of value units in any kind of unitary unit sense. What I can do is say that both have value. But I may prefer one over the other. And that preference has much to do with a thousand other things happening in my life now which is the product of millions of other prior choices I have made and conditions I have and still find myself in.

Some of what is valued by the individual is rather common and widespread. But the nuances of my valuing this or that at what level and for how long in comparison to what else might be considered make it such that any attempt at third party analysis is only possible by watching my action. To know before action what any individual values in particular is a pipe dream.

Why does he who pursues aggression or self-destruction act the way he does? The answer is value. Even with self-destruction. I may think the behavior unworthy. I have even been able to justify in argument that such and such is unworthy. I may even be able to say, “No one in his right mind would go in for that.” But this is a mistake understood subjectively even if true objectively.

The truth is that value is subjective as it is understood in action analysis. The only way to understand action is to presuppose that he who goes in for this in that way is to understand him as valuing this or that more than anything else. No over-simplification is to be allowed. It pays to think about what his options are, what his horizon looks like, and why from his perspective such and such was chosen, but fundamentally EITHER he did not act OR he valued that as good over anything else he could have done.

One of the most tragic parts of life is that much of our values are given as a gift (or a disease) by those who rear us. We are influenced well before we are voluntary choosers not so much by the pointing and talking that those who rear us especially do but by the way they act. Talk is cheap. Explicit pointing is cheap. But for the early and most formative time of our lives we watch those who rear us act. What we witness is the instantiation of a set of values. We see it in the action much more than we hear it in words or explicit pointing.

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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