The difficulty with values

The difficulty with values is that they are particular, or as you put it, subjective. If values are subjective then liberal democracy is basically right and the hierarchalzation of value can only be based on something like the greatest liberty to create your own hierarchy of values. This would means there is no such thing as a genuine goal, and therefore, no such thing as rigor (or rather, no ability to differentiate between the rigorous and the unrigorous).

Since its plain that we can differentiate between rigor and its absence, values must not be subjective, and cannot even be conceived of as “value” because value is inherently an “I value”. Value must be reconcieved as “good”, which is not entirely relative inter-subjectively. This is demonstrable by a simple example, such as the “good” of a sandwich wrapper is to keep the sandwich from getting all over me. This is immediately apparent because when the sandwich is gone, the wrapper appears entirely purposeless, or rather, has the purpose of being-disposed-of in the appropriate manner (i.e. recycling vs garbage, or perhaps composting).

The good or “end” of the sandwich wrapper, although it is something which appears only to the one eating the sandwich (perhaps also to those watching the eating of the sandwich), is not something “subjective”, or “user relative”, not a result of my “preferences”, but rather an inherent structural feature of the relations between sandwiches, wrappers, shirts, persons, streets and parks.

It would appear at first that the structure of the purposefulness of the sandwich wrapper could be reducible to a persons preferences (or “values”), because one could simply posit the purposefulness of the wrapper during and after the eating to be two separate preferences. But this ignores the fact that the obvious preference being fullfilled in the disposal of the wrapper is not “I like to dispose wrappers after eating”, but “I like to not litter” and “I like to not carry around useless objects”.

The last notion is key – because if you have a preference not to carry “useless” objects, to say its ‘all preferences’ becomes circular – because to explain what “useless” means you need to do it in terms of preference. So, to say “I prefer not to carry useless things” means, “I prefer not to carry those things I do not prefer”.

But plainly, the usefulness of a thing is not only a matter of preference but a property of the thing itself. The wrapper is, in itself, useless after the sandwich is eaten. To speak of it in another way is simply to give an unjustified theoretical translation for the sake of conserving our preference account of human being.

Therefore goods are granted to us in experience that are not subjective values.


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