Saturday, January 28, 2017

Human Value

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
― Aristotle

What is our value as individuals?

Apart from our inherent will to survive, we continuously make a value assessment of ourselves and from that assessment we choose to be happy in degrees. We experience pleasure and pain objectively without lasting effect unless we choose to process that information into our self-image. Some choose to grow stronger by a particular pain and take pride in that experience while others determine that it is a form of semi-deserved oppression—the loathing of our peers for ourselves due to some fault not in our stars. This was Frankl's central point when he wrote Man's Search for Meaning—we choose the perspective in which we live and may find meaning in any circumstance. Learning is a choice, hence our value is what we choose it to be.

This is all very well and good, but we also have a choice in how we direct our lives. We form governments and undertake monumental efforts based on a shared expectation of the value that we might derive from the undertaking. How should we direct our group efforts? Since individuals perceive the effect of human events differently, there will always be valid disagreement on this point. However, it is true that there is a will to "good" and also a will towards enhancing one's self-esteem that seems common to all. We want to think that we are good often by achieving good and we want to feel good. Furthermore, we tend to agree on what is good for ourselves and for others. The only disagreement here appears to come from lack of common perspective. Even a murderer does not want to destroy what he holds precious.

So our efforts toward good are beset by arguments over perspective. Often that discord emanimates from confusion within ourselves in the dichotomy of feeling and thinking towards the good. We should be able to lay this argument to rest if we so choose. All external disagreements will likely be situationally dependent so let's leave those for others to consider. The reigning principle there is that those most closely affected by the choice should be the ones to have the greatest concern placed in their perspective. The question we can settle here is how we ourselves can form a perspective of our own value in the face of external realities. Since each mind is different, we do not expect a common answer, but we should expect that rational individuals will take up the question in essentially the same way.

An observation is appropriate here. The capacity for human accomplishment is dependent on both external and internal factors. As such, all human accomplishment is ephemeral. However, since human accomplishment changes the circumstances for ourselves and others, it has an aggregative effect that can facilitate the good. And this also will be a matter of general disagreement due to the problem of individual perspective. However, in the whole there is an objective measure of goodness that can be used on all accomplishments since it is again possible for individuals to resolve their own internal confusions albeit with different answers. And the resolution of internal discord is nothing but good. Thus it is not the objective good of human accomplishment that is paramount, but the process of striving for the objective good.

We all, in our own places and given our own talents share the imperative to strive for what is objectively good. And from this we obtain our value.