An examination of statist psychology from Phenomenology

I’m cross posting this from Fringe Elements.

I don’t know whether it is original or not but I had fun coming up with it:

1. Life is a precondition for values (premise)
2. To have values is to value them (premise)
3. Death negates life (premise)
4. Death negates values (3,1)
5. Death is undesirable (2,4)

So far so DUH, right? Now to start borrowing more controversial premises.

6. The state promotes death (premise)
7. The state negates values (6,4)
8. Therefore the state is undesirable (5,6)
9. The state is based in ideology (premise)
10. Ideology is a set of values (premise)
11. The state is valued (9,10)

But 11 and 8 contradict, as any good anti-statist should undoubtedly have been able to tell you well before being presented with this argument! The curiosity then falls on us that the Statist would have to take issue with one or more of our premises. The question is, which ones?

I will ignore for the time being 6, 9, and 10. The possibility of contesting them seems to present difficulty, and at any rate that is not the course of inquiry I am interested in. I am also neglecting an examination of 2. Therefore let us turn to premises 1 and 3. Premise 3 is particularly important. It suggests an exclusivity between life and death (again, DUH). Yet for this exclusivity to exist, the properties of life and death must be fairly specific. What then is their nature?

In the material sense, life is biology. However, the death of plants and animals tend not to demonstrate an instance of 4. This is peculiar and of great importance, as it demonstrates that values are not an intrinsic property of organisms. Therefore we have already arrived at one potential refutation of 4. It is not true when the organism experiencing death lacked values at the outset. So then how do we distinguish organisms which possess values from organisms which do not?

The answer phenomenology provides (particularly here I am speaking of Sartre) is that values are an artifact only of free-willed organisms, and what’s more are intrinsically so. To have free will is to value, and to value is to choose ones values. For the purposes of this argument I will simply take this for granted, as a completely thorough elucidation of the subject is REALLY HARD.

Yet we still have on our hands the question of how a Statist values the state despite the argument given earlier. It’s time to return to our numbers game.

12. Living human beings have free will (premise)
13. Free will is a precondition for holding values (premise)
14. Life is a precondition for free will (12)
15. Life is a precondition for values (reiteration of 1, also separately from 13, 14)
16. The state is based in ideology (reiteration of 9)
17. Given 6 is true, the ideology of state requires rejecting at least one of premises 12,13,14,15 (11, 8, contradiction)
18. To reject 14 is to reject 15 (13)
19. To reject 13 is to reject 15 (14)
20. To reject 12 is to reject 4 (13, 4)

Given all of this, it seems there are three possibilities for statist psychology (excluding the simple explanation of ignorance that applies for those cases who would simply deny 6). Line 18 shows us an individual who believes that free will and hence values can exist in the absence of life. Principally, this means the statist who would cite line 18 is a theist. Line 19 shows us an individual who believes in an objective value system. By denying the traditional ontology for values, they open up the possibility that some other structure provides for their existence. The state, perhaps. Line 20 shows us an individual who accepts the traditional ontology for values as coherent, while denying that it is true. In effect line 20 shows us an abject nihilist.

These responses are of course non-exclusive, and the complexities of those who would give us more than one of responses 18-20 might be worthy of investigation. I will not delve into them thoroughly here. Instead I will simply conclude with an observation that will make sense to students of Phenomenology, although it might be a bit more difficult to grasp for non-philosophers.

18 and 19 are both cases where a source of values is suggested other than free will. In 19 it is explicit, whereas in 18 it is only implicit. In fact in the case of 18, we would expect 19 to be cited as well, as the traditional source of values in theistic philosophy is God, and therefore not free will. By removing the issue of choice, the traditional conceptions of angst as honesty found within modern Phenomenology (read: Sartre) dissipate and are replaced with questions of authenticity. It is possible to be “made whole” by values under such a system. Given this, the statist mentality should be easy to recognize as a form of radical Bad Faith. Without adopting line 20 in some shape or form, and thereby holding that the world is meaningless (and thus rendering a request for justification moot), it is necessary to search for a source of values lasting and eternal.

Through this investigation I believe I have revealed that the only way to propose a value greater than life is to propose a value which completes it. Such a value is impossible given the existence of free will as the foundational structure for values. A statist ideology that is equipped with all the facts supposes that life is not the highest of values. Therefore, the status of free will as a foundation to values must be denied in order to justify the state.

I apologize for the non-rigorous nature of this article.

It should go without saying that one can lack belief in free will and also be an anti-statist. I’m only attempting to show that in order to value the state, one has to believe in either objective morality or a set of authentic values.


~ by Kilroy del Dancefighter Estallion the First on November 4, 2009.

One Response to “An examination of statist psychology from Phenomenology”

  1. […] importance to me, given both my own inclinations to use phenomenology in the construction of social and psychological models, and my assessment of the relative merit of fiction along phenomenological lines.  In Popper […]

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