Everything Is Just Dandy!

Value and Shine

Phenomenology and Existentialism
larvalsubjects
2022-05-02
https://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2022/05/01/value-and-shine/

I remain in the pre-philosophical attitude. The aim here is the resist the urge to theorize, to explain, to cite, but just take note of experience. As a result, I’m doing a poor version of phenomenology. That must be bracketed as well. This is doomed to failure as theorization and what one has read will always creep in, but I must try. The aim is to note those features of experience— not my experience yet, just experience —that are salient and that will perhaps become grounds for a transition to the philosophical attitude. I am seeking after the grounds of questions worth asking. I am not seeking answers from others or their theories.

The world shines with value and imperatives. It beckons to me, calling me to behave towards the things of the world in appropriate ways. I experience their value as in the things themselves. I do not experience them as coming from me. It is the thing itself that calls for regard. I will not ask whether the values come from me or are in the things themselves, nor will I wonder how they might be grounded or defended or address the specter of relativism. It is enough, in the pre-philosophical attitude, in the world of appearances that the values present them as out there in the world, as real, as there in the things in themselves.

The world first presents itself as split or divided between that which is of value and that which is not of value. These values are not economic, nor are they prices. Perhaps it would be better to say that the world presents itself as that which is indifferent and that which shines with import. It is difficult to describe the indifferent because it goes unnoticed. It falls into the background and does not call to us to attend to it.

The values are not homogenous or of one kind, but manifest themselves in different ways and to different degrees. The dead crow I found in my yard the other day is an occasion of sadness as a magnificent bird is gone, but also signs with a sense of menace, danger, and disgust. It calls for me to behave appropriately towards it both out of respect for it even though it will never know, and to protect myself from potential disease or sickness. It is a fallen being in its passage from the living to the dead.

The mess on my patio cooking table shines with a sense of irresponsibility on my part. It issues an imperative for me to clean it, one that will not cease making these demands to me until I restore it to the state in which it ought to be. Our dog is an end in herself, an absolute. She is not a tool to be used to pull a sled or guard us or for entertainment– at least not in the sense that we play a game for entertainment or watch television –but is her own purpose and valued for her sake. Even when she is irritating as she was last night when, terrified by the rain storm, she climbed all over our heads in bed seeking comfort, there is a demand that we attend to her and comfort her. This demand does not issue from her even as she makes it, but rather is just what is right. A feeling of anger and rage comes over me as I hear the dogs a few houses over crying and barking, chained in the back yard away from their people in the rain or on a bitterly cold night. This is no way to treat a dog. It is a violation of their dignity, an abuse.

There are those places and things that are sacred and that call to be treated with reverence. I know of no other word for it. These places and things call for us to behave in certain ways and to attend to them in certain ways. One does not laugh or speak in a loud voice when they visit Auschwitz. You do not take selfies of yourself in this place. It is a sacred place that demands reverence. It shines with an aura of what happened there. Likewise, in Svaerholt, you not throw garbage on the ground of this wilderness and in the midst of these ruins, even if all sorts of flotsam blows in and washes up on the shores. This place is to be treated with care and reverence. Similarly you do not carve your initials in Stonehenge or belch loudly in a temple or church even if you’re an atheist.

Others call to us in all sorts of ways as well. As you walk through a doorway you don’t simply let a door slam shut if someone else is behind you. You hold it open as you enter so that they might enter too. This is a recognition and acknowledgement of their personhood and there are millions of tiny gestures like this. The beautiful demands that it be attended to, that it be sheltered and protected. It is a sacrilege to removed the mountaintop to mine or to cut down the redwood trees because of their beauty and singularity. The stone formations in Goblin National Park call for us to protect them and we hiss when we see others push them over because they are unique, beautiful, exist only in this place, and took thousands of years to form.

Everywhere the world is pervaded by value and shines with value and these values are what structure our action and comportment towards them. They are the teloi and the ends of our action, that for the sake of which we act, and are the ultimate meanings in our lives. They are that which make life worth living and are that for the sake of which we do everything else.