The Structure of Value

Here are my notes from book "The Structure of Value" by Robert S. Hartman, man who send his life searching for an answer to the question of - What is good?

  • p3 Some students begin by forming an opinion ... and it is not till afterwards that they begin to read the texts. They run a great risk of not understanding them at all, or of understanding them wrongly. What happens is that a kind of tacit contest goes on between the text and the preconceived opinions of the reader; the mind refuses to grasp what is contrary to its idea, and the issue of the evidence of the text but that the text yields, bends, and accommodates itself to the preconceived opinion. --Fustel de Coulanges
  • p44 There is a jocular saying that the philosopher knows less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything, while the scientist knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.
  • p47 Our social and moral knowledge, thus, is in the alchemistic stage, and our social and moral life bears witness to it.
  • p50 Just as the medieval schoolmen preferred to look through their theological glasses rather than through Galileo's telescope, so today's positivists and naturalists prefer to look through the telescopes and microscopes of science rather than through the lenses of inner vision discovered by G.E.Moore.
  • p67 The middle Ages were not what the romantic imagination paints, but instead a rugged age much more insensitive than ours todays. Tortures, burnings, hangings were public spectacles, their thrill was like today's bullfights or prizefights. The ladies of high society went to the place of execution the night before and slept in their coaches in order not to miss the entertainment. However ghastly and shocking these tortures were to any normal person, what is far more shocking is the fact that so many people of fashion found pleasure and excitement in them.
  • p67 Today's moral reality is still philosophical; it is not fundamentally different from that of antiquity or the Middle Ages. We have the same fundamental values and disvalues, even through we practice them with greater refinement, including torture. The new moral science ought to revolutionize our moral understanding itself and hence our moral practice, in the same way that natural science has revolutionized our understanding of nature and out sensitivity to it. The precise knowledge of the axiological relations ought to make us more sensitive to moral reality. It ought to teach us more profoundly the art of living.
  • p69 Thus, the new science will add spirit to technology, value to energy, human sensitivity to the sensitivity of instruments. It will develop man as natural science has developed matter. The world of natural science will be succeeded by the world of moral science. The world of value will follow the course of the world of fact, to ever subtler refinement of moral sensitivity. For value must follow the structure of moral science as fact followed that of natural science. As the structure of each science is refined, so is its subject matter.
  • p70 What to an American appears as one thing, appears to an African as an entirely different thing. If an American and a North African were to draw the battleship Missouri - the experiment has been made - the American's drawing would look like a photograph and the African's like a dream, for the latter lacks a frame of reference to make it understandable to his intellect, even though his eyes see it - just as the schoolmen did no see what Galileo showed them. We see what we have a mind to see.
  • p80 Science, we have noted, uses concepts of generality with precision while philosophy uses concepts of generality without precision.
  • p92 We can see with our own eyes that the core of the material world is found in some formula - which are nothing but small black signs on white paper - of Newton, Einstein, and others, and that from these symbols arose the technological world of today and its nuclear power. The whole development began with Galileo, in whose mind the fundamental transformation of which we have spoken took place, and Aristotelian concepts became symbols. It is thus beyond doubt that the difference between philosophy and science is defined by the difference between abstractions from the commonsense world and constructions of ideal relations applicable to this world. It is equally beyond doubt that the world will not be morally efficient unless the same transition takes place in moral philosophy.
  • p96 Ethics in all its forms comes down to the question, what is the principle of the "Good." ... Positive morals cannot be appealed to, for each answers the question materially in a different manner. One sees happiness, another satisfaction, a third justice, a fourth love as the Good. ... Philosophy has early recognized the complete onesidedness of positive morality and consequently searched for the Principle of the Good as something more general, superordinated to these fragmentary insights. It was looked for as the genus to the manifold of the species. The Platonic "Idea of the Good" was the most radical such attempt. But what is the content of such an "Idea of the Good"? It has been looked for in vain. Neither Plato nor any later philosopher has been able to determine it. --Nicolai Hartmann
  • p100 It would then be nonsense to speak, for example, of economic value; for the genus would be like speaking of green flying saucers.
  • p103 The value predicate "good", thus is a property of concepts rather than of objects. When a person understands that a thing "is good," is is not necessary that he knows anything of the thing in question; but he must know something of the concept of which the thing is an instance. He must know what is an automobile but he does not have to know what is my automobile. The word "good" applies not to the knowledge of the particular automobile but to the knowledge of the concept "automobile."
  • p103 A thing is good if it fulfills the intension of its concept.
  • p108 Why ought I to be good? Is it better to be good than bad? Is it conceivable that it would be better to be bad than good? Ought the good to be? Ought what is to be good? Is the best better than the good? If the good out to be, what about the best? Is the perfect better than the good? Is the perfect better than the best? Ought what is to be perfect? If the perfect ought to be, ought the good not to be? Is the best good enough? Is the best perfect? Is the perfect worse rather then better than the good? Is there any good at all? Is all good relative? What is the value of value? What is the value of fact? Is value?
  • p108 To This level belong the interrelationships between the various value sciences, and the the value aspects of the natural sciences, e.g. the relation between music and astronomy in Pythagoras between astronomy and theology in Plato, between theology and chemistry in alchemy, the confusion ethics and other sciences, the confusion sciences and their subject matter, statements such as "To be good is to do God's will," "To be good is to be preferred," "To be good is to feel satisfied," "To be good is to be a proletarian"; the value nature of Leibniz's or Spinoza's metaphysics, the value value nature of Horney's, Maslow's or Fromm's psychology, the value nature of a value theory, etc.
  • p109 I can value a thing only if I know it, that is, if I know its name and its properties. That this is true is confirmed by the fact that when we want to value something precisely we call in an expert. The difference between him and us is that he knows more about the thing than we do. This knowledge and valuation go hand in hand. It follows that the world as a whole, if it is to be judged valuationally, must be understood, and this in turn means that if value is possible the world can be understood. In other words, the world itself is rational insofar as it is valuable.
  • p111 Anything which under one concept is good because it fulfills the concept may under another concept be bad because it does not fulfill that concept. Thus, as Spinoza observed, a good ruin is a bad house, and a good house is a bad ruin. It is art of the optimist always to find that concept in terms of which the thing appears good, and that of the pessimist always to find that concept in terms of which that thing appears bad. The thing is always the same...
  • p111 Goodness or Badness of the World. A thing is good if it has all the properties of its concept. The proper concept of the world must contain all the natural properties there are, have been, or will be. The world is that which has all these properties and this always fulfills its concept. Therefore it is good. If a concept of the world is posited that does not contain all the properties there are, then it is not the concept of the world, and wrong thinking results, in the light of which the world is bad because it does not fulfill the concept posited. The goodness of the world is, of course, not ethical but axiological goodness. Although the world as such is good, the things in it may, indeed must be, both good and bad; for as we have seen anything that is good under one concept may be bad under another. Badness thus is the transposition of concepts or the incompatibility of things which in themselves are good. The world, thus, axiologically good as it is, contains the maximum variety of good and bad things.
  • p113 The fulfillment by a thing of a singular concept, understood in this sense, constitutes intrinsic value. Intrinsic value is the valuation of poets and artists, lovers and mystics, magicians and advertisers, chefs de cuisine and politicians, creative theologians and scientists. It is emphatic - and empathic - valuation.
  • p115 As can be demonstrated, the value of a person is infinitely higher than that of a group. It is infinitely more valuable, in the strictly-defined sense of infinity, to be a morally good person than to be a good member of society, say a good conductor, baker or professor.
  • p121 When an idea which has grown familiar as an unanalyzed whole is first resolved accurately into its component parts - which is what we do when we define it - there is almost always a feeling of unfamiliarity produced by the analysis, which tends to cause a protest against the definition. --Bertrand Russell
  • p125 To say, for example, that a murderer cannot be good is to commit this fallacy. A murderer cannot be morally good, but he can be good as a murderer, that is, he can murder well.
  • p132 By intrinsic properties of a thing we shall understand 1] all the properties which make up the description of the thing, and 2] all the properties which characterize this and no other thing, and 3] all the properties without which the thing would not be what it is.
  • p145 Since the good is not a descriptive property but a logical one it cannot be grasped by the senses. It is in this respect an "irreal" quality, as the phenomenologists hold. Trying to catch it by naturalistic methods is like capturing an electron by observation. The unreality or nondecriptiveness of good is like an uncertainty relation of moral science. The only way to penetrate to goodness is by the eye of the mind, a Gedankenexperiment in the sense of Planck, an intuition in the sense of Moore. One has to capture its formal structure.
  • p166 In terms of choice or preference this means that we ought to choose or prefer what is good; that we ought not to choose what is bad; that we ought to choose what is better; and that we ought not to choose what is worse. It also means that 1] it is good for us rather than what is bad for us, 2] it is good for us to choose what is better for us rather than what is worse for us, 3] it is better for us to choose what is good for us rather than what is bad for us, and 4] it is better for us to choose what is better for us rather than what is worse for us. In terms of existence it means that, since an existing thing has more properties than a nonexisting thing, existence is better than nonexistence, it is better to exist than not to exist, things ought to exist rather than not exist.
  • p193 Fact is one of the possibilities of varying the given in imagination. --Edmund Husserl
  • p194 Geometric circles, triangles, electrons, numbers, and the like - systemic things - cannot as such be either good or bad. They can only be, or not be, such things. The values connected with systemic concepts, therefore, can only be synthetic being or not being, complete fulfillment or complete nonfulfillment, perfection or nonperfection. Systemic value is the value of Perfection. As Aristotle rightly says, a number cannot be "mutilated"; for the loss of a unit makes it another number. But a cup can be mutilated; for the loss of a handle still leaves it a cup.
  • p195 If systemic value is the value of Perfection and extrinsic value that of Goodness, singular or intrinsic value is the value of Uniqueness.
  • p210 According to the axiom, a thing is good if it has all its intensional properties, fair if it has more intensional properties than it lacks, bad if it lacks more than it has, and no good if it lacks most of the intensional properties. We were able in this way to define the fundamental value terms.
  • p252 The minimum abstraction has the maximum structure and the maximum abstraction has the minimum structure.
  • p268 The terms "positive" and "negative" were defined by means of the term "ought." The positive value of a thing is that which it ought not to be. As we have seen, a thing ought always to be good and ought not to be bad; it ought always to fulfill and ought never not to fulfill the intension of its concept: it ought, in other words, always be as valuable as possible.
  • p268 This implies, as we have seen, that no thing as such is bad; all that is, is good the way it is. But the combination of things can be bad; and bad is indeed nothing but the incompatibility of things, or things in transposition, which means the lack of a positive concept covering the things in question; of a concept, that is, which fulfills or contains the expositions of both. ... A good Buick and a good Ford transpose each other when they collide; and the wreck may be called a transposition in the literal sense of the word. The result is both a bad Buick and a bad Ford, or rather, a Buick disvalued in terms of a Ford and vice versa. The wreck, however, is a good wreck, fulfilling the definition of "wreck," which in turn means a combination of two bad cars.
  • p269 A good man, a good rope, and a good Christmas tree are transposed when the man is hanged by the rope on the Christmas tree. As a transposition, this is axiologically bad; but it is an axiologically good bad, that is, a good transposition, namely, a good hanging. On the other hand, if a man pulls the Christmas tree behind him on a rope we have a composition of values, of the same elements, and the complex value "man-pulling-Christmas-tree" or "Christmas-tree-puller," the concept of which contains all three connotations in question. The actual person fulfilling this concept is "a good Christmas-tree-puller."
  • p276 Thus, a person who values a system not for its inherent systemic merit S but out of his own personal needs disvalues its systemic values in terms of his own person. He is really an antisystemic person, and anti-intellectual posing as an intellectual. He uses the system to build up his own ego, that is, he uses it as rationalization, and then values intrinsically, again out of personal need, this rationalization of building up of his own pseudo-self. Here belong fanatics of all kinds. Fetishists behave analogously toward things.

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