Categories of Meaning and Virtue

Let us now continue to examine meaningful values and how they relate to other values and each other.  In Frankl, recall this quotation from earlier:

According to Logotherapy, we can discover this [or the] meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

Rand wrote something similar in “The Objectivist Ethics:”

The three cardinal values of the Objectivist ethics–the three values which, together, are the means to and the and the realization of one’s ultimate value, one’s own life–are: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem, with their three corresponding virtues: Rationality, Productiveness, Pride.

First off, I think that Rand has made a classification error.  In another writing, I believe, she cites three top values as work, self-esteem, and romantic love.  If we regards these values as principally markers of value categories, I think we can see a correlation between Rand’s selection of values being quite similar to Frank’s ways to discover meaning.

Such a version of values seems closer to Frankl’s ways of discovering meaning.  Reason and/or rationality is not and end-value as such.  Reason is a capacity and rationality is a virtue, neither of which is a value as such.  A capacity and virtue in a moral frame are elements or tools to acquire values, but in general should not be considered an end value. Romantic love is a value, and so better represents part of an ensemble of ultimate or top values.

In addition, I believe that Romantic Love as a top value is a concrete, not a classification.  Instead, love and/or enjoyment seems to be the appropriate genus for values here in a moral system.

I submit that when Frankl speaks of “ways of discovering meaning,” what he is referencing is the pursuit of values.  The values in question fall into categories: Category 1) is really the same between Rand and Frankl: “Achievement or work” is cited by both.  This is a category, not a single concrete because it is not only obvious that one may have more than one occupation over a lifetime, it is also undeniably true that humans may work at more than one occupation simultaneously, not to mention many other tasks which may materially benefit his life.

Now, what is the meaning of work or achievement?  The meaning can be several, but essentially I think it boils down to two aspects. They are that, first, work directly supports our lives (instrumental) and, second, is a medium of self-expression.

Work as self-expression can be a way of molding the world to our vision, or is a pleasurable activity as such.  Whether is is building things, offering a service, or simply finding out things like scientists and certain thinkers, the element of some satisfaction must be either that you want at least a part the world to look a certain way or the activity itself is rewarding.  Work is typically an ongoing, life-long activity and so offers a vast array of concretes.

When Frankl writes of experiencing something or encountering someone as a second way of discovering meaning, we see it is a category 2), a positive experience which ranges from pleasant to satisfying to passionate.  Furthermore, such experiences or encounters are generally a series of such things, and not generally just a one-shot occurrence.

Generally speaking as well, the continuing experiences at such a level have enough meaning to cause us to anticipate how such things might cease due to factors such as the destruction or exhaustion of the source of such experiences and encounters, so consequently we prudently act to further the existence of that source.

Moreover, if the experiences or encounters are sufficiently intense or complex, psychologically a generalized aura of positiveness seems to surround such experiences or encounters.  Such a generalized anticipation of positiveness and a concern with the ongoing existence of the sources of such experiences and encounters which is also sufficient to create a general positive emotion and  a series of actions, this whole complex fits what must be considered to be the operational definition of love.

Now the love I am speaking about is the genus of love, something broader than is usually meant when some uses the word “love.”  This is the genus of love which certainly includes Romantic Love, but also extends to things over a much broader range of objects and of much less intensity, such as liking to take a walk daily.  Thus, I say category number two is “Enjoyed or loved things.”

Rand wrote that cardinal value number 3 is self-esteem.  In reading her broader context, I think it appropriate to interpret this term as the pleasure of experiencing one’s own good character.  As such, it is the good character that is the value and self-esteem is a part of the pleasure  or meaning we take in our character.

Human character comprises the elements of our consciousness that make up how we act in regard to values and value contexts.  These elements are distinct from capacities such as intelligence, perception, or talents, which imply no particular relationship as such in regard to values.  Capacities can be applied to value pursuit and to the extent they are molded by such pursuit or characterize such pursuit, they may be considered a style, a frame, or method of character.  What are these elements found in our consciousness that determine how we react to values or value contexts?  Let us consider observing someone’s action.  How do we determine what explains a given action?

We already know that the action is directed at a value with sufficient meaning to generate the motivation.  We also know that all values have a context, which is to say that a given action of value pursuit is taken in the face of alternatives, constraints, and concomitant values.  These alternatives are actually other possible values which are distinct from the value sought and would be considered opposed values. A constraint is a condition, resource, or limit that determines what values are possible and/or describe a quantitative consideration.  Concomitant values would be either other values needed to pursue the value in question or the consequences of the current action ,   We may call the presumed alternatives, constraints, or concomitants of the action, the value premises or moral premises of the action.

Now if we can infer the values and moral premises of someone that explain the choices and actions of that person and therefore reasonably predict many future actions of that person, we may say that we have grasped their nature or character of that person.  If these actions are directed to meaningful, rational values and the person is clear and coherent in value pursuit, we say the actions are good.  And if good actions essentially prevail in that person’s conduct,we say they are a good person.  When we conclude we are a good person by appraising our conduct in the same way, this is true self-esteem, but the value is good character and the result of that value is pleasure in our own character or self-esteem.

There are innumerable aspects to existence and how we pursue meaningful values.  However, we cannot act in all aspects, only concrete ways.  Still the possible ways can be so numerous that unless we boil down the concretes into classes, no general or far-reaching way of approaching can be conclude in values or morality.  The actual pursuit of values is an operation of virtue.  Virtue is the capacity to choose and pursue a rationally meaningful value.  Vice is the incapacity to choose and pursue a rationally meaningful value.

When it comes to virtue in regard to work or achievement, Rand wrote that the virtue is productiveness.  I do not believe this fully addresses the nature or meaning value pursuit.  I think a better, more precise description for the virtue that pursues meaningful work or achievement is ambitiousness.

Ambitiousness is motivated productivity of meaningful work.  One may be productive while not being properly motivated, such as for an false illusion or being forced at gun point.  When one is ambitious, it reflects a motivation of voluntary choice directed to the nature and reality of the value itself as such and that this value is important in some way.

For category number 2 about experiences and encounters, or love in general (in terms of genus)  the appropriate virtue a motivated capacity to choose and pursue end values of meaning.  Although this virtue is also a species of ambitiousness, it is rarely, if ever, called that.  Instead we may hear of someone having a resolve to experience life, or a commitment to some love or another.  We could also speak of such a person as one who loves life.  However, make no mistake, this is a motivated capacity to choose and pursue a meaningful values, and therefore is truly a form of ambitiousness.  This category of value is primarily that of end values – things that need no further justification as such, but deliver meaning without “borrowing” the meaning of other values.

For the value of good character, which implied in category number 3 or self-esteem,  I think Rand has the virtue defined correctly as moral ambitiousness.  Rand calls this pride, but the terms differ as for those of other virtue categories.  We might call it the resolution to be a good person, or a being a person dedicated to the good.  It is definitely an ambitiousness that embodies morality, because the sum of values and virtues is a morality, but within the person, it is his character.

I have merely touched on what I say are the three categories of meaningful values and their respective virtues.  I expect to revisit them many times in the future.  This is a preliminary view subject to substantial revision.

About admin

Computer Geek and philosopher.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.