Action and meaning

(Excerpts from the book "Cult of Freedom", vol.II, chapter 3)

Goals and values - Value #1 - Rationality and its absence - Value #2 - Real actions - Time and (ir)rationality - Meaning - Value #3 - Freedom and the common good - Practical goods - The economics of freedom - Beauty and new - Forced good - False commond good - Counteracting violence

2 Value #1

If we look at the end of any practical human activity, it will immediately become clear that the most distant goal of man, the most important goal of all, is man himself. No matter how one denies it, man for himself is a value. Is it even possible to live a full life without oneself? Worse than that, no value can exist without a judge of values, and goals - without the one who sets them. This is a fact. Accordingly, such an important value requires a lot of care and all kinds of activities. And interestingly, almost every such activity increases this value. For example, if a woman makes a hair-do, she is starting to appreciate herself a little bit more. If a young man graduates from college, he considers himself too smart to work in a common job. And if a poet writes a verse, he immediately begins to be so proud of himself that he will not shake hands anymore.

In a sense, everything that man does is he increases his value. This includes not only his look and education, but also, for example, fitness, work, leisure, socializing with useful people, diet. Having fun and enjoying life, as well as exhausting himself by labor and achieving results, man strives to satisfy his needs, but the need is not just a consequence of some interest, it is a consequence of the very ability to have an interest, and any such ability is already a potential value, if given the possibility to manifest itself.

In these examples, we see how from the single big human value smaller values are derived - health, education, wealth, etc. And then, even smaller and smaller ones... The aforementioned activity may be called pragmatic or economic, and the values manifesting in this way - pragmatic. Personal economy is their production, starting with oneself as a biological and social subject, and subsequent profitable exchange with others. To increase one’s own value is both the goal of the activity and the important meaning of life. Man is programmed to it like an animal to survival. If he throws deep thoughts away, it is highly likely that all of his intuitive behavior will come down to this - how to become richer, more significant, more attractive, more successful, more famous, etc. For many people, all this is directly associated with happiness, bliss, eudaimonia, nirvana and other euphemisms of what a worthwhile life is. It serves as a yardstick for every usual, practical event by default, and that is why it is the number "1": The roof does not leak - good, the hot water does not stop - even better, salary is increased - a cause for rejoicing. Why does joy arise? It arises because this was good for the favorite value #1. The law of the permanent and steady increase of personal value is, so to say, the essence of the animal nature of man, adapted to the social environment.

Pragmatic values are usually associated with money and material property, but of course it is necessary to include also "ideal" property - productive capacity (skills, education), personal social capital (useful connections, respect), human capital (health, charm) and even something nominal, for example, the citizenship of a rich country. The ultimate goal of accumulating such resources is always the big, important, significant "I", the evaluation of which is possible only in relation to other people. How does this happen? Initially the value of personal resources is subjective and may be objectified by money (hence #1 is, as you may have guessed, not a value, but a worth). That is, all of these resources will sooner or later need to be converted to material property - then people will have a common basis for comparison. This materialization of the human is both the essence of the result and the essence of the process. If we take the perfect economy, profits are only possible there through the creation of a new value. No other profit, for example, by the concealment of information, is possible there. The economy is looking for, and ideally finds, the objective value of any resource. First, the value of things relative to people, and then the value of people relative to people - people who at the beginning of the process were the measure of the usefulness of things, in the end become the measure of each other, and as an objective benchmark of value there appears something beyond them. In an effort to be objective, as is required by ethics, they become like economic gears, they operate correctly and predictably. Therefore value #1 and all of its values on lower levels can in a perfect economy be considered objective, almost as ethical "forces", acting according to their own ethical "laws".

However, until the ideal has been reached, the materialized quantity of value #1 embodies not so much the objective result of the production of values as the ability to achieve success by "subjectively ethical" methods. And because the property accumulated in this way gives a successful man a set of additional advantages compared to the less successful, it will not be an exaggeration to note that the materialization of #1 is not much different from banal economic violence.

3 Rationality and its absence

We are all very flattered when we are considered rational beings, i.e., reasonable, prudent and understanding what's what. Pragmatic activity requires all of these qualities. Having set a goal, man harnesses his brain, seeks opportunities, allocates resources, strains his ability and...viola! The goal is achieved. He's feeling good. That was his goal. No one would exert himself to feel bad. And this also is the meaning of pragmatic rationality - man sets the goal to get a benefit or pleasure. Only seeing his own benefit, feeling it with his guts, man is able to plan, to select and to build his operations, and in the end to know exactly that the goal was achieved. That is, the basis of rationally chosen and rationally achievable goals can only be the values arising from #1, all that is easily seen in the rational sphere of life - the economy, and indeed in public life and politics, although today it is for some reason not acceptable to relate politics to the economy. This whole rational sphere is very reasonable. Everything here is right, logical and sensible. There is clear self-interest, clear meaning, a plan, a result. True, some thinkers argue that people in the market economy behave unreasonably - like a flock of sheep, to be exact. But this has a very simple explanation - they behave in the most reasonable way for those circumstances in which they find themselves, the circumstances of a lack of information, lack of confidence in their desires and in the intentions of others, and, perhaps lack of skill in the best way to use their brains. But even just spending money without any purpose, they act rationally, since to spend on oneself is still fun.

However, we must admit that to set the goal "to live well in order to live well" is rather empty. Of course, nature fills that void with pleasant feelings, including a sense of superiority over others, hence, a good life seems full of deep meaning. The meaning found this way creates the illusion of sacred knowledge, adding more pleasant feelings. And yet, despite all the rationality of these goals, it is easy to see that fully rational people have not gotten far from non-rational animals. Truly rational people aim at the irrational. They aim where there is no self-interest, clear meaning, plan and sometimes no result.

Of course, there are none of these in the irrational sphere. In this meaningless sphere, people act as if without aim. They cannot plan their resources, optimize their means or exert the maximum effort at the right time. At this right time they may well loose the desire to do anything at all. All because the ultimate goal to be undertaken by people in such activity is not completely understood, not fully comprehended and, therefore, fundamentally unattainable. Irrational goals arise simply from the desire to do something good, let's say to help someone. But how do we know what he wants? He is not going to just admit it. And then, does he himself always know what he wants? If the basis of action is one’s interest, it will sooner or later manifest itself somewhere within, in the senses or intuition. But that of a stranger will not. Never. And the risk is great. How can one be sure of the result, in a world where very little depends on us? If one strives for one’s own sake, any failure can be overcome. But how can one overcome the misfortune created for a loved one, because of one’s own inability and stupidity?

But we've got to do good deeds! So people act on a hunch. This hunch is a very tricky thing. If someone has entrusted work to a fool, he knows how many problems will later arise from his diligence. Why? The fool cannot see the ultimate goal, only interim ones, and if he sees it, he does not know how to achieve it, just what to do, and if he knows, he cannot achieve it, he only performs direct and simple instructions. The actions of the fool are irrational from the point of view of a smart person. But we are all such fools when it comes to good deeds. We do not see the goal, do not sense the outcome and do not feel the benefit. We just convince ourselves that we see, sense and feel. We are warmed by our doing the "right thing" - in an irrational action what is really important for us is not practical goal, but the act, process and even gesture itself. Irrational action reveals motives and intentions - this is its meaning. The feelings pushing us to act are often more important than the result, even if we do not want to admit it to ourselves.

People want to do the right thing, often without fully understanding what this "right" is. The right is something ephemeral, different, but important, for example, honor, duty, principle. One thing is for sure, right is when it is better not to self. But if we remove "I" and our own benefits from the picture, what's left? Everyone else. Hence, the ultimate goal of such actions is, always and only, someone else's benefit and someone else's profit, and accordingly - our own detriment, because as is known there’s not enough happiness to go around. Value #1 is very fragile! A man, for example, may think that he is rich man among the rich until he sees the truly wealthy, and as a result becomes instantly poor and miserable. Values are not a game! That is why actions aimed at helping others to one’s own detriment are so incomprehensible to reason. People even came up with irrational names for them - selflessness, self-denial, self-giving.

So how can irrational activity have at least some benefit? The reason is that the irrational motive is certified not so much by the result as by the recipient’s interpretation of the results. His opinion, not ours, is a guarantee of the rightly chosen goal, and his joy is the actual result. We rely on others to assess the results and give meaning to our actions, which of course is blatantly irrational. But what else we are trying to do, besides confer joy? We are trying to increase the value of another person, since this is a natural, normal and self-evident desire of every sane, rational person, in this case, the person we want to help.

However, the irrationality of goal-setting entails not only some confusion in the implementation, but also, for example, the inability and non-necessity of predicting more long-lasting effects. Indeed, how do we know what a man will want to do next with his value #1? Even is he really committed to it? Maybe he has found something else in life, unknown to us? Also, the means chosen are completely irrational. Sometimes, paradoxically, in the long term no help, or harsh parenting, or hurtful truth, or other bitter pills would be more helpful. However, such means are not very popular, precisely because of irrationality. Irrationality often combines a desire to help with a desire to take care, to bring the other closer to oneself, to strengthen the relationship. One can argue that this is actually rationality, but in reality, it's just the need to recognize the fact of care. Irrationality needs it, as opposed to its opposite. One’s interest does not require confirmation, it is felt. In his personal case, a man can bring himself to take the most difficult decision, if it is necessary. Irrationality prefers goals that do not so much increase someone's value #1 as please, soothe and provide enjoyment to the subject of care, for he may not always be able to evaluate the true motive. Another’s soul is not transparent. One needs to trust more than oneself. A man, by his consent to accept help, must certify it as a true fact of help and as though stamp the action with the seal of irrationality.

4 Value #2

The abundance of irrationality around us proves that the value of another's life, the value of the other, is also important. It is also contained in man. And if for a good half of his life, man acts for himself, then in the second, even better half, he acts for the sake of others. And he receives from this not only problems, but also a kind of satisfaction, which complements his happiness, eudaimonia, nirvana and other supreme delight, giving it a kind of volume and depth. In contrast to economic value, here another part of psychology - sacrifice, kindness, collectivism - plays a role. The voluminous happiness obtained in this way is not easily called animal. A life for the sake of others is human and moral, and it deserves praise regardless of the outcome.

Herein lies an interesting, though not too obvious, phenomenon - nobody cares about the value of one’s own life except oneself, but the value of others is to them, the others, very interesting. And so, irrational actions seem more valuable than they actually are. They seem to be more important. They can be a source of pride. These sincere, impulsive and, in fact, irrational actions are sometimes even called not just commendable, good and kind, but "value-rational", to give them a double positive sense - both kind of valuable and at the same time kind of rational. Well, you yourselves understand - who wants to admit that he is acting stupidly? This never flatters anybody, we're rational beings. All the more so, if irrational activity may also have a logic. A man can act quite rationally on some intermediate stage, for example, he can clearly plan the time, cost and other resources for the trip to the mall to buy much-needed fur coats for people in tropics. After all, they promise global cooling. Why not stock up for the future?

But we are looking directly at the root. When a man knowingly acts to the detriment of himself, it is irrational in all respects. However, if his irrationality brings direct benefit to someone, then his actions still have a clear meaning, but now a non-pragmatic one. It does not have an economic result, it is outside of the economy altogether. In helping another person, man gives his economic value away and gets in return a different value, personal, human, moral, etc. It is as though he converts #1 into #2, materializes it by his sacrifice. Value #2 appears as if from nowhere, but the result of these efforts is not necessary, and even necessarily not, equal to the converted value. Non-economic value has no market price, it cannot be exchanged. One can give everything and get, or rather, materialize, nothing. The assistance provided to another can only be assessed by this particular other, from his specific, subjective point of view, and by no one else. In an irrational act, the fact of the act is more important than the amount donated, although in our time many like to keep count. Such estimates distort the relationship - economy in these cases, for example in the family, is completely out of place. What’s important is that each brought everything he could, and not a percentage, portion or share.

Thus, #2 is twofold. On one hand, it is within the subject, moves him, materializes itself by its own loss, and in this sense equals this very loss. On the other, it is transformed into the benefit of another, improves his position, and in this other sense, is equal to the increase of his #1. Since this exchange itself is not of equal value - a small sacrifice can bring a lot of benefits, and a huge one turn out to be in vain - what is value #2?

Of course, it is how valuable the other is to us, how we want to benefit him, regardless of his own value #1. The essence of the manifestation of #2 in our actions is not just to build up someone's #1, but to do it to our own detriment, to prefer his interest, to make our own value-choice. Therefore it is correct to measure value #2 by that part of our #1 we are willing to sacrifice. If we are ready to sacrifice something or someone else, that has nothing to do with us, it does not, of course, count. What matters is our own sacrifice. It ultimately could reach the whole #1, i.e., including one’s life. Hence, by the way, it is clear why #2 is directly related to morality - all morality begins with the possibility of choosing one’s death.

What is the cause of this whole mechanism, besides a vague desire to do good deeds? It is that every value craves to be possessed, that man needs to realize his own value, apply it for the sake of others, and find his own, personal usefulness. If you think of it, why bother to build #1 at all, to generate and generate values? For oneself? Man is valuable for himself in any case. Realistically, man does not need much to meet his needs. Certainly they are not worth climbing his whole life toward unattainable success, stepping over the competitors. So all of this is for someone else? Indeed. Value #1, as obtained from exchanges, remains exchangeable by nature. By increasing his value, man actually acknowledges that he is a means, because only what can be exchanged has a price. The ultimate, true value of man cannot be measured. That is why #1 itches and burns, requiring its use and acceptance by others, which its sacrifice ensures.

Morality merely serves this mechanism. Morality does not love value #1. It loves only itself. All attempts to give #1 certain virtuous features, such as courage, temperance, modesty, etc., turn out to be only a reflection of value #2, only that which in value #1 is important for others. And the closer the recipient of the sacrifice, the better he is able to evaluate it. If #1 is a purely social value, or rather worth, #2 is maximally personal. Sacrifices for the sake of some people rarely have the same meaning and effect as those for the sake of others. Compared with the more objective #1, #2 appears unpredictable and remains purely subjective. There are no ways to objectively assess it, and therefore it does not apply to the public sphere with its contract.

Many fans of rationality, however, declare value #2 imaginary and explain the apparent irrationality by simple misunderstanding. Man, they claim, does good simply because he has a need for moral and psychological comfort, no different from all other natural needs. In other words, conscience is, in their opinion, quite a biological organ. While there is certainly a grain of rationality in it, such a view is not only contrary to practical observation and clearly utopian, but also demonstrates a lack of understanding of reality. Of course, it would be ideal to turn man into a moral machine, but I'm afraid that it is not possible, because morality requires freedom not only from everything mechanical, but also from everything biological. Nothing can force a free man do good, and many make good use of this fact. Yes, carnal love and male friendship are in many ways explained by evolution, but its explanatory force is small, as we have already seen. The need for psychological and moral comfort is also undoubtedly present, especially due to social pressure, but it cannot explain truly good deeds. The truly good has no reasons. Instead of reasons, it has value #2.

6 Time and (ir)rationality

- From instincts to wisdom

The variety and mixture of motives creates a hefty mess, and the question arises - is it possible to somehow organize all this and bring it together? I think not, but why not try?

The first thing that catches the eye is that all deterministic actions have a very short time effect. Instincts do not know how to think. They can trigger all sorts of needs, emotions and feelings, but the stronger the role of mind in their assessment, monitoring and implementation, the longer (or not) their effect lasts. Delving into these considerations, we can see that the degree of both egoism and altruism underlying both types of action clearly correlates with the time of their planning or effect, and so with the degree of mind’s control over the needs.

Let's look at rational action. The more urgent a need is, the hotter the head and the less concern there is for the future. Thus, theft, fraud and generally violence arise - one wants something right here, right now, for "life is short". Naked egoism. Then comes the activity not related to violence, but making a quick profit, for example, small trade that does not require a large investment, or speculation in numerous markets. Here the profit is close, as turn-around time is short and the risk is lower than with violence. The egoism is lesser, too - it is necessary to follow rules, to think about customers, colleagues, etc. Further actions include implementing practical ideas - development, production, serious professional work. One has got to be patient and work hard, show perseverance and commitment, and at the same time forget about the quick result. There are also very long-term actions, science and art. Goals loom so far in the distance that they cannot be seen, and so it may seem that people are already abandoning their profit when they devote themselves to their favorite matter.

If we now take irrational actions, then here, too, we can see time dependence, adjusted of course for the fact that irrationality itself suggests a very uncertain benefit, i.e. strictly speaking, in this case we cannot talk about planning time. Emotional impulses, pity, compassion, etc. demand an effect right now, leaving no time for reflection. Next are conscious sacrifices for one’s nearest friends and family - a contribution to their daily and hourly well-being, but now looking at the prospects, too. Even more thoughtful sacrifice requires not so much altruism as reflection and the analysis of consequences. "Planning" penetrates unnoticed into this type of activity, it turns out to be related to a certain extent to the distance between people. Family is the survival of one’s offspring, involvement with community, neighbors and friends - the survival of one’s "small" homeland, duty in the name of the nation - the survival of one’s culture. It is easy to see that the breadth of recipients is proportional to the time horizon of action, because the time of the possible effect, reflected in the lifetime of the target community, is also growing. After all, descendants, no matter how well family traditions are kept, will sooner or later dissolve into the nation, the nation - into some sort of a "melting pot", and the pot itself - into something else. At the same time, the farther apart the people are, the weaker the altruism will be. Feelings toward loved ones can hardly be compared with feelings toward neighbors.

Being since my childhood in conflict with books without pictures, I have again decided to enlist the help of graphics. Fig.3.1 represents the dependence of altruism and egoism on time. Here everything seems trivial, especially when we compare it with Fig.1.6. But despite their apparent identity, appearances are deceptive! Time on Fig.1.6 is historical and general - we look back and see how the expression of feelings in people's lives changes, but time on Fig.3.1 is individual - now we look forward. If an instant result is caused by instant emotions, in the end only wisdom remains and no feelings. It should also be borne in mind that the picture does not mark the proximity to the subject of other people - to whom are directed, or on whom depend, or who are affected by his actions. It is obvious that altruism is more associated with the personal sphere and egoism with the public one, which will probably cause asymmetry. Asymmetry should also appear due to the fact that the effect of altruistic action is usually more remote than that of egoistic actions. I'm sorry, friends, that I preferred aesthetics to the truth.

- Gray area

Man usually sets his goals somewhere ahead, otherwise they will be of no use. But the future is unknown. How far ahead can one see? On the answer to this question depends not only the extent to which the chosen goals will be elusive, but even whether they will prove rational or not. The borderline between them is visible to the naked eye. If a goal is beyond the life span, an action imperceptibly becomes irrational. The only thing is that this very remote point is not very visible, so the borderline is blurred and turns into a gray area.

Let's clarify why a lifetime turns a rational actor into an irrational one. Personal benefit is useful if one can enjoy it right now. Or a little later, like tomorrow. It is logical, therefore, that purely rational actions have a relatively short goal. Agree that a benefit that lies outside of one’s life is a strange thing. Is it possible to enjoy this benefit? In principle, it is. Just to think about it brings a certain kind of joy. However, to plan such activities requires allocating resources to others, those who will be living after the death of the actor. Otherwise, if everyone would die at the same time, there’s no sense. Consequently, the actor takes resources away from himself and allocates them to those who remain alive. And this is irrational, because it is almost indistinguishable from helping others. Here is the grey area.

Similarly, increasing time in the case of irrational actions leads to the penetration of a rational motive. Inasmuch as irrational actions are associated with the notion of "us", they as it were extend man to the outside, but the wider the embrace of others, the less subjective and more universal the results are. And here rationality begins to penetrate this activity. If sacrifice in the name of loved ones does not contribute to personal prosperity (unless of course, we are not dealing with trivial calculation and group morality), sacrifice for a wider community brings more noticeable personal benefit. Take, for example, actions to protect the national culture. Pursuing such patriotic activity, man can actually fight for the long-term success of his professional work, since assimilation of one culture by another has a tendency to substitute the losers with the winners in the collective consciousness. Who knows how many wonderful cultural monuments have perished under the hooves of conquerors? To protect culture is an irrational, sacrificial activity, but the very idea of the victory of one’s own collective over another, whether militarily, economically or culturally, is very rational - it ensures the best conditions for individual success, too. Again, we see a gray area.

- Another drawing

If we again turn to graphics and try to replace egoism and altruism on Fig.3.1 with rationality and irrationality, we get Fig.3.2. Here, at first glance, everything is even more complicated. But I think that if we look it over, it will become clearer.

The graph shows the degree of (ir)rationality in actions, the correlation of their useful effect with the mental efforts exerted. It reflects the fact that an increase in planning time leads directly to a successful outcome, but only up to a certain point, after which the corresponding motive inevitably loses its power. What effect we are talking about? In the case of rationality, it is to increase value #1, and in the case of irrationality - to increase not value #2, as it might seem at first glance, but the value #1 of another man. Why? Because the increase of #2 is absolutely not possible by any activity - it comes from personal feelings, and besides, #2 is the opposite of #1. If we do something that materializes #2, our #1 decreases. Or at least it does not grow, although it should. People, however, are able to increase the value #1 both of themself and of others simultaneously. I.e., at some point the goal may well be beneficial to several people. Accordingly, a higher degree of irrationality results when a man is able to increase the value of the other more successfully. So we can assume that the vertical axis represents the planned increment of one’s own and another’s value #1.

It may seem like something’s wrong here, because the less sense there is in an irrational action, the more irrational it probably is, right? For example, to supply a drunk with alcohol to deliver him joy is maximally irrational, because it costs money, even while it is ruining him. The same is true of giving other risky gifts only from a desire to please, without worrying about the consequences. But the fact of the matter is that our irrationality is not the lack of rationality, but its inverse. This is rationality inside out, rationality aimed at another man and thereby potentially at to our own detriment. It is the effectiveness of converting our #1 into someone else's #1, the rationality of irrationality. We can say that our choice of the term "irrationality" is also somewhat irrational.

8 Meaning

- Merger of motives

Yes, so where's the meaning? The question is not easy. With two such different end goals as "I" and "other", meaning easily slips between them and is lost somewhere in mist of the gray area. And this is logical, in a way. Meaning is that thing peculiar to man that motivates the free mind and therefore is outside of determinism, of egoistic or altruistic needs, of every need except the need for meaning itself. Since it is freedom that necessitates the need for meaning, it is logical to assume that meaning must have something to do with freedom. But what? Meaning hardly boils down to simply the achievement of a freely chosen goal, or the outcome of free activity, or even a consequence of personal, completely free existence. Because then meaning always exists, regardless of our desire and search for it. I.e., the search for meaning becomes meaningless. Meaning may well not be in anything, not even in our own existence. But if meaning is neither the attainment of an end, a result or a consequence, then what is it?

Sometimes, meaning consists in avoiding a result, sometimes - in imagining a result, sometimes - in the process itself. Perhaps meaning lies in the search for meaning? I think that we should not rack our brains and accept the obvious. Meaning is not just any result, but the right result. And this means that the goal has to be right.

So we again come up against the problem of mind, to discover "the right". And we don’t have many options. It is clear that without rationality we cannot find meaning. How one can live for others, if life itself is impossible without taking care of oneself, without realizing one's creative and productive potential, without success, approval and the envy of others? But to live in order simply, or not so simply, to live is ridiculous. Why have so much property? Why some kind of "rank"? Does the irrational finally give meaning to the rational? Of course! It is possible for somebody to be guided all his life by the most "reasonable" motives, to know exactly what to do, to have clear goals and to behave in a highly rational manner. But sooner or later the inevitable realization of the complete meaninglessness of it all sets in. Life inevitably requires a different meaning. The horizon of rational planning is always limited. Rationality works only up to the moment of death, and although it is not known, it may be quite sensibly predicted. And this is guaranteed to kill rationality. The future should be completely unknown for man to have the desire to live, act and set goals. But at the same time it has to be attractive. This is where the ultimate goal hides, lying always outside of oneself and one’s life and therefore associated with other people - those who will be living later, afterward, always. A sacrifice for others is a necessary condition for a meaningful existence

However, in what way is the "other" than "I"? In no way, if you think about it well. Activity on its own, like act and gesture, is empty and meaningless anyways, especially considering that relatives and neighbors are also mortal. Therefore, the rational necessarily gives meaning to the irrational. The last, most distant sacrifice is in principle not even a sacrifice. What is the meaning of a sacrifice for an infinitely distant and unknown person if not the reasonable, rational understanding of eternity as an extension of one’s own life in the lives of others, self-actualization and self-fulfillment in their memory, respect and gratitude, in the spiritual communion and identification with them? This last sacrifice includes a quite selfish motive. People want and need to feel not just usefulness, contribution and necessity, but their usefulness, their contribution and their necessity. Man cannot and does not want to be just a cog, a faceless sacrifice in the name of god knows what. This something has to be his. He must feel unity with the future. Mind again cannot stop at the threshold of death. Life must go on, in others, yes, but - one’s own life. To become eternal. The act of finding the fullest possible meaning of one's existence is a sacrifice in the name of the eternal.

- Common cause

Sounds impressive. But how does this relate to practice? Directly, actually. The recognition of oneself as a human occurs through the stage of finding something common with other people. At first, "I am this" means "I am similar to such and such", then "I am part of such and such" and finally "I live for the sake of such and such" or else, "such and such is the meaning of my life", with "such and such" already denoting all that is sensible and free. To understand the essence of this sublime logic, we should get away from the primitive understanding of "self". Of course, someone might say "I am a collection of cells". And he will not be mistaken. But a free man identifies himself with the idea of community, and not with the violence of causality. Freedom requires unity. Otherwise, where will the contract come from?

And if to take normal people, any active, productive man always remembers this. The true happiness of self-realization, creativity and labor is possible only when a man feels his belonging and the continuity of his affairs with a common cause, the continuity of his existence with the existence of his circle, the collective, the community. This entirely everyday feeling is not loaded with philosophy, it is alive in each one of us. It exists as if by default and becomes painfully apparent only when lost, when a man is alone, not needed, useless. All one needs for happiness is a common cause that is big enough to live for. Nothing less will solve the problem of meaning. Any goal, if it is sufficiently quickly achievable, inevitably raises the problem of the next goal, and it may well be that the next goal will reject the previous one that has already been achieved. And then man finds that achieving it did not have much sense, the achieved only has meaning if it was a part of something more general, a stepping stone to the next goal. So the ultimate goal has to be either unachievable, which immediately makes it meaningless, or right - so right that, regardless of its inaccessibility, it makes sense to live for it. That's why life is less than the goal - the goal becomes more valuable than life itself. And that's why the motives of great beginnings, inspiring the masses of people, are so engrossing. The problem of searching for meaning is solved relatively painlessly, if one finds a great goal.

In contrast, in the absence of a great goal, despite all the exertions of practical reason, meaningful behavior will not happen from the very start. If we honestly rely on rationality, we will see criminal glamour and an ignominious end, or the mentality "Live beautiful, die young" and a shameful fiasco, or pure practicality, the pursuit of money and spiritual devastation. And if one dedicates oneself to an irrational spiritual search in a group of associates, there is a chance that having started with yoga and eastern philosophy, one ends up in the Taiga, waiting to be rescused by The Cosmic Mind.

Is not this absence of rightness the problem of "lost" individuals, generations and even entire countries, still unable to figure out their national idea, when the social fabric is atomized, and the value of common is trampled and spat upon, when old ideals are dead and there is nothing to replace them? The result is a loss of motivation, desire and incentives for life and struggle. The unscrupulous are immersed in immorality, the conscientious powerlessly despise everything around them. And is this not the cause of riots or silent protests? When instead of the bright future the protestors see only meanness, injustice and falsehood? And is this not what causes the constant emergence of new ideas, suggesting another sublime goal, whether anti-globalization, anti-corruption, anti-exploitation or protection of all kinds of rights? People cannot live without great ideas, without inspiring impulses. They see meaning in changing the present, improving it, making it kinder and more humane, and thereby recreating the future by giving it appeal. The future gets the meaning that they put in it now. And, importantly, common, one for all.

But how do we find it? Where do we get it from?

9 Value #3

- Objectivity

In the search of meaning we're at last getting to our destination - objective ethics. Obviously, ethics is somehow connected to the infinity of mind. Neither pure rationality nor pure irrationality generates, explains and demands ethics. What ethics can there be, if the end is near? This means that all the answers are to be found in the gray area. As we might guess, that’s where there are located a variety of abstractions symbolizing the eternal to a greater or lesser degree, the objectivity of which is a condition of their existence - humanity, progress, truth, beauty.

Let's clarify why objectivity is in the gray area.

Take irrationality. The further a man directs his gaze in search of sacrificial ideals, the more abstract they become and the more he has to paint them in the similarly abstract views about good and bad, right and wrong. Specific people cause specific feelings. Practical rightness does not cause difficulties here. But the stranger-abstraction requires not so much feelings as reflections. Then the correctness of goals begins to rely on concepts common to all which have been found together, by the general contract. With the disappearance of specifics, the value of the other (#2) diminishes and in infinity becomes equal to one's own value (#1), and irrational motives come back to the individual and merge with the rational ones.

The same is true of rationality. In the gray area, there is an obvious preservation of the rational motive - man clearly understands the goal and it is his personal goal. But obviously the more long-term it is, the more its achievement requires stability, interaction with other people and confidence that others will be just as interested in stability and in their own long-term goals as he is. It also requires that his personal understanding of rightness matches theirs. That is, the further into the future the goal, the higher the value of other people, and, therefore, the more irrational the motives, until finally in infinity one’s own value and those of others are finally equal. With the equality of the values, the subjectivity of the goal is destroyed but its objectivity appears, which, as we might guess, corresponds to the exact boundary between the rational and irrational and, by happy coincidence, to that drawn between people by objective ethics.

These goals are so different from rational and irrational ones, or on the contrary, so intertwined with both of them, that they may well be put in a separate class, "supra-pragmatic". If the roots of #1 and #2 are hidden in biology and the social instincts, these goals are entirely a product of the free mind. Their objectivity could be found by consensus only. People enigmatically come to the understanding of common goals, first by a common culture, a similar education and voluntary co-operation and then, sometime in the future, simply because they are human. The subject finally disappears from the picture. And without their subjectness, people turn into something abstract - they act so much the same that they can no longer be distinguished. So, we may say that the new objective motive serves the similarly objective goal, and a corresponding value, that lurk in some entity not yet having a generally accepted name, but so universal that it is definitely one for all.

- The common good (CG)

The last value (in order, #3), the ultimate goal, and at the same time the meaning of human actions, tracked through all the right intermediate goals, is the hypothetical Supreme Good, personal-public-social, so general that it transforms into the Universal Good, Almighty God, Absolute Grace, Perfect Love, etc. As such words can easily cause sacred trembling and paralysis of the brain, I will refer to it briefly and ordinarily as the common good, CG or #3. People feel it as their most important, though not always fully understood, goal, the movement to which brings satisfaction from years not lived in vain. We all want to make the world a little better, and if we don't, it's because we can't. This desire is the source of both the greatest happiness and at the same time the greatest misfortune. Despite the abstract nature of CG, it sometimes penetrates into personal success, self-satisfaction, eudaimonia and nirvana, imparting to all of these a piece of objectivity. It can succeed in that only because of its abstractness. The common good cleanses motives of everything that hinders objectivity - needs, preferences, interests. It brings together both the values "I" and "other" and replaces them with "we" and "always", creating a sense of connection to everything around and belonging to the past and future. CG carries with it responsibility for the world, for its integrity, security and development. It takes social space and time to their logical end - the endless collective, in which random partners are absolutely unknown, and the eternal planning horizon, where the benefit of partnership is absolutely unpredictable.

The meaning now is that any right action must make the world better. But "better" how, exactly? In what way? It is not clear. What’s clear is only the glaring inconsistency of our internal picture of #3 with the surrounding reality, which causes a burning sense of protest. CG is becoming more concrete as one approaches the threshold of wisdom, where the mundane seems meaningless bustle and thoughts rush for the eternal. The farther they rush, the closer it seems. Thinking about his purpose, about who he is and what his path is, one can see the highest value in the fate of his people and the memory of ancestors, in loyalty to traditions and the progress of mankind, in the happiness of fatherland and glory of motherland, in national independence and the oath to the Emperor, in "liberty-equality-fraternity" and democratic ideals, and if he goes very far, in God, World Spirit and Source of Universe, with which he finds a common language and feels an unbreakable inner unity. But of course, how this CG really looks we do not know. And is it really important? It exists, and ultimately, each individually and all together live for its sake. Otherwise, why live?

- The measure of value

Due to its objectivity, and therefore despite its ambiguity and some diversity of embodiment, CG turns out to be that absolute value, relative to which everything else in our life, including #1 and #2, is measured. Must there be some value scale, some solid standard of goodness, some kind of absolute, even an evaluative one? If in the everyday sense #1 is quite suitable as a measure of value, then when it comes to the evaluation of people themselves, it turns out to be quite awkward. Already mutual economic values need a hard basis. And if it comes to the question of good and bad generally, then to make a comparison with me, you or anybody else is ridiculous. Although there regularly appear strictly theoretical attempts to announce that the supreme value is human life, when it comes to practice it always turns out that there are more important things. That is where #3 comes in. If something is said to be good or bad "generally", it means in relation to it. The absolute of all-human and even supra-human value, the only possible highest good, is what people want to have above themselves as a landmark or guiding hand, what they want to reach and merge with in an infinitely distant and happier tomorrow. It may be the measure, it may be an unattainable ideal.

They want to, but they can’t. Like any abstraction, CG has little use for specific measurements. And it cannot be otherwise. If #3 were more specific, it could not serve this role, since it could be divided, comprehended and then rejected - which in fact always happens with its specific embodiments. One can only ignore #3, thereby automatically losing all moral bearing. Outside #3 one cannot understand why #1 and #2 are valuable. Naively explaining their value by the "love of life" can be done while life is fun. That sooner or later ends, because nature is not able to provide us with pleasure to the very end. And sometimes suffering begins from the very beginning. What is the value of sufferings? What is the value of forcibly getting rid of them? So it turns out that without a solid absolute life is empty, purposeless and does not have any value.

- "Mechanism" of CG

CG is so unlike all that nature has invented that the behavior of a man striving toward it has received a specific name, as has he himself. We are talking of course about ethics - ethical behavior and the ethical man. From its infinity, #3 attempts to subordinate all other goals and thereby to create a new, ethical individual. It detaches him from his biological (#1) and collectivist (#2) roots and breathes into him dignity, a piece of its value. True, #3 is as paradoxical a goal as it is a measure. As a goal, it is impossible to comprehend. It is both reachable and not. Improving the world can be endless, but each improvement is quite real.

Value #3 is the engine underlying ethics, triggering our moral mechanisms, calling each in society to the contract with all and creating humans out of them. Obeying the call of CG, a man does the right things and turns his moral value into the benefit of all. Thus CG materializes itself. It makes possible the contract and cooperation, and so its own existence. We could even say that CG and the contract are synonyms, for, being one for everybody and turning man into abstraction, CG changes man’s behavior so that people act together, as if they had agreed beforehand. Or vice versa - they did agree beforehand and then became ethical.

#3 is always present in everyone who can think and act. Does it direct him? Usually not. In our examples of real actions we have yet to see anything really exciting. Perhaps in our prehistoric times, shorter goals tracing back to #1 and #2 take precedence. But somewhere behind them looms #3. It watches from above by its all-seeing eye, no worse than the Lord God, and requires everyone to be ethical. No more and no less. In fact, what concrete, practical sense can an abstract good have? One just has to be a human being, always and everywhere, in every act, deed and gesture. To think in different categories than profit or benefit. To strive to be better - and then the world will be better too.

But while CG does not set specific goals, does not compel man to meaningless work and does not torment him pettily and tiresomely, as do all other external and internal forces, it affects all his actions, structuring them, arranging within the acceptable limits and subordinating them to a higher order, inaccessible to a single mind. Therefore ethics, although it is itself implemented by the mechanisms of mind, can also be considered a "mechanism" of the next level. It is a way of materialization of a distant and uncertain CG by means of norms mandatory here and now.

- Order

The ability of CG to arrange people in columns and make them march hints at some important meaning hiding behind it. And the truth is, despite our marching seemingly nowhere, we do not go in vain. CG creates a different expediency. The binding and organizing power of value #3 forms something integral and orderly out of the chaos of individual actions. The ethical man is able to be a building block, almost like all the other building blocks of the universe, forming higher order structures. He only has to obey objective ethics. Whether this occurs consciously or not is not important, because CG is quite an objective oddity of mind. Looking to the future, it creates the possibility of making a future, and the farther it looks, the more reliable and durable the result. What does it see there?

One of the ancients said that to act morally is to act in one’s enlightened interest, one of the great - that morality is above one’s interests. Many of our contemporaries say that one’s interest is morality. In fact, one’s interests coincide with the interests of society somewhere at the limit. The chaos of society is different from the chaos of the animal world, in that people seek to coordinate their actions, which is impossible without forecasting the behavior of others. If the prediction horizon is zero, we have the chaos of the wild jungle, where everyone meets his current needs while constantly conflicting with others. In anticipation of such a result, people limit the randomness of their actions. But instead, they create the chaos of their speculation and ideas about the future - the conflicts of goals arise. Greater order and better coordination result from a wider radius of foresight. In order for the chaos to finally disappear and for a single destination for all to appear, this radius has to exceed the physical limit of life. Preferably, it would also exceed the limit of the closest descendants, too, and then of one’s historic collective. If enlightened rationality is the ability to plan beyond short-term profit, ethicality - to plan infinitely far ahead. The very thought of the eternal makes a man wiser and kinder. Ethics eliminates the risk caused by human actions. It orders the future arbitrarily far.

Indeed, ethical activity destroys the surrounding chaos and the more its planning time, the longer its effect, and the wider its potential coverage, and the greater the proportion of the world it will affect. When the radius of foresight extends beyond the circle of life, both enlightened interest and non-enlightened one - generally, any interest - disappear. The infinite planning horizon identifies man with the world. The only correct good is the good of "all", an elusive but real entity, who lives somewhere in the entire universe. CG imparts the right order to the universe!

- Reality of CG

And this improvement is real. Yes! The result we have reached is no mind game or theoretical exercise - the work of CG can be observed with our own eyes! Look how many kinds of goods are around us. And some of them we can use. We are proud of our civilization and our culture, but what is culture? Ethics, of course. Culture can be seen from this point of view as an aid to anticipation and planning. Norms, procedures, roles, etc. are signs that allow us to predict the behavior of other people and interact with them. They are elements of the contract. If we can drive on a green light, it is only because we know that the rest are stopped at a red light. Even the external symbols that help distinguish friend from foe are a way to predict their possible actions. Norms are developed by chance, but they are based on ethics. Signs can be deceptive. Ethics is a guarantee of quality, fastening the entire system together. This is the true wealth of society, and therefore it certainly is greater than man. What is the value of a man without ethics, a hominid and homo economicus? A destroyer and a consumer. Even wild nature is more valuable.

The level of ethics - the degree of the population’s ethicality, the quantity, quality and complexity of procedures and institutions, their fairness - is certainly reflected in the level of social development, the standard of living, the level of economic, aesthetic and scientific progress, and of course the level of law and order, corruption, crime and all sorts of this stuff that we associate with civilization. Ethics is the social equivalent of time, both as the past, in the sense of its accumulation, and as the future, in the sense of opportunities for further development. When a man is concerned about his survival, he is not up for ethics. The more opportunities he has in store, both economic and cultural, the greater his guarantee of stability, and the more he is able to look ahead, and the better he is able to realize his creative potential and create the everlasting. The quality of life caused by the already acquired ethics moves the horizon ahead. Ethics raises itself. This paradoxical practical meaninglessness is its meaning. All other practical benefits - safety, efficiency, well-being, etc. - are derived from it. Striving for CG generates CG and this is the only possible social progress.

We see here the same human "law" - as with the title of man, the good exists if one strives for it. But we should not think that this way CG expresses the interests of society or some sort of goal of mankind. Mankind has no goal, for example, survival. A living thing wants to survive, but mankind is not a species. What is it simply to survive for? And what is the interest of society? Is it unity, development and integrity? But why? Is it the accumulation of goodness, love and happiness in it? For whom? Humanity and its eternal existence is not an end, so it is a means. For what? For CG, which is greater than humanity itself.

11 Practical goods

- The basis of practical goods

Of course, freedom itself cannot guarantee practical goods, utility or any use at all. It is all the more strange that practical goods, by the accumulation of which ordinary people understand social progress, flow from ethics on their own, though in a non-guaranteed way. But is it really so? Maybe the reason is not ethics but, for example, technical progress, wise rulers or, finally, the pure luck of the historical process?

And yet, the reason is obvious. The ability to strive toward CG is a necessary, though not sufficient condition for finding the right norms and procedures. The lighthouse of CG enables people to find their way to public institutions that do not benefit anyone specifically and that cannot be organized in any other way - complete safety, perfect money, the just court and many others, not yet discovered or invented. Of course, to consider such institutions to be "practical goods" is somehow awkward. But it is possible, because it is only thanks to them that we have very real goods, otherwise, all our productive activity would escape in the sand or rather would be appropriated by someone else. Socially useful institutions are nothing other than well-built procedures, and the sole criterion of their correctness is an objective ethical basis - the good of all in general and no one in particular. Neither rational enlightened interest, nor sacrificial personal relationships, nor any sacred duty or moral absolute is able to form such a basis.

If we rely on these crutches and stray away from objective ethics, then under the guise of practical, collective or any other important goods, people can easily create advantages for some at the expense of others and as a result lose both freedom and goods, as often happens. For example, the monetary system, security and the market are typical practical goods, but they serve society very unevenly - part of the public has privileged access to them. Something simpler, such as public control over the quality of milk, is an undoubted practical good for consumers of milk, obtained by increasing prices and taxing those who do not use it. A just court is the most important practical good, but a real court, of course, might differ in the direction of the public as your heart desires. But we should not be pessimistic, my friends. Freedom and ethics bring truly remarkable results, you cannot argue with that. Many of us, for example, have hot water in the tap and electricity in the socket!

Yes, but how did they get there? What is the procedure, so to speak?

- Objective benefit

First we need to understand that electricity and hot water - not as physical phenomena, but as an embodiment of progress - are CG itself, but in an extremely concrete expression. A grain of CG, in the form of "objective benefit / utility (OU)" and "objective value (OV)" lurks in any useful idea or product, in all the good of which our society consists, from science to bread and butter. For, a single man is unable neither to create these goods, nor to destroy them, ie to consume so that they are not left to the others. However, to directly separate this grain from the everyday, immediately perceivable good - by the mind's eye or scientific search - is impossible. What’s objective is useful not through utility or pleasure, it is useful as freedom itself, society, mind or, say, a clear conscience is useful. That is, very abstractly. In general, OU and OV are almost the same thing. Value and benefit are subjective for each, but when we add objectivity to them, then they converge on a common focus and lead to CG.

At the same time, they move away from the concrete. We can say that an objective value is inversely proportional to a pragmatic one, and an objective utility - to a practical one. The latter always carry a strong imprint of #1, because benefits for a man are based on his subjective feelings. This conclusion may seem paradoxical to anyone who has not read the previous text and does not know how we came to it. Both freedom and ethics lack utility. Utility, by contrast, is a consequence of determinism. Satiety, warmth and other pleasurable sensations are its tricks, attempts to seduce us and turn away from freedom. But of course, they try to no avail. Personal comfort cannot divert an ethical man and prevent him from seeing and appreciating the objective.

To recognize the objective in sliced bread or chlorinated water is not easy. But it may well be represented much more clearly, though already much less usefully. For instance, what is the use of the fine art? What about fundamental scientific truth? Objective utility is an ethical ideal sought by any useful activity. If we look at Fig.3.2, we see that any goal lying on the axis of time is objective, even if it has not hit eternity. The maximum common benefit is enough for "practical" objectivity. Ethics is not so demanding as not to agree to anything less than eternity. Of course, full objectivity, together with the full abstractness, comes out only there, but it's clearly unattainable. The most abstract painting has a chance to prove not abstract enough for blind residents of, say, Cassiopeia. It is important that ethics allows one to move farther or closer along the axis, leaving enough space for man to express not only creative, but also any practical abilities.

- From abstract to concrete

Although it requires a variety of social institutions, the path from abstraction to bread and water does not start with them. It all starts with ethics, but not in the form of prohibitions against egoism and the commandment "Thou shalt not kill". Absolutes are, of course, important, but one cannot spread butter onto bread by them. Before reaching a norm, people must consent. The contract is not possible without common grounds, and these grounds are the desire of CG. But people are not able to agree on abstractions, and so CG generates its concretizations in the form of final truths, ideals, supreme values, etc., that may be envision and discussed. Even more specifically, all of this spiritual creativity is expressed in the more practical ideas and goals that, in turn, are embodied in procedures and institutions. But with this, the "utility" of ethics does not end, because the institutions are working, and the procedures are executed. The activity of the people governed in this way gives rise to specific knowledge, processes and technologies that lead, when applied, to the creation of the very real goods that we all need every day (Fig.3.3).

Of course, the concretization of CG, as well as "discussion" of it, is not necessarily explicit. For a long time history has not been at all concerned with ideas. But the point remains the same. Ethic works implicitly too, though not as effectively. After all, the meaning of one’s life exists even if one does not think about it. The search for one’s personal goal and meaning requires finding a concrete guise for abstract CG. This is the essence of CG as the incarnation of freedom. But ethical people do it so that their concretizations remain concretizations of CG and not of something else. Accordingly, the goods produced by them remain similarly objective, and this search for his own personal objective usefulness is the moral duty of every free man. Thus, a baker may imagine CG as bread on each table. And the bread that he bakes will bear that meaning in every slice.

In the process of implementing his idea of CG, the baker, among other things, will have to open a business, hire people, issue shares and create a pension fund. All such activity, which falls in the middle of the pyramid of goods, is his way of turning CG into sliced bread. The interior of the pyramid is a kind of system of social management, the rules of social organization, transforming the common and abstract into the personal and concrete. The desire for freedom allows for coordinating in common the activity of the production and distribution of possibilities, resources and other material benefits. CG as it were descends from heaven and enters consumable products.

12 The economics of freedom

- Freedom from values

To understand this, consider values more closely. What is common in the values of different products? Of course CG, but is there a way to get to it? In the general case, there is not. The value of a new product can be assessed only by the internal moral vision. But in simple cases, especially in these times of total violence and the reign of determinism, we can try to isolate what is common and regular in practical goods.

Pragmatic values start with utility, and that starts with needs. To begin, consider the hard deterministic needs, without which one cannot live for a long time, for example, that same bread. The need for bread can range from zero to the maximum, after which there is neither need nor its subject (Fig.3.4). First, the need presents itself with ease, not so much as need, but as the memory of it. If a man does not want to remember, it speaks louder and finally comes to a critical stage, where it has nowhere to grow, and the body gathers its last strengths to survive. The limit is the critical time, and Tc is the point where the value of any piece of bread goes up infinitely for the subject. If it was possible to find bread earlier, it is eaten and the need for it disappears. The utility of bread is its ability to satisfy the need - hunger, and its value is its ability to do so as well and quickly as possible.

What does value depend on? Let's look at our formula, but not yet go into the details. First and mainly, it depends on Ta, the time to access it. This time includes not only the labor necessary for baking it, but also time to understand the utility of bread, to study the baker's skills and a host of other times associated with this process, including holidays. And if a man himself does not bake, it includes the time to earn money, find bread and buy it. Ta is directly related to the rarity of bread. The less bread around, the longer it takes to find and get it. Second, it depends on the quality of bread, which is implicitly reflected by the time of its effect - how long it will take to eat it and for how long it will then be possible to forget about it (the term with Tf). Third, it depends on the time Ts, when man recalls about bread. After Tc, to recall is impossible, near it, it may be too late to start looking for it. With the ability to remember, people can stock up on bread for the future, which might render the third factor insignificant. The second factor plays an important, but not an interesting role. But the first shows us the essence - why different people value the same bread differently - because at equal Tc, everyone needs a different time to get it.

Comparing subjective values of bread, people can come to a conclusion about how to distribute bread so that each spends the minimal time on it and becomes maximally free not only subjectively, but also objectively - because everybody will become freer. And this is the meaning of the contract, as well as of progress. Overcoming needs, man instead becomes a slave of values. He works and it seems that he produces values. But in fact, he destroys them, because value is proportional to rarity. He produces OV, also time, but another kind - a time of freedom. The more each works, the less time everybody needs to meet the needs - progress is the movement Ta -> ta. And in the end, ideally, every pragmatic value has to disappear and become like air, the most valuable and at the same time valueless resource. Isn’t there a paradox here, nagging mind? The transformation of personal labor, producing values, into CG that is equal to their absence?

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