Financial Institute of Management

The order in which things are placed as natural entities is based on the proposition that the whole variety of their qualities rests upon a uniform law of existence. Their equality before the law of nature, the constant sum of matter and energy, the convertibility of the most diverse phenomena into one another, transform the differences that are apparent at first sight into a general affinity, a universal equality. Yet on a closer view this means only that the products of the natural order are beyond any question of a law. Their absolute determinateness does not allow any emphasis that might provide confirmation or doubt of their particular quality of being. But we are not satisfied with this indifferent necessity that natural science assigns to objects. Instead, disregarding their place in that series we arrange them in another order—an order of value—in which equality is completely eliminated, in which the highest level of one point is adjacent to the lowest level of another; in this series the fundamental quality is not uniformity but difference. The value of objects, thoughts and events can never be inferred from their mere natural existence and content, and their ranking according to value diverges widely from their natural ordering. Nature, on many occasions, destroys objects that, in terms of their value, might claim to be preserved, and keeps in existence worthless objects which occupy the place of the more valuable ones. This is not to say that there is a fundamental opposition between the two series, or that they are mutually exclusive. Such a view would imply a relation between the two series; it would establish, indeed, a diabolical world, determined by values, but with the signs reversed. The case is, rather, that the relation between these series is completely accidental. With the same indifference, nature at one time offers us objects that we value highly, at another time withholds them. The occasional harmony between the series, the realization through the reality series of demands derived from the value series, shows the absence of any logical relationship between them just as strikingly as does the opposite case. We may be aware of the same life experience as both real and valuable, but the experience has quite a different meaning in the two cases. The series of natural phenomena could be described in their entirety without mentioning the value of things; and our scale of valuation remains meaningful, whether or not any of its objects appear frequently or at all in reality. Value is an addition to the completely determined objective being, like light and shade, which are not inherent in it but come from a different source. However, we should avoid one misinterpretation; namely, that the formation of value concepts, as a psychological fact, is quite distinct from the natural process. A superhuman mind, which could understand by means of natural laws everything that happens in the world, would also comprehend the fact that people have concepts of values. But these would have no meaning or validity for a being that conceived them purely theoretically, beyond their psychological existence. The meaning of value concepts is denied to nature as a mechanical causal system, while at the same time the psychic experiences that make values a part of our consciousness themselves belong to the natural world. Valuation as a real psychological occurrence is part of the natural world; but what we mean by valuation, its conceptual meaning, is something independent of this world; is not part of it, but is rather the whole world viewed from a particular vantage point. We are rarely aware of the fact that our whole life, from the point of view of consciousness, consists in experiencing and judging values, and that it acquires meaning and significance only from the fact that the mechanically unfolding elements of reality possess an infinite variety of values beyond their objective substance. At any moment when our mind is not simply a passive mirror or reality—which perhaps never happens, since even objective perception can arise only from valuation—we live in a world of values which arranges the contents of reality in an autonomous order.

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