The Relation of the Individual to the Social Value: Part II


Urban, Wilbur M. “The Relation of the Individual to the Social Value-Series. II.” The Philosophical Review 11, no. 3 (1902): 249. https://doi.org/10.2307/2176564


THE preceding paper was concerned with the difficulties and contradictions that arise in attempting to apply the principles of the personal value series to the explanation of the origin and mutations of social-values, or in attempting, on the other hand, to account for the meaning of the personal series and its principles in terms of the objective, quantitative methods applied to the study of the social series. In either case such contradictions arose that there seemed to be at least a critical, negative basis for the theory of relative indifference of the laws of the two series. This was expressed in terms of a dualistic application of the principle of rational sufficiency. A point was reached in the discussion where it was seen that neither the principle of 'increase of value,' nor that of 'equivalence of value’ both of which are fundamental in the sanctioning consciousness of the individual in the personal value-series, can find phenomenal application in the objective social series. They were reduced to principles of the individual. It was seen also that this situation arises out of the fact that there is no common term of measurement to which the two series can be reduced, because the abstraction of the social series of values from the personal bearers of values, and its treatment as part of the system of nature, requires us to think of its values as subject merely to the laws of transformation and mutation, and not capable of increase, while the inmost meaning of the personal series is that it imputes increasing value on the assumption of indefinite increase of valuing energy.


This imputation of increasing personal value, concomitantly with the expansion or extension of a disposition in the personality, is conceivable only on the theory that the processes of which value is a function must differ in the personal and social series in such a way that value must have a different meaning in the two spheres. Such a conception implies also that the measure of value in the two cases must differ, and in such a way too that the imputation of the increasing value of a disposition shall so arise from its relation to the personality as to be relatively indifferent to the estimation of its value in the social series. This distinction is of the utmost importance in Bradley's Ethical Studies, where ethical valuation is conceived to be a function of personality alone, while, strictly speaking, the universe as a whole, as a system of nature, can be estimated only in intellectual terms as a contradictionless whole of experience and intuition. While the estimation of social values, abstracted from personalities, cannot avoid the quantitative measurement of phenomenal values in terms of the two variables, their expansion in social groups, and the intensity of energy of valuation (therefore in terms of supply and demand), the estimation of value in the personal series is a function of the systematization and harmonization of the ideal content and of the volitional energies of the personality. In the estimation of social values and their progress, we can scarcely avoid the distinctions of more and less, but in the estimation of personal values the criterion is purely qualitative, and the infinite or absolute moment is the qualitative infinite of perfection or harmony.

In order to bring this conception down to a plane where this relative indifference may be worked out in detail, we may restate the preceding distinction as follows. Every judgment of value, or indeed every value reactions of a personality, has two aspects, its inner and its outer meaning. As a phenomenon of the social series, it contributes to the mutation of values according to the laws of objective values, by modifying, be it ever so slightly, the relation of expansion to intensity. On the other hand, this judgment or reaction contributes to the realization of the individual series a meaning or a value out of all proportion to its significance in the social series, or indeed, as will be seen later, a value often contrary to that which it gets in the social series. Thus, as Meinong points out, increase of altruistic disposition in an individual may have a meaning, a value for the personality, in the direction of unification and harmonization of the affective and volitional life, out of all proportion to the value it gets in the social series. Altruism may be subjectively Steigerungs-fahig, when objectively it is not. This value may, for the present, be looked upon as an imputed value over and above the actual value of the act or the disposition out of which the act springs, a value which is determined by the extent to which the total personality is involved in the action. In the imputation of personal value over and above the actual social and objective value, we take into account the moment of spontaneity in the subject.


The problem then, in its most ultimate aspect, is whether the personal values, imputed over and above the social values of the individual's actions, are to be looked upon as merely complementary to the social values, or as getting their meaning out of an independent qualitative law of the personal series. The introduction of the concept of complementary values into modern value theories, it is thought, has extended the range of quantitative conceptions to the explanation of purely inner personal values. The attempt has been made to conceive ethical values as complementary values growing out of the harmonious grouping of economic and social goods in the experience of the individual, values which are then imputed to the separate goods, objects, or dispositions. Thus, Professor Patten has developed a theory that ethical values are complementary values evolved in the more and more harmonious consumption of economic goods. Through the development of these complementary values, by more harmonious arrangement of the elemental goods, subjective value is conceived as susceptible of indefinite increase, and for these new values new categories are developed which constitute the ethical. In like manner, Ehrenfels has sought to conceive the purely personal values of the individual, which constitute the ultimate personal sanctions of morality, as complementary values growing out of the harmonious relation of social values in the consciousness of the individual. The harmonious grouping of what are intrinsic values in the social order creates new instrumental values for the subject. Ehrenfels recognizes that the expansion in the personality of general attitudes and dispositions, and particularly the attainment of such absolute personal values as perfection, inner peace, and freedom, are the ultimate sanctions of individual valuation, but he conceives that the absolute moments in these personal values can be explained as Wirkungs-werthe, as complementary values arising out of the harmony of social values in the individual. Can these absolute values of the personality, these values imputed over and above the social value of particular acts and dispositions, be explained in terms of the quantitative principles of the social series, or do they require to be conceived in terms of some qualitative law of the personal series, relatively indifferent to the laws of the social series?


It can be shown, I think, first of all, that the principle introduced by the economist-moralists to account for the phenomena of personal sanction, and for the absolute moment in the personal series, is not quantitative but aesthetic and qualitative; and that the first point of indifference appears in the fact that the two measures of value are not reducible to each other. In the second place, the ideal personal values that arise in the working out of the qualitative law of the individual series have the absolute moment only in the aesthetic isolation of the personality. They are more or less indifferent from the standpoint of the social series. Conceived as complementary values, they occupy the peculiar position of an epiphenomenon that does not affect the mutations of the social series. Thirdly, it can be shown that the indefinite development of these personal values is to such an extent independent of the social values and their mutations, is so much a function of the personality, that it may be realized irrespective of the phenomenal content derived from the sphere of social values. Thus, the highest personal values may arise from the development in the individual of dispositions indifferent to the social valuation of the time.


The first point at which this relative indifference of the personal and social values appears is, then, in the difference in nature of their generating principles and the measures derived from them. We have seen that every value -reaction of the subject has its two aspects, an inner and an outer meaning. In its outer aspect, its value is a function of two energies, abstractly conceived as located in different social groups, energies capable of measurement in terms of intensity and extensity of demand, and intensity and extensity of supply. In its inner aspect, such a reaction may get an additional imputed value, over and above the outer social value, a complementary value which arises as the resultant of its harmonious grouping with other dispositional values in the personality. Now, an examination of this principle of complementary values, as it is used to explain the origin of personal values, shows that, though apparently an extension of the quantitative principle, in reality it introduces a measure of value which is aesthetic and qualitative. This comes out clearly in Professor Patten's account of the origin of ethical values as complementary to economic. It consists in correcting the old concept of consumption, too objectively conceived, by the introduction of a subtler qualitative and aesthetic element. The older doctrine of consumption does not take into account all the elements of pleasure and utility. Besides the gross quantity of the goods, and the relation of this quantity to the capacity of the elemental wants, there are in all groups of goods capacities for rearrangement, which are outside the category of quantity, that is, are aesthetic. A group of goods, harmoniously arranged, is able to give indefinitely greater pleasure than the mere sum of the separate utilities of each of the component parts of the group. In addition, then, to the utility element of a group of goods, there are complementary goods which arise out of the harmonious grouping of the components. This complement, or increase of pleasure, is then imputed to the utility of the elements of the group. Now, since "aesthetic goods may be said to be goods without the point of satiety which is found in simple economic goods," and since "simple aesthetic ideals seem to be the result of the blending of distinct groups of pleasures into one group, and the aesthetic pleasures seem to be the largest harmonious grouping of pleasures that society can produce," it would follow that progress, in the sense of increase of value, would be assured for given groups of goods either in the subject or in the objective social order. The bearing of this theory upon ethics Patten discusses in his pamphlet, Economic Causes of Moral Progress. Simply put, it is this. At least many of the so-called ethical ideals of men are but qualitative expressions for these complementary goods to which new value or pleasure has been imputed. Thus undoubtedly 'comfort’ 'saving,' and 'cleanliness’ are qualitative expressions for the process of harmonizing goods, and the ejection of inharmonious elements. The 'home’ and its attendant virtues, the 'state’ with its justice, are groups of such utilities, partly moral, partly economic. The force of the virtues, as complementary goods, is that they are the source of nearly all of the utilities imputed to the elements. Moral judgment is then, from this point of view, the creation of new utilities, and the increase of the sense of value, through the complementary goods that arise in the harmonious arrangement of the elements of consumption and of life generally, and the ejection of the discordant elements or passions. By this same principle, as we have seen, Ehrenfels seeks to account for the more exclusively inner values, inner freedom, peace, and perfection, out of which the absolute moment in personal sanction arises. The point of importance here is that, in this conception of 'harmonious grouping’ the quantitative point of view has really been transformed into a qualitative. Increase of value is no longer measured in terms of mere intensity of pleasure. Patten, himself, recognizes that this harmonization involves decrease of intensity. Indeed, he finds the value of this conception in the consequence that values may be imputed indefinitely without reaching the point of satiety. Obviously, for this to have any meaning, value must be reckoned in other terms than quantities of intensity; for, from this point of view, as we have seen, the 'paradox of value’ holds as surely for the subjective as for the social values. As a matter of fact, another measure of value has been introduced, which, in the last analysis, is qualitative. As Meinong expresses it, in accounting for the meaning of personal values, the moment of spontaneity of the subject must be brought into the reckoning; or as Krueger formulates the principle, personal values are measured not only in terms of intensities, but in terms of the depth and breadth of the disposition in the personality. Here, then, the relative indifference of the measures of value of the two series becomes clear. The psychological principles that are brought into account for the outer aspect of an individual's value reactions do not account for the personal measure of their value.

The relative indifference of the two value-series appears, secondly, in what we have described as the indifference of the social series to the fate of personal values. From this point of view, the personal values seem often to play the role of epiphenomena. The working of the principle of harmonious grouping in the personality may produce, as complementary values, increase of dispositions, and may generate new dispositions, in which process the subject realizes values which have no appreciable meaning or value from the standpoint of social values. They are not instrumental values for society; that is, an increase of value through the harmonization of inner dispositions, imputed to the personality, is not, from the social point of view, correspondingly imputed to the individual acts. Thus, the sense of inner peace, of great meaning and value to the subject, may arise in connection with an inner harmony of outlived social values, of little or no significance from the social point of view. From the standpoint of objective progress, such personal values, to the extent that they have merely individual meaning, are luxuries. Our valuation of them is possible only by an isolation of the individual, as an objective personality, from the series of social values. The important point is whether this isolation has an ultimate epistemological significance, or is, as Ehrenfels describes it, mere aesthetic illusion. The facts themselves, however, force him to recognize a certain relative indifference of personal and social values. An impartial observation of the empirical data, he tells us, shows that the concepts, social ethical and individual -ethical, are only partially and occasionally identical, that, as a matter of fact, "there are certain dispositions and actions that come under the concept of the individual-moral which, from the standpoint of social ethics, must be designated indifferent"

Finally, we may observe a relative indifference, on the side of the subject, of his personal values to the mutations of content in the social series. Personal values, with their absolute moment, cannot be conceived merely as complementary values, Wirkungswerthe for the subject, growing out of the harmony of his values with the social values, for the reason that their existence and development do not depend upon this harmony between the two series. The principle of limiting value (better described in the sphere of social values as Grenz-Frommen) results in a mutation of values in which three phenomenal phases may be distinguished (in the terms of Ehrenfels, aufstrebende, normale, und entfrommte Werthe). Translating these terms as aspiring, normal, and outlived values, we may describe them in the following way: An aspiring social value is one where the intensity of demand in a given social group is great, corresponding to a limited expansion, diffusion, in the social consciousness. A normal value may be described as one where the intensity of the demand and the extent of its diffusion is more nearly equal. In the outlived value, the diffusion has become so great as to cause decrease of intensity of value, and, finally, loss of value as it approaches universality. Assuming this to be a true schematic picture of the mutation of social values, it need hardly be observed that the history of any given social value is a long one, and that these three stages in social valuation may exist simultaneously in the same temporal span of the social consciousness. One group of values may be in the first stage, another relatively normal, and another, though still existent, practically outlived. Such being the case, it is clear that any individual value series, as it appears in time, may, with reference to any phenomenal value or group of values, fall wholly within one of these stages. It may be caught up in the upward movement of the curve, may live its life wholly in the normal stage, or, indeed, may live wholly within a world of outlived social values. In following out the law of the personal series, in the attainment of the personal values that constitute the ultimate sanction of the ethical life, the wider mutations of social values may be a matter of indifference. The reformer, the reactionary, the normal man may equally attain the imputed value of inner unity and peace, through the harmonization of his particular group of phenomenal values, and, as we shall see in a later paragraph, a harmonization of inner values, aspiring or outlived, may set the personality in opposition to the normal values in the social series, and the absolute moment in personal valuation be attained in the sense of tragical elevation. These facts that the absolute moments of inner peace and harmony and tragical elevation may be attained in connection with such different groups of social values point to a relative indifference of the processes of inner valuation to the nature of their content. Whatever contents the mutations of the social series may deliver to the self, the form of selfhood has in itself its characteristic qualitative sanction. In Bradley's terms, ethical valuation, with its characteristic categories, is a function solely of the personal series.


The points at which the individual and social value-series seem to show a phenomenal indifference to each other have now been sufficiently examined to admit of a closer study of the qualitative principle which is conceived to rule in the personal series, and of its corresponding norms. The keynote of all those systems that have sought to do justice to the meaning of inner personal values, is an insistence upon the conception that increase in the expansion or extension (toward universalization) of a personal worth is accompanied by increase in meaning or intention of the value. This formulation is so constant throughout post-Kantian philosophy that it may almost claim to be raised to the position of an established law or norm of ethical values. This unanimity is the more significant in that it is concerned with a conception that goes deeper than the differences of emphasis upon intellectual, emotional, or volitional aspects of experience. The appperceptive energy of Wundt, the concrete ideas of Green and Bradley, the aesthetic ideas of Herbart, and the sentiments of Guyau, all are conceived as following this law. Wherever inner values are conceived to be the expression of a creative spiritual principle, there the norm of value is described in these terms, and is thus contrasted with the economic principles which determine objective values, more particularly the principle of limiting value, according to which as a disposition expands in the social consciousness toward universality it decreases in intensity. In the personal series they vary concomitantly, while in the social series they vary inversely. The logical motives of this formulation are clear; for if such a qualitative principle rules in the individual series, the postulates of 'increase of value' and 'equivalence of value' which from the external point of view appear illusory, would be immediately grounded. The principle of equivalence would then be concerned merely with the establishment of equivalences between these two aspects of the affective-volitional processes; and, since increase of the energy of valuation depends upon this equivalence or equilibrium, the contradiction which from the objective point of view arises between the principle of increase and equivalence, as in the relation of justice to benevolence, would disappear. To quote Guyau, (the italics mine): "Dans nos etudes sur la morale nous avons cherche un principe de realite et d'ideal tout ensemble capable de se faire a lui meme sa loi et de se developer sans cesse la vie la plus intense et la plus expansive a la fois, par consequent la plus feconde pour elle meme et pour autri, la plus sociale et la plus individuelle."


Now, while this consensus omnium, this unanimity of the philosophers of idealistic tendencies is significant in itself, the ultimate basis for this contrast in the laws of the two series must be sought in a careful analysis of the moments out of which the value-function arises in the two spheres. This difference is to be found, I think, in the different role which the negative factor plays in the two cases. It will be remembered that Bradley, in his Ethical Studies, laid great stress upon this difference. Strictly speaking, the negative factor in social valuation is non-moral; for in the social series we abstract from all collision of the good and bad, and it is only in the opposition of volitional tendencies in the same personality that ethical meaning and value appears. This difference, which Bradley from a metaphysical point of view finds of such importance, Tarde, from the sociological standpoint, has developed in more detail. The difference between internal and external oppositions lies in the fact that, while in the external oppositions of social forces out of the variation of which social values arise, increase, and decrease both moments in the opposition are in reality positives, and from the abstract, quantitative point of view, either of them may be looked upon as positive or negative, in internal opposition, on the other hand, the positive is always an organized system of volitional tendencies in opposition to which the negative is, to use Bradley's expression, a group of scattered particulars. To be sure, from the external point of view, the personality may be looked upon as a stage for the contrast and opposition of different social motives, but from the standpoint of the person himself the motives organize themselves in this fashion. This distinction arises from the fact that, in the quantitative estimation of economic and social values, the positive and negative energies are conceived as located in different social groups, abstracted from personalities, while affirmation and negation in personal values are functions of the same energy. In economics, the negative factor, scarcity, out of which issues demand, and the positive factor, supply, are conceived as located in different social groups. It is so also with the two factors in social opposition. Only by such abstractions does value become capable of objective quantitative treatment. Opposition is an essential condition of social values. As Tarde has made us realize, opposition is as important as assimilation in the generation of social values, so important indeed that while it is certain that the number of minor oppositions will be overcome by greater and greater sweeps of imitation and assimilation, yet this is to be accomplished only by the creation of fewer and more fundamental oppositions. The question now arises, as to whether opposition or lack is equally fundamental in the creation and continuation of personal value.

That this is the question toward which our entire discussion has been tending will, I think, be evident when we recall that it was because the value function necessitates as one of its moments the negative factor of scarcity or opposition, that universalization of a disposition in the social series, and expansion of a disposition in the individual, conceived as part of the system of nature, was seen to be self-defeating. Now, that the negative moment is fundamental in the individual series, seems certain. But it is also certain that its relation to the positive factor is so entirely different from that found in social values as to account for the relative indifference of the two series that we have described. First of all, it becomes immediately clear that affirmation and negation in the same personality are aspects of the same volitional energy. Progressive systematization and assimilation of tendencies, dispositions, involve a corresponding progressive inhibition. And all inhibition presupposes organization. It is constantly becoming clearer, both from the logical and the psychological standpoint, that these are reverse sides of the same process, and that it is out of these two moments that the meaning or value for consciousness must be constructed. The extension of a concept is as significant for what it excludes as for what it includes. An increase of habit, or expansion of a conative or affective disposition, is as significant for what it rejects as for what it assimilates. Complete harmonization and systematization of the subject's affective and volitional dispositions would involve an equally systematized inhibition, only that then the opposing tendencies which were scattered evils within the personality become projected as external to the subject. The system of negative tendencies is not in the personality. It becomes externalized in opposing social groups, or, in certain cases, in a symbolized personality. The conception of the relation of Christ to Satan in the temptation is typical of this extreme of externalization. Thus progressive realization of inner value becomes possible through the externalization of the negative moments. The ideal of progressive harmonization may be realized, and yet the negative moment be present in equal strength as an externalized opposition.


In the light of this conception of the role of the negative moment, it becomes clear how an intensification of social oppositions may go on side by side with a reduction of internal oppositions in personalities. An inner harmony of disposition may increase indefinitely, and with it the person's sense of value, which gets its intensity not from inner contradictions but from the contrast between his system of values and the great social group that stands over against him representing the negation or lack of that which he values. Tarde, in his Social Laws, proposes as a law of social development the conception that it represents a development from a greater number of minor oppositions to a smaller number of greater and more fundamental oppositions; and this entails, as its reverse side, the growth of more wide reaching harmonies. Such a development would obviously be favorable to growth of harmony and to increase of value in the individual consciousness, and yet the negative factor would still be present to form one of the necessary moments in the sense of value. It is well worth considering whether times of the strongest affirmation and negation, of religious belief, for instance, do not afford a spectacle of greater inner freedom and keener sense of personal value in individuals than periods of infinitesimal differences which permeate more the individual consciousness. We have seen that the personal values arising from inner harmony may be relatively independent of the group of social content harmonized in the subject. We now see that this very harmonization, with its increase of the sense of value, may take place with reference to one group of content that is set in opposition to another, and that this very opposition may favor the development of the personal values. In 'tragical elevation' we have a second aesthetic realization of the absolute moment in the imputation of personal values, the moment of inner peace being the first, and here the factor of external opposition is all important. It arises from an extreme of volitional energy, of concentration and systematization of tendencies in the face of oppositions and mutations of external values. It represents the zero of internal negation and opposition, where all opposition is conceived as external to the real self and the series of inner values. Although the opposition may start as an inner contradiction, before the moment of elevation can enter, the opposition must be conceived as external to the subject, as an opposing social force. Tragical elevation may arise through the individual associating himself with a particular social group, but then it involves an equally strong moment of social opposition, the enemy; or it may arise in opposition to the entire social order, but then the individual identifies himself with an ideal society which is the projection of his own personal values. The important point is that the law of the personal series is not the reduction of the moment of negation to zero that would mean the defeat of the value process itself, and the loss of the sense of value but rather the reduction to zero of internal contradiction, or, as Bradley expresses it, the attainment of the zero of unused and un-systematized volitional energy.


From the preceding considerations of the different role of the negative moment in the individual and social value-functions we get some insight into the extent of this principle of phenomenal indifference of the two series. We see how it is possible that these very mutations of phenomenal social values may afford the socionomic conditions for the development of relatively independent individual series. The rise and decline of any phenomenal social values, the struggle for existence of these values with each other, afford the social conditions of opposition and contrast which make possible the development of the individual series with its personal meaning. The personal series is relatively indifferent to particular social content. Its values are functions of two volitional moments of affirmation or expansion, and of negation or intensity; and the oppositions and isolations produced by the social process afford the conditions for the realization of both moments indefinitely. This indifference extends, then, only so far as the formulation of the phenomenal laws of the mutation of content. In an ultimate metaphysic, the interrelation of the two series and the harmony of the two measures of value would again reappear.


As to the isolations and oppositions which are the conditions of the imputation of absolute values in the personality, it is clear that they must be given an epistemological significance. The meaning of ' inner peace' and 'tragical elevation' cannot be derived from the objective principles of social value. Like all absolute moments in the individual series, they must either be given an epistemological significance and then they point to a qualitative law of the individual series relatively indifferent to the quantitative principles of the social series or they must be reduced to aesthetic illusion. We have seen that these absolute moments get a significance only when the individual is aesthetically isolated from the system of social forces. Even so it is. Viewed from the standpoint of the social system, these imputed personal values out of which the personal and ethical standard gets its sanctions, must, as Ehrenfels admits, be denominated indifferent. They are epiphenomenal. From the phenomenal point of view, it is quite admissible that they should be so. But it is equally certain that ultimately the self-consistent meaning of the individual series must have a basis in reality. To call these absolute moments in inner valuation aesthetic illusion solves no problems. The concept of aesthetic illusion is itself full of epistemological contradictions that can only be solved by giving the aesthetic a place in our system of knowledge and reality. Just what is the place of the aesthetic moment in knowledge and ethical values is an interesting problem which the limits of this discussion will not allow us to follow out. That it will call out more and more thought in the near future seems certain. The effort of Professor Ormond to restore the aesthetic moment in all thought is significant in this connection. As in the biological sphere it has been necessary to introduce the factor of isolation to account for the origin and fixation of characters of selective value, so in the sphere of ethics this factor of isolation, which manifests itself in what has been called the ‘aesthetic’ moment will have to be taken into account.

Nor can we here follow out the metaphysical implications of this conception of relative indifference. If these lead us in the direction of a certain individualism, this simply means that the full meaning of the individual must be reckoned with in any ultimate unification of the two-value series. The over-balance of the objective method, sociological and economic, in ethical studies has obscured some elements of the problem, and it seemed desirable to bring these together in the form of an opposing thesis. Imitation is a surface category which, while it can account for the distribution of the contents for valuation, cannot account for the functions of valuation themselves. These lie deeper, and an examination of the principles of sufficiency in inner valuation discloses a meaning which cannot be identified with the meaning of the outer series without reducing one or the other to illusion. The relative indifference of the two series, in the sense here described, seems to be a methodological principle at least worth considering.


1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All