Rebirth of Reason

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Saturday, June 9, 2012 - 8:13amSanction this postReply
Great essay, Ed!

On my first view, 2 things popped out for me [emphasis mine]:
Flourishing is a successful state of life, and happiness is a positive state of consciousness that flows from, or accompanies, a flourishing life. The legitimate function of every human person is live capably, excellently, and happily. This involves an ethic of aspiration toward one’s objective well-being that is actively attained and maintained. A person should aspire to what is best for him taking into account his given potentialities, abilities, and interests. Limits for self-fulfillment are set by reality including the type of being that we are and our individual characteristics.
The last sentence can be taken in at least 3 ways:

One way to take it is that you cannot be "fully" self-fulfilled because reality (that restricting thing inside of which we live) prevents you from attaining "full" self-fulfillment. If full self-fullment were, on the one hand, considered to be an objective good for individual human beings -- and, on the other hand, considered impossible -- then it appears that reality is set against man, because self-fullment is a pipe-dream (a good that can never fully be had). 

Another way to take it is that you cannot satisfy every desire. On this second view, an existentialist might desire to be the King of France, but this desire will be thwarted by reality. Reality will not allow this individual to have everything that he wants for himself. In living his life, he will attempt to exert his will against reality, and against the will of other people -- but will not ever be fully self-fulfilled.

Still a third way to take it is abstract and normative. Starting out in a complete vacuum of actuality (where there is nothing but potential), you can ask what kinds of things could ever lead to self-fulfillment for the human kind of creature. What you get when you ask this is a narrowing down or a limitation of the original context. There are some actualities of human beings which impose limits on what kinds of things that could contribute -- directly or even indirectly! -- to a man's self-fulfillment.

Were you thinking of one of these 3 things when you wrote that last sentence? If so, which one?

The value-freedom (or value-neutrality) and value-subjectivity of the Austrians have a different function or purpose than does Objectivism’s emphasis on objective values. On the one hand, the Austrian emphasis is on the value-neutrality of the economist as a scientific observer of a person acting to attain his “subjective” (i.e., personally-estimated) values. On the other hand, the philosophy of Objectivism is concerned with values for an acting individual moral agent himself.

Austrian Economics is an excellent way of looking at methodological economics with respect to the appraisal of means but not of ends. Misesian praxeology therefore must be augmented. Its value-free economics is not sufficient to establish a total case for liberty. A systematic, reality-based ethical system must be discovered to firmly establish the argument for individual liberty. Natural law provides the groundwork for such a theory and both Objectivism and the Aristotelian idea of human flourishing are based on natural law ideas.
This made me think of an analogy:

A man is traversing a jungle or forest because there is some kind of a treasure on the other side of it. He has an option to stay on a path that would get him through in the quickest way, and with the least amount of pitfalls -- it is the 'objective best' path for him to take through these woods and obtain the sought-after treasure. The problem is knowledge and will. He may not know it's the best path, or he may not care. Something might have caught his attention -- something far off of the beaten path. He leaves the path and makes his own way through the thick vegetation -- following up on his immediate and personal curiosities to smell a certain flower, or to feel the texture of a certain plant, or to engage a certain animal or insect.

Austrian economists follow him through the woods taking notes, and they care only of the path that he actually does take -- of the interactions that he actually does make with the environment (including living and non-living things). They are concerned with the way humans actually move through the woods, and not necessarily with the 'normative best' way for a human to move through those woods. They take note of the profit that travelers actually acquire (their met desires) in interaction with the environment.

Objectivists follow him also, ready and willing to tell him how far away from the path he has gotten, the latitude and longitude of his current position, the best way back to the path, and the alternative best way to the treasure (from his actual, contextual position in the forest).

They both care about the man's path through the woods, but for different reasons -- both of which are good reasons to care.


(Edited by Ed Thompson on 6/09, 6:00pm)

Post 1

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 6:26amSanction this postReply

Thanks Ed!!!

I posted once but it does not appear so I will try again.

The second sense is what I had in mind.

I really like your analogy.



Post 2

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 5:25pmSanction this postReply
You're welcome, Ed.
The second sense is what I had in mind.
Darn, as this means that I cannot become the King of France! You know, I heard a baseball quip on the radio the other day which just so happens to go along with this 'reality-imposed limitation on self-fulfillment':
Reality always bats last, and always bats "a thousand." [a batting average of 1.000]

And thanks for the positive feedback on the analogy.


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