Nozick On Value And Meaning: Human Activity Is Valuable And Therefore Meaningful

1286 words - 6 pages

Robert Nozick in, The Examined Life, meditates on two specific dimensions of our human reality, value and meaning. Nozick defines both of these dimensions in an attempt to frame an argument that is evaluative in regards to humans. Through the explication of Nozick's contentions with most of the focus on value, an argument that emotion has meaning will be made. Specifically, human activity is valuable and therefore meaningful. Thus, the argument will be framed in regards to Nozick's established parameters of value and meaning.

Two Dimensions: Value and meaning-
Nozick first considers value. Nozick argues that, “... to be more valuable is to be more real...” (Nozick 162). Yet, this ...view middle of the document...

Roughly summarizing Nozick's example, there are distinct components of paintings that are interconnected to form the final unified product. The painting itself is an example of the unity of the distinct components that comprise the painting (Nozick 163). Through the painting example, Nozick suggests that intrinsic value is related to organic unification. Thus, something has intrinsic value by virtue of that something's degree of organic unification. Nozick further argues that the fundamental underlying dimension of all value is organic unity (Nozick 164). Specifically Nozick contends that, “... the notion of degree of organic unity fits the value ranking we make, one that is roughly evolutionary, and this fact of so fitting is evidence that the notion of organic unity does capture our sense of what is valuable” (Nozick 163). This point makes reference to the degree of diversity, namely evolution. Now, Nozick is making a more broad point. The focus should not be on logistics of the hot topic of evolution, but what evolution represents. Specifically, back to the point Nozick makes about degree of diversity and the degree of unity as they pertain to value.
Nozick argues that, “[t]he greater the diversity that gets unified, the greater the organic unity and also the tighter the unity to which the diversity is brought, the greater the organic unity” (Nozick 164). Again, somethings organic unity is somethings value. Due to Nozick's set parameters of value, value is bound by somethings boundaries (Nozick 166). Nozick contends that, “[v]aluing something is doing that particular relation activity” (Nozick 166). This point draws the main distinction between value and meaning. Whereas value is bound, meaning involves a connection beyond the established value boundaries (Nozick 166). While, value is a matter of the internal unified coherence of a thing, that thing need not be linked with anything else, meaning cannot be gained by just any linkage beyond boundaries with something that is completely worthless.
In an attempt to define meaning, Nozick first states the counter to his proposed definition of meaning. The counter to meaning being the classic infinite regress argument. An infinite regress is follows this basic format: if proposition Px needs the support of proposition Py, then the truth value of Py needs the support of proposition Pz and so on. Nozick argues, in response to the common 'meaning infinite regress argument' which states that nothing in the human existence can have meaning, that, “[t]o stop this regress, we seem to need something that is intrinsically meaningful, something meaningful in itself, not by virtue of its connection with something else...” (Nozick 167). Nozick cleverly solves this puzzle. Something that is intrinsically meaningful is value. Thus, the infinite regress, as so poorly described above, is closed. Given that value has intrinsic meaning, something most definitely has meaning. Nozick applies value to the human,...

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