What value theory do you subscribe to?
The value theory I have adopted is the objective list theory. I chose this theory of well-being by process of elimination. I do not believe the desire theory is reasonable, because it has several difficulties that I cannot overlook. Now, I must consider hedonism and the objective list theory. Hedonism is attractive in the sense that it allows the individual to decide what constitutes their own well-being, and explains why there are so many different paths to happiness (Shafer-Landau, 2015). Yet, as Foot’s [lobotomy] example pointed out, happiness does not always equate to a good life. You can be happy, but be lacking in other aspects that are an important part of the human experience. The arguments that I found to be truly compelling were the Argument from False Happiness, and the Argument from Autonomy (Shafer-Landau, 2015). Of course, I desire to be happy, some of this happiness comes from fulfilling my desires, but I would not consider the relinquishment of autonomy or truth an adequate price to pay for happiness. Awareness of the presence of paternalism or deception would greatly affect my happiness. Therefore, happiness is intrinsically valuable, but it is not sufficient for a good life. I chose the objective list theory because I believe there are things that make our lives good, even if we do not value them, or believe they will benefit our lives. I do not believe our desires always contribute to well-being, because these desires could be influenced by culture, lack of self-worth, lack of education/understanding, or a combination of two or more of these factors. Of course, I do not believe I have composed an exhaustive list of what is intrinsically valuable, but I have tentatively identified a few.
Why Objective List Theory?
As I stated above, I found several manifest deficiencies in the desire theory. The issues I found to be most obvious are that desire theory does not take into account the desires of people who have been psychologically sculpted to desire things that obviously not contribute to their well-being, or how most of us don’t really know what we truly desire, as John McEnroe’s autobiography exemplified (Shafer-Landau, 2015). I could not adopt Hedonism because I cannot accept happiness is sufficient to a good life—the experience machine objection expertly argues this point. I believe truth, autonomy, achievement, knowledge, happiness, and virtue to be intrinsically valuable, and I am prepared to sacrifice happiness in some instances to gain other things of intrinsic value.
What arguments against the objective list theory concern you?
I do not find any of the criticisms of the objective list theory to be troubling. However, I do believe it might be counterintuitive for some people to believe that something you do not value or desire could make your life better. I would argue this point by noting that knowledge is by definition something you know. If you do not know of it, you cannot desire it, but knowledge is something that makes your life better once you attain it.
Shafer-Landau, R. (2015). Fundamentals of Ethics. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
“The life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living. The love you gave in life keeps people alive beyond their time. Anyone who was given love will always live on in another’s heart.”
— Marcus Tullius Cicero
“In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or the propaganda might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies – the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.
In the past most people never got a chance of fully satisfying this appetite. They might long for distractions, but the distractions were not provided. Christmas came but once a year, feasts were “solemn and rare,” there were few readers and very little to read, and the nearest approach to a neighborhood movie theater was the parish church, where the performances though frequent, were somewhat monotonous. For conditions even remotely comparable to those now prevailing we must return to imperial Rome, where the populace was kept in good humor by frequent, gratuitous doses of many kinds of entertainment – from poetical dramas to gladiatorial fights, from recitations of Virgil to all-out boxing, from concerts to military reviews and public executions. But even in Rome there was nothing like the non-stop distractions now provided by newspapers and magazines, by radio, television and the cinema. In “Brave New World” non-stop distractions of the most fascinating nature are deliberately used as instruments of policy, for the purpose of preventing people from paying too much attention to the realities of the social and political situation. The other world of religion is different from the other world of entertainment; but they resemble one another in being most decidedly “not of this world.” Both are distractions and, if lived in too continuously, both can become, in Marx’s phrase “the opium of the people” and so a threat to freedom. Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in their calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those would manipulate and control it.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophise, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils,… nor, I think, will the human race.” (Republic 473c-d)”
― Plato, Plato: The Republic
Many of the wisest men have regarded pain and suffering as objections to life itself. Socrates, for example, railed against life, and he urged his followers to practice death. Many religious leaders promise to the faithful an eternal afterlife free from pain – rendering this earthly existence as an evil that must be endured. But Nietzsche is different. “I do not point to the evil and pain of existence with the finger of reproach, but rather entertain the hope that life may one day become more evil and more full of suffering than it has ever been.” In this video we will explain why Nietzsche valued suffering and why he desired more of it.
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“The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
― John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife