§6 The Varieties of Purposive Value

The remaining task for the theory of purposive value is to distinguish the structure of purposive value in so far as it can be made out on the basis of the ontological criteria that have been employed right along, namely the distinction between internal and external transcendence, etc. This articulation is of course not exhaustive by any reckoning in comparison to the distinctions that are commonly employed and multiplied in ethics. For our purposive here, however, the articulation should be exhaustive in so far as it distinguishes separate object language systems of value whose uniqueness is the force, the obligation, and the universality of the type of value they represent. This uniqueness will be signified by the specific mode of necessity that will be associated with each ontological ground.

Of the ontological distinctions, the newly important one at this stage is that between the internal transcendence of the ego and that of distinct individuals who may be affected by the ego's actions. A real plurality of consciousness has been admitted all along in the theory, but only now does the relation between distinct consciousnesses become a special area of theory. Furthermore, where before in the distinction between internal and external transcendence we were indifferent (except in relation to pleasure and pain) whether a specific fragment of external existence did or did not correspond to an internal existence, now it becomes of essential interest whether an object merely possess external existence or if, through conscious life, both internal and external.

The very idea of "modes of necessity" is derived from ethics in the sense that Kant and others have used the name of the grammatical "imperative" mood to characterize and distinguish the pronouncements of ethics expressing obligation and duty from the common indicatives of ordinary language that merely express matters of fact. The Kantian imperative is a mode of necessity just because it is supposed to be a synthetic a priori truth. Kant's association of necessity with an "imperative" is also evident in his characterization of scientific laws as hypothetical imperatives. Here, however, we have already disallowed that moral imperatives can be necessary in just the same way that Kant imagined. The "mode of necessity" has come to mean something very much more specific, and we have already examined and named four modes of necessity, including the "conditioned" necessity of scientific laws. Even the common indicatives of daily life have fallen themselves under a mode of necessity, the perfect, which we say is responsible for the fixity and unalterability, in the perfect aspect, of factual states of affairs.

The Kantian imperative as necessity means a number of different things. First of all as knowledge, it is necessary in the Platonic sense of being eternal and unchanging, with an ontological ground sufficient to this status. Having deprived Kant of his own ground in unconditioned reason, we have now provided a new one in the purposive occasion of will in positive transcendence. As a ground of necessity this falls under the mode of contingency last considered, the unconditioned (thus preserving part of the sense of Kant's ground). In addition to a bare logical sense, however, we also have some notion of necessity representing a certain immovable restraint: and so what physical necessity tends to mean to us is the way in which the forces of nature actually prevent us from doing things that are physical impossible; what perfect necessity means is the way in which time snatches away the present to where we can no longer touch and alter what has come to be; what a priore necessity means is the way that we are bound and limited by the unity and identity of our own consciousness; and what analytic necessity means is, really, the meaninglessness that results from self-contradiction. Our sense of the restraint imposed by imperative necessity is very different. First of all it has no effect whatsoever in external existence but concerns only the internal, i.e. the will. And there, although its effect is to restrain the will, the will can all the same violate that restraint. That is a unique dimension to value; for while the duality of truth and falsehood is possible in all representation, where mediate propositions may or may not correspond to an immediate ground, in value a conflict is possible in the ground itself, creating a duality whereby an evil occasion of will means the manifestation of a value in violation of true worth. It is the essence of the imperative that the obligation it expresses is a free restraint, which may or may not be effective. All occasion of will is still an expression of value, however, and so we come to speak of negative values, which are violations of a necessity that, if it were a necessity of nature instead, could not possibly be violated. The force and restraint of the imperative mode is what we already understand by the moral sense of "ought." We ought to do the good, but we are free to do evil. With sufficiently mature understanding, however, we are able, having done evil, to recognize it as such.

It would simplify matters at this point to say that all propositions expressing value are grounded in imperative necessity and be done with it. The matter does not seem so simple however; for although it will remain perfectly true that all value is grounded in positive transcendence, the notion of an "imperative" does not seem appropriate to describe all of it. That Kant should have focused on a very formal conception of duty is disturbing to many; and, in compensation for this, we find that Nelson has supplemented a Kantian-like theory of moral duties with a positive theory of ethical ideals [162]. Since such ideals are not morally obligatory, but supererogatory, it is not appropriate to call them "imperatives"; and instead Nelson borrows the name of another grammatical mood (as used in Greek), the "optative." Under categorical optatives, Nelson also subsumed aesthetic value, [163] which even Kant had so far recognized as being distinct from ethics as to radically separate, in his theory of aesthetic "judgment," from his own treatment of practical reason. Indeed, aesthetic value seems to concern external existence in a way that we were far from considering when only imperative value and morality were in question. Nelson's "optative" is thus an important step; and if we recognize that optative propositions must belong to a very different object language from imperative propositions, then we must also recognize that some distinction must be made in positive transcendence to signify the difference in the grounds that is reflected in the differences in the languages. And if there is more than one mode of necessity in positive transcendence, then we must also reckon that there are continuing modes of contingency in positive transcendence also, which will mean for us that not all acts of will are going to instantiate an instance of value. Thus it is not the case, as we something get the feeling from Kant, that everything we do must be done with a consciousness of duty, or that everything we do must be reckoned to contribute to the highest good or anything of the sort.

The first principle for distinguishing between the object languages of value is the difference in the force of the obligation felt by us, if any, and the nature of the disposition or restriction of the will, if any. For instance, in addition to Nelson's distinction between moral duties and ethical ideals, the latter expressing no true obligation at all, we can already say that a further distinction appears warranted between ethical ideals and pure aesthetic judgments, where the latter attribute value to object in a way totally separate from any relation they might have to will. There is a disposition of the will in these cases, however, and it is the passive, disinterested fascination we may have with aesthetic objects. Such considerations will warrant a reëstablishment of the sort of division that Kant had drawn between moral obligation and aesthetic judgment. The second principle we will use in distinguishing between object languages involves the possible distinctions that we can make in positive transcendence. We can make a variety of distinctions by considering the presence or absence of internal or external existences in so far as these appear to bear on the meaning of the object languages that we are able to recognize. The major division that must be made in this respect is between an object language grounded on some relationship between existences across positive transcendence and an object language rounded on positive transcendence as such, in the total absence of internal and external transcendence. Object languages in the former sense may be said to express relative transcendence, and an object language in the latter absolute transcendence. Absolute transcendence will be considered separately in the final part of the theory of positive transcendence. Now we will proceed to the categories of relative transcendence.

§7 Love and Hate

Besides the distinctions just mentioned, between moral obligation, ethical ideals, and aesthetic judgment, I will now introduce one further distinction within moral obligation to give us a narrower category of "imperative" necessity as our first mode of value. The concern in this area of value is the inner disposition of the will and so our own existential readiness to affirm value in attitude and deed. This is what Kant called the "good will." The moral distinction is the one that he himself emphasized, [164] that the moral worth of actions depends entirely on the purity of the intention. I take this to be sufficiently important and sufficiently clear cut in meaning to warrant status as a separate category of value, in contrast to the moral rules, etc., that concern the content of actual deeds.

The good will, as a source of change in the world, intends to act according to the positive content of value, even as ill will intends the negative. The good will as a purposive value, however, is not an emotion of good will, although it may give rise to emotions in varying degrees. It may also give rise to understanding in varying degrees. Good will may even be said to correspond more to a choice than to a feeling in the sense that Zoroastrianism interpreted the fundamental orientation of every person in the world as a choice between good and evil [165]. Such a choice then determined one's acts in the world and one's fate in the hereafter. In a less apocalyptic sense, Kant saw that while confusion of deeds can impeach the intelligence, wisdom, or sanity of acts of good faith and good will, the good intent alone reflects whether deeds are morally praise- or blameworthy. Someone can be blamed for being a fool but neither blamed nor punished for meaning well. It is also true, however, that in the self-deception of evil someone can think they mean well but actually proceed with ill will.

In considering the Biblical injunction "love thy neighbor," Kant notes that an emotion cannot be commanded. Such "pathological" love [166] Kant contrasts with a sense of love as a moral disposition which can be commanded. This is also relevant to the sense of good will here: love and hate may be considered attitudes of will towards the world and others which color the manner in which will is then exercised. Confucian ethics also looks to an inner readiness as the origin of morality: rén, which is variously translated as "human heartedness," "benevolence," "charity," "humanity," "love," or "the inner love for man which prompts to just deeds" [167]. We may take all those meanings to be distinct, but what is common is Kant's sense of good will and non-pathological love. This act of choice or disposition of the will, however, is to us a certain order of non-intuitive immediate knowledge of value, present to us as an occasion of positive transcendence. Indeed, this is an occasion of will in the purest form; for it concerns the will alone, without reference to any particular end or act.

The primacy of good will and Kantian-Confucian love will be reflected in our use of the term "imperative" to characterize the necessity of the cognitive ground of this mode of value. As it solely concerns internal transcendence, this stands in pure contrast to the conditioned necessity exclusive to external transcendence. As the first mode of unconditioned necessity this is in full, of course, imperative unconditioned imperfect a posteriore synthetic necessity. The corresponding mode of contingency will be called the "purposive" to emphasize that what is contingent in comparison to imperative necessity is any actual content or object of actual deeds. This sense of "purposive" therefore concerns the intended end or means of an act, while the imperative requirement of good will is concerned only with the moral intent, which is either that of good will or ill will. The importance of this distinction should be clearer when we realize that a theory of ethics is conceivable, and is occasionally even encountered in practice, that the external acts and objects of action are indifferent so long as the motive is pure. The saying, "to the pure, all things are pure," perhaps reflects something of this, though no mature moral judgment is going to hold that actions and ends are irrelevant and of no ethical concern. Instead, we should recognize that there is a difference in object languages here, and that in moving from the motive to the external effects of will we are moving to different modes of necessity and cognition.

§8 Right and Wrong

When we take the pure relationship between two or more consciousnesses in so far as their wills affect one another, without regard for the ends of willing, then we are in the pure category of deontological value. We will not deny to the good ends of will their value and ethical importance; however, in the tradition of Kant and Nelson, I will say that the content of morality consists of the values in this category, which are necessary conditions on all subsequent values. A violation of these conditions invalidates the worth of any end of willing. With respect to coming-to-be out of internal transcendence, the thrust of this category of value is a limitation of the will so as to concede to others an equal opportunity or a fair share of the same good ends. There are a variety of considerations, distinctions, and viewpoints in this one category. I will not go into them. From the point of view of the individual, the problem is just one of doing right or doing wrong. From a general standpoint, we come to be concerned about the rights of individuals, distributive justice, and then retributive justice where we have a sense that the doing of wrong merits punishment. Just how these things are differentiated in this mode of value does not concern us here. We need merely recognize that what they have in common is the pure relationship between individuals and how acts of will should or should not affect each other. The good ends of willing are presupposed and subordinate. In a Kantian sense, I do not see morality as consisting of willing so as to produce the greatest good.

Kant and Nelson thought that the essential feature of morality could be reduced to a rule, the moral law [168]. Since the conditions of moral worth are simple and distinct, especially as a restrictive condition, this can be accepted as generally correct, although it is not so important to try and find a single exhaustive formulation that will be entirely adequate to the meaning of the value. One of Kant's secondary formulations of the moral law is both deservedly famous and very suggestive of the conditions of right and wrong. This is Kant's rule, "Treat others always as ends also and never as means only" [169]. So how do you treat someone as an "end"? The straightforward answer to that is that you do not act in ways that may be prejudicial to them or their interests without their consent. We are all the time using other people for some ulterior good end, often ends that are totally unrelated, or even adverse, to their own desires; but this is a morally acceptable relationship so long as they help us by their own informed and self-responsible agreement. The end is where use and means terminate, and we can easily look upon the fulfillment of our desires as being cut off as soon as the path to our ends crosses a field of interests properly belonging to another: however, that person may then freely assume the pursuit of those ends in our behalf or volunteer to us the use of their person or interests. Thus the principle of morality and of justice dictates that the use to which the existence of a person is put is the prerogative and responsibility of that person alone. The only time we are justified in contravening the guiltless will of another is when they are acting contrary to justice or to their own clear best interest due to some manifest error of knowledge or to mental incapacity (from youth, inexperience, or mental illness) -- and this, as a protection of an individual from themselves, is not putting anyone to use for an extrinsic end.

Such is what we mean by the "dignity" of the individual, and it is an aspect of moral value that is often lost in abstract generalizing formulations -- let alone in principles of social utility and the like. This particular means and ends formulation by Kant is especially relevant when we consider that ordinarily we require the help of others in attaining our desires -- and that so much of life is simply desiring the presence, companionship, and affection of others. Too many of the daily wrongs of newspaper stories concern the violence and tragedy of the love and hate of people for each other, without any necessary reference to possession as inanimate goods. We ask others to do things for us, to be with us, and to love us; and all our agency ends at the doorstep of their will, where, if we are just, we await their choice.

The force of the obligation of moral value is only attenuated from the imperative of good will by the complexities and uncertainties that are involved in all its ramifications. For instance, I have already carelessly coupled the interests of individuals with their existence; but it is a serious question, upon which reasonable persons may disagree, to which extent the protections of morality or justice do or should cover interests: personal possessions, real property, employment, capital, social welfare, etc. In the same way it is possible to make excellent arguments for authoritarian or totalitarian governments on the principle that government, or history, is a science that only the qualified few should be entrusted with. Since similar argument began with Plato, they are hardly a startling or unfamiliar innovation; and they can make a very fine show of morality on the principle I have just stated, that ignorance or errors of judgment, in this case on the part of the many, warrant their interests being directed by others. Such interesting issues I cannot explore here; we need merely pick a term to suit the force of necessity relevant to the values of right, fairness, and balance between individual consciousnesses.

In Latin and Arabic it is possible to express an imperative through the use of the subjunctive [erratum corrected] mood. Such an imperative is called a "jussive," and it is only removed from the force of the imperative by being more polite or indirect. This suits the case quite well. To be contrasted with what is commanded or forbidden is what is merely permissible; and in dividing off jussive necessity from the previous "purposive" contingency, the remaining contingency may be called the "permissible." Again, in a procedure that can be made a virtual criterion in such cases, we can easily imagine an ethical system whose modes of necessity terminate at this point, leaving duty and good will as the only criteria of ethical value. This not so vary far from what we actually find in Kant. Kant does speak of "ends," [170] but such ends seem to be constructed entirely on the basis of the principles and the consciousness of duty -- giving Kant's thought a shadow of humorlessness, Calvinism, and even Prussianism, despite the fact that all these are totally contrary to Kant's own personality and private, informal beliefs.

§9 Good and Evil

In this category of purposive value we consider existence in general in so far as its contents constitute good or evils in relation to internal transcendence. This is a very broad field, what Nelson called the ethical theory of ideals. It is the centerpiece and most characteristic part of the theory of purposive value: for it deals with the proper value of the objects of our purposes and so of purpose in its final sense of meaning the end or objective of action. In this way a deed is broken down into three parts: 1) the intent as the motive, regardless of what the act or the end may be; 2) the intention as what is to be done, in so far as this affects other persons; and 3) the intention as the goal and end of what is to be done. The value of each of these parts constitutes the ground of a separate object language of value; but the value of each is also a necessary condition of the value of the modes that follow, so that the worth of the goal is compromised by ill will or wrong committed in its attainment, and the value even of the fulfillment of duty is undermined by ill will as well. At the same time the value of the ends of willings is comprehensive, and the other categories of value can be taken to be ends themselves, subsumed under the object language of this category. We desire good will and justice as goods in their own right, and this does indeed make them goods as much as anything else [171]. The field of goods covers things that are merely individual goods, like the food that I personally require for life, and goods which essentially refer to more than one person, whether the possessions that enable an individual to provide for the well being of families or the public wealth or institutions that provide for the general well being of a society. Thus, besides the relation of internal and external transcendence involved essentially in this category, a relation between different internal transcendences may also be involved.

The force of the obligation in this category of value is now very different. Indeed, "obligation," is no longer the correct term. So long as we avoid inflicting evil on others, we really are under no obligation either to will good ends or to avoid willing evil ends. This value is supererogatory, and because of that Nelson called the propositions in this language "categorical optatives." "Optative," however, merely signifies the expression of a wish, and this seems too weak for the case. To do the good and see it done is a practical matter that goes beyond our mere wishing. In Greek the subjunctive can be used to express an exhortation much as the Latin subjunctive can be used (as the jussive) to express a command. This is the "hortative" usage; and that term will suit the meaning here quite well. Thus, among the actions that are simply permissible in terms of morality, there are many that we would rather prefer to see done, and others we would rather were not done, because they are still, beyond the reckoning of morality, worthy or unworthy in a different sense. There are gray areas, of course, between jussive and hortative: some may see our relation to other persons as entailing a social obligation and a contribution to the welfare of others, while an opposing viewpoint would be that a life completely removed from society is perfectly acceptable so long as the pursuit of the private goods of that life does not adversely affect other individuals. The resolution of this dilemma is not important for us here -- just that the alternatives exist.

Having selected out the permissible actions that are for good or evil ends, what remains may be said to be matters of "private" contingency, in the sense that no public object is any longer involved which is of the slightest interest as an ethical good. Where we have considered the conceivability of previous modes of contingency as terminating the object languages of ethics, this mode of contingency in fact does so. The "private" is what is removed from the theater and the considerations of what constitute the goods and evils of human life.

§10 Beauty and Ugliness

An object may seem good and desirable even when it serves no apparent function in our lives apart from simply existing. In other words, it is a good in itself. This is a somewhat paradoxical category of value for us since the relationship to will that has served as our dialectical path into value theory has now fallen away. A good in itself possesses value independent of any purpose that it may serve and independent of any will or internal transcendence that may have some relationship with it. That is the sort of judgment we make. However, there is a connection. This category is the closest we come to Nelson's "objective teleology"; and Kant himself noted a sense of "purposiveness" in aesthetic value that he took to be characteristic of it [172]. The good in itself is for us an occasion of will, but a passive rather than a active. It is Schopenhauer's quieting of the will. In this passivity we appreciate the independence of the object; and this appreciation can be called "detachment" or "disinterest" even while, on top of this, we may be interested in possessing or having access to these things. As an end the good in itself is an end in itself, and the use of both "good" and "end" in these senses signifies the relation to all of purposive value with the added senses of completeness, finality, wholeness, and inner integrity. The connection to the rest of purposive value, indeed, is that it all may be subsumed under this category just as all moral value may be subsumed under hortative value. Thus all ethical goodness may be said to be one case of beauty, while beauty may extend beyond goodness.

The quality of intrinsic value is especially conspicuous in things that are either beautiful or ugly. The inner integrity that makes for a good in itself, however, is not necessarily that of beauty or ugliness, though it may be convenient for us to think of it that way. Similarly, this category may be called that of aesthetic value, as that of right and wrong is of moral value. In the use of "aesthetic," however, the emphasis should be more on the etymological sense of perception than on the more recent sense of artistic value, although that will of course be a subcase. In perception we are given the ontological independence of an object, its external transcendence, just as in the beauty of an object we have its independent value and a sense of positive transcendence that is intrinsic to existence even when it passes beyond any actual relation to a will. This category of value thus represents an ontological finality as we pass over to the world of public objects. Where before in positive transcendence sensation as the plenum of Being was only an abstraction, now we can say that the concrete presence of positive transcendence in objects is their beauty or ugliness. Our selves and our lives are also to be subsumed under that value, so that as we strive to do right and realize the good, we are creating a whole that is a good in itself and an expression in beauty of positive transcendence.

The quality of necessity in aesthetic judgments has become weak indeed, belonging even to things that are far beyond any possibility of our affecting. Here Nelson's term "optative" finds the most suitable usage; for we wish indeed to find beauty and goodness realized in many things that we haven't a hope of being able to effect ourselves. The remaining mode of contingency may be called the "arbitrary" in the sense that there is no basis in fact or value to prefer one such thing over another. This arbitrariness does not exactly terminate value, since we are still due to consider numinous value; but, as we will see, the cognitive content of numinous propositions is in fact arbitrary. Cognitive definiteness is limited to phenomenal reality and so belongs to value only in so far as its transcendence is relative, i.e. in relation to our immanence.

§11 Happiness and Unhappiness

For the sake of completeness, and as retrospective on purposive value, it is fitting that we should consider happiness and unhappiness as, Greek-like, the culmination of ethical and value theory. Happiness and unhappiness may be said to hold intermediate positions between pleasure and objective value. As feelings they are not aspects of the occasion of willing as is purposive value and at the same time they are similar to pleasure and pain, causally dependent on external conditions. On the other hand, those conditions may be very general and have no immediate or direct physical effect on the individual. Happiness consists in great measure of recognition that those conditions exist and, most importantly, that those conditions, and the manner in which we participate in them through the ordinary activities of our lives, are what constitute a good and beautiful life.

A good life is something we might expect to provide healthy pleasures, which makes pleasure an essential part of happiness but not the determining consideration. Happiness anticipates pleasure because we expect, whatever the counterexamples, that good conditions of life are conducive to pleasure. Naturally there is some circularity there, since feedback on what is pleasurable and what is not goes into considering what is good in life and what is not. Happiness, however, subordinates many considerations into a larger picture of life: what, apart from the moment, we are supposed to be getting out of life -- the aesthetic, moral or interpersonal, religious, pleasurable experiences, and so forth. Happiness is a whole, an ontological completeness of life, and so represents a combination of intuitive and non-intuitive value and all the individual categories of value. When the whole is present, even some adversity, pain, and evil may only strengthen its sense.

Happiness holds a special space in the theory of the articulation of value, as Aristotle gave it in his ethics [173]. Happiness stands as a general goal in life, the final purpose of life as a good in itself, the subjective counterpart to the condition of the good life having been recognized, achieved, and experienced. All the other articulations of value therefore enter into it to make a whole of completion and fulfillment. The conditions of life, unfortunately, do not always cooperate with happiness. Like pleasure, happiness is dependent on [erratum corrected] chance and causality -- a real aspect of happiness is thus the aesthetic optative of wish and the occasion of luck. Solon, expressing the heart of Greek pagan pessimism, is reputed to have said never to count a man happy until after he was dead. Only then would he be free from vulnerability to adverse fortune.

The uncertainty of our luck has given rise to centuries, now millennia, of protest against it in the form of doctrines that seek to identify happiness as the direct result of inner goodness and wisdom. Stoicism comes to mind most readily in this connection; but it is sad and pathetic to see how little effective consolation such a doctrine can offer someone such as Marcus Aurelius over his own dead children. It is incredible to think that any healthy person could face such personal disaster and really feel, not just detached "Stoical" indifference, but positive well being out of continuing inner virtue. Stoicism therefore gave way historically to a different approach: if happiness is not to be attained immediately through inner virtue, then what goodness gains is the promise of happiness in the hereafter. Such an approach, for which Plato himself must share some responsibility, became part and parcel of all traditional Western and Middle Eastern monotheistic religions, with complications due to pseudo-moral doctrines of faith, sin, and salvation -- we even find Kant making immortality a "postulate" of the moral law [174].

In the ordinary conditions of life all this time, however, people have always hoped against hope for that cooperation of circumstances which will bring some measure of happiness in this life. The constant failure of that cooperation merely adds to our pain and protest against the inherent evils of the world -- and the mystery of the random viciousness of events. As either Solon or Homer or the Buddha would certainly tell us, the lot of mortal life is misery and suffering, in the face of which hope is a cruel, if compelling, self-deception. Our concern now will be the order of value that consoles, or deceives, us about these hopes and protests.

Table of Contents


Home Page

Copyright (c) 1985 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved