On Particular Value

A surprisingly frequent discussion in Western Philosophy is whether one can rationally value something that does not have Transcendent or Absolute value; this is tied to the questions of whether or not truth can be other-than objective. Usually, this topic is brought up in discussions about ultimate meaning and nihilism.* The idea is that something is only Rationally or Truly valuable and worthy, if the value is not contingent. And it is only not contingent if the value is valuable in itself (valuable with a capital V). From this it’s concluded that for something to be Valuable, it must be Transcendent, which is something like True in itself, with a spiritual twist; from here, a false dilemma is often presented: a belief in the Transcendent or nihilism.

I say that it’s surprising, because it’s hard for me to understand why this reasoning makes sense to some people. There is clear categorical confusion here. I can value something as an End, for itself; and I can value something as a means to an end. This is to say: something can be valuable to me, as an ends for itself and something can be valuable to me, as a means for some end. And this is quite separate from whether my particular value happen to be valuable in itself (an sich), independent of me, or my culture, or my species, or rational beings, or Being.

I mention this because often in discussions with Liberals, socialists and Marxists a similar set of false dilemmas is presented: a transcending ethnic valuing or racism, a valuing of all ethnic groups equally or racial supremacism. It’s just the above reasoning, with the expectation that one will assent to ethnic nihilism, instead of ethnic absolutism, or, as some call it, supremacism. As I can never get these people to explain their incoherent babble, I am never sure what they are thinking. But in case the logic is similar, it’s worth clarifying.

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