Advanced Search

Most currencies in the world today are issued by governments. Does this mean

Most currencies in the world today are issued by governments. Does this mean that money only has value because governments assign it value? By this definition, are commodities more valuable than money since value is assigned by individuals instead of governments?

Not at all, things have value not because governments or individuals assign them value but because a significant group of people do. Whatever we are prepared to accept as valuable makes something valuable. Governments certainly cannot do it as we can see at times of hyperinflation when governments say they support the currency but people in general do not so it becomes largely worthless. Even the value of commodities varies from time to time and place to place. It is not directly because of anything officials or individuals do, it is a matter of supply and demand, and fashion.

Moses Maimonides pointed out that what we need to live is bread and water, and these are very cheap, whereas some useless thing like a jewel is often very highly valued. He is right and what makes it valued is nothing objective about it, just how people whose opinion counts feel about it.

Why knowledge has intrinsic value?Why dow value knowledge for its own sake?

Why knowledge has intrinsic value? Why dow value knowledge for its own sake?

Not everyone thinks that knowledge has intrinsic value -- after all, many people purport to subscribe to the claim that ignorance is bliss. This was the position taken by Cypher in the movie The Matrix -- he thought he would have been better left in The Matrix, thinking that he was tasting a delicious steak, even though it was all just a fiction. Cypher's seems to be that knowledge lacks any intrinsic value.

But we can perform some thought experiments to check our own intuitions on the matter. Suppose some aliens kidnapped you, took you to their planet, performed some experiments on you, and then returned you to your bed. But before they did any of this they gave you some powerful drugs to keep from you any knowledge of the whole experience. In thinking about such a case, many people think they are worse off for not knowing what happened to them. This lack of knowledge seems bad, over and above the harm of the experiments themselves.

Or, if you've seen the movie The Truman Show, think about Truman and his predicament -- he's essentially the butt of a cosmic joke. Now the producers of the Truman Show are not quite as good as they should be, and so there are cracks in the facade that let Truman guess that things are not quite right. So suppose the producers were a little bit better and Truman really had no sense of what was going on. Everyone is treating him like he's the king of the world, and he's happy. Truman is deluded though -- he doesn't know the truth about his reality. In thinking about such a case, though, many people have the intuition that Truman is worse off for this lack of knowledge, even though he's happy. If you share this intuition, that would suggest that knowledge is valuable for its own sake and not because it facilitates something like happiness -- in this case, it might actually take away happiness.

Of course, this doesn't quite help to show why knowledge is intrinsic, but it should help to motivate the claim that it is.

There's an accessible treatment of some of these issues in Chapter 4 of Thomas Hurka's book, The Best Things in Life if you want to do some more reading on the topic.

According to value theory, does manufacturing an object (e.g. a bicycle) always

According to value theory, does manufacturing an object (e.g. a bicycle) always result in more value than performing a service (e.g. giving a haircut) since the object can be used again and again, can be resold, and cannot be destroyed (by law of conservation of mass). Or is this question out of the domain of value theory and limited to philosophy of economics?

Manufacturing adds value by configuring materials in certain ways; and this value can be lost even if the object's mass is preserved. Thus, destruction of the bicycle cancels the value of manufacturing it, even if the metal and other materials survive the destruction. Conversely, a service can continue producing value for a very long time: a medical treatment administered today can add decades to a person's life, and good education can convey knowledge, wisdom or a skill which can be useful for the student's lifetime and beyond (if she passes it on to others). So the reasons you consider do not show that manufacturing something is always more valuable than performing a service.

What is value of knowledge?

What is value of knowledge?

Knowledge may be valuable in itself i.e. for its own sake. When you ask "What is the value of knowledge?" you may be asking what else is it valuable for. There is hardly any human activity that is not aided by relevant knowledge. Medicine and technology are the result of applying scientific knowledge to a vast range of human needs.

Why should we accept compliments as the truth but accept insults as lies?

Why should we accept compliments as the truth but accept insults as lies? Self-help books, quotes on the Internet, and average people in everyday life, often try to comfort those who have been severely insulted by saything things like: "They're just saying that because they're jealous," "They're just trying to bring you down because they're unhappy with their lives," "They don't know what they're talking about," and my favorite, "What people say about you says more about who they are than who you are." These sort of statements invalidate the insult, giving the insulted person no real reason to be upset. However, if all that is true, what about all the times that we have been complimented? They could very well falsely be trying to "bring you up" for whatever reason, it's still possible they don't know what they're talking about, and if it says more about them than it does about you, then good for them for being a "good person," but it really has nothing to do with you. But this isn't what we're...

This is a very interesting question! The social practices of complimenting and criticising are both extremely important - and of course philosophically rich (for instance, they invite both ethical and epistemological reflection).

There is - in my view - no simple answer to the question of whether we ought to accept every compliment offered to us, for three reasons.

First, sometimes the compliment will be false - one in fact lacks the virtue that the compliment attributes to one - and sometimes the compliment will be unacceptably exaggerated - "I'm good, yes, but not that good!" - and sometimes the compliment will entail insulting or demeaning other people - " Wow, you're way smarter than these other people!"

Second, sometimes one might want to resist a compliment because one has worries about or objections to the complimenter. For instance, a friend of mine was recently praised by a member of a nationalistic political party for their tenacity and conviction - this was during a debate about immigration - and my friend rejected the compliment because they did not want to accept the praise of an aggressive (and quite likely xenophobic) nationalist. So the complimenter and the context should affect our decision about whether or not to accept a compliment.

Finally, some compliments may require modification - they might need to be moderated or softened or qualified - e.g. "It was very good, yes, but I made a few technical errors..." or "Thankyou, but I really couldn't have done it without the help of my team....", which is what Oscar winners often say in their speeches.

So we should not simply accept every compliment offered to us - some are likely to be false, exaggerated, insulting to others, or offered by objectionable people - and in my view there is a certain moral and social skill in recognising which compliments to accept or reject, or to moderate or modify.

In his response to an earlier question about physical beauty, Nicholas D. Smith

In his response to an earlier question about physical beauty, Nicholas D. Smith responded: "Unfortunately, a lot of good-looking people are not very beautiful in any way other than the way they look." Though there might be some rare exceptions in the world, for the most part I agree with his statement. And I'm wondering about the relationship between physical beauty and virtue... If, hypothetically speaking, Mr. Smith's claim were a natural law (Good-looking people are not very beautiful in any way other than the way they look) what then would be the most likely cause for its validity? In other words, do external factors such as our society/culture make it difficult for good-looking people to develop in more internal ways, such as through character, morality, kindness etc. Or does physical beauty itself inherently impede the good-looking ones from ever becoming beautiful in more virtuous ways?

There's difficulty that stand in the way of answering your question. In the actual world, it's not a law that physically beautiful people aren't virtuous. Some are, and some aren't. So your question is about a world with different laws than this one and you're asking what would be the explanation for a regularity in that world that doesn't hold up in this one.

Now such questions aren't necessarily meaningless. One way to understand them: think about a world that's otherwise as much like this one as possible, except that beautiful people aren't virtuous. Do we have any hope of getting a grip on that question?

Possibly. Though there certainly are people in the actual world who are both beautiful and virtuous, perhaps there's some statistical correlation between beauty and lack of virtue. (I'm skeptical, but let that pass.) If so, then the way to answer your question would be to investigate whatever it might be in this world that underlies the statistical pattern, and extrapolate from that to a situation where the correlation becomes a full-blown law. That wouldn't be easy, but it might be possible.

Now, however, we have a different problem. Let's suppose that in this world, being beautiful raises the probability of not being virtuous. The question of why this is so (if it is) isn't one that philosophers have any special competence to answer. It's an empirical question and answering it would call the right sort of social science and/or biological investigation.

It may sound like I'm ducking your question, and in one sense I am. But the real point is to make clear why the question isn't likely to yield to speculation.

Is there any example of something which holds value, but has no actual or

Is there any example of something which holds value, but has no actual or potential application? Is value really just a measure of usefulness, or is it a distinct quality?

On the one hand, most anything we can imagine has some sort of potential application. But the fact that we could use Michelangelo's Pieta to block a washed-out road doesn't have anything to do with why we think the Pieta is valuable.

Now if we're prepared to use "usefulness" loosely enough, then the "value=usefulness" idea might get a better run for its money. A work of art has the potential "use" of eliciting aesthetic experiences from us. However, the obvious reply is that those experiences are valuable for their own sake and not because they're useful for some other purpose.

The defended of the "value=usefulness" idea can still make a few moves. Aesthetic experiences, the story might go, are conducive to a good life. (We'll leave aside the large question of just what a good life amounts to.) But there are two obvious replies. One is that even if aesthetic experiences can be part of some larger value, they could still be valuable for their own sake. The even more obvious reply is that a good life seems to be the sort of thing that's valuable for its own sake.

In any case, if "usefulness" means what most people mean, it's hard to see why we'd agree that all value is a matter of usefulness. Most of us don't need to look far to find things that seem valuable for reasons that don't have anything to do with their usefulness. In fact, the contrary thesis has a better shot at being true: we care about usefulness because ultimately it gets us to things that are valuable for their own sake.

As an atheist, I am often asked the question, "What is the meaning of life for

As an atheist, I am often asked the question, "What is the meaning of life for an atheist?" I am myself sometime confused whether as an atheist do have a purpose in life or I am just living and waiting for an end to my life? Mirza A.

I think the meaning of life is to give life meaning.

I find helpful the idea of being in the now .. the past is all gone, forever, period, it no longer matters. The future is not yet. Be here now!

Here are some quotes I find helpful:

“Human life is founded on kindness and concord, and is bound into an alliance for common help, not by terror, but by mutual love.”

Seneca

“Courtesy, kindness, justice and love are the keynotes by which we may come into harmony with practically anybody.”

Bill Wilson

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit.

The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love ...”

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”

Marcus Aurelius

"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."

" The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings."

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

" Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule."

Buddha

If you are depressed you are living in the past.If you are fearful and anxious you are living in the future. If you are atpeace, you are living in the present moment.

-Lao Tzu

Nowadays, I feel as if right now, in this current world, humans are only wanting

Nowadays, I feel as if right now, in this current world, humans are only wanting to study really hard in school, get a job, and receive money for food and personal items. I feel like there's more to life than that but everybody I ask seems to only want a good job and a lot of money. I am 16 years old and I know that I still have a lot of years to live through but sometimes I feel as if just getting a job and getting money with that job is such a pointless goal. I keep thinking if that is the meaning of life, then that is such an uninteresting goal. But, I still try my best in school and academics because I have this weird, abstract feeling that I absolutely HAVE to or I will fail in life. I do not know the explanation of that feeling but I listen to it. Is just getting a job, doing that job and getting money for it the meaning of the vast majority of this world's people's lives?

Just FYI: The link Prof. Pessin supplied isn't an essay by Thomas Nagel. It appears to be a paper concerning Nagel's work on the meaning of life, a paper written by a student (Lucas Beerekamp) for a course at a university in the Netherlands. Chapter 1o of Nagel's introductory book What Does It All Mean? (1987) is entitled "The Meaning of Life." Perhaps that's what Prof. Pessin meant to refer to (although it's barely seven short pages). More likely he meant to refer to Nagel's famous Journal of Philosophy article, "The Absurd" (1971).

I know that many philosophers might scoff upon being asked some variation of

I know that many philosophers might scoff upon being asked some variation of "What is the meaning of life or living" but isn't it about the most relevant question one can ask in relation to philosophy and its relationship with humankind? It seems this is studied very little or at all by philosophers in academia. As a follow-up, do philosophers either in the continental or analytic tradition place any value in the metaphysical writings of yogis or mystics from India; isn't it at least worth investigating?

It would be unbecoming of a philosopher to scoff at the question rather than engage it in some way, and philosophers do engage it. Another book to investigate is the third edition of The Meaning of Life: A Reader, edited by Klemke and Cahn. In his article "The Absurd" (widely anthologized, including in Klemke and Cahn), Nagel makes a tantalizingly brief suggestion that many who seek the meaning of life are seeking something flatly impossible: a life purpose so significant, so clearly ultimate, that it would make no sense to question it. Take happiness, for example. We can't simply define it as "the ultimate goal of life," because that would be a circular definition in this context. So we can question it as a goal: Is it the same as pleasure, or is it more like lasting satisfaction? Is it tied to virtue or not? Whichever answers we give to those questions invite the further sensible question "If that's what happiness is, then why is it the ultimate goal?" In this short magazine article, I follow up Nagel's suggestion in the context of traditional theism. [By the way, Chapter 1o of Nagel's introductory book What Does It All Mean? (1987) is entitled "The Meaning of Life," but it's barely seven short pages. More likely Prof. Pessin meant to refer to Nagel's "The Absurd" in his comment above.]

Pages