TRINPsite, 56.33.5-56.33.5 



Civilized or nonnatural as we are ourselves at this moment, we will turn our attention to knowledge now. Unlike naturalness, knowledge has often been explicitly proclaimed an ultimate value in ideological and ethical doctrines. But when considering it in earnest, the idea is preposterous or incomprehensible. Imagine that someone tells you how many blades of grass there are in 'er garden. This will increase your personal knowledge about the world, and if not increasing humankind's knowledge in general, counting those blades of grass for the first time definitely will. Other things being equal, people should just keep on observing, counting and analyzing ad infinitum and forever, while the subject (or victim) of their intellectual activity would not matter in the least. Tho it is evident from the beginning that knowledge is a perfective value where omniscience is an ultimate perfective value, it should now also be clear that knowledge as an ultimate value is omniscience as an ultimate value.

But does the absurdity of knowledge or omniscience as an ultimate or perfective value preclude knowledge from being a value at all? No, it doesn't: while knowledge does not appear to be a corrective value, it is obviously an instrumental value with respect to other values which really are perfective. Take the equality of wealth as a perfective value, for instance, whether ultimate or not: it is quite plain that one needs knowledge to establish the actual distribution of wealth, and the best ways to improve this distribution in the sense of leveling out economic differences. It is plain too, that a lot more knowledge is needed when not only the equality of wealth, but also the total happiness of the population would be a perfective value, because then one also has to know whether an equal distribution of wealth would not be detrimental to that total happiness. Nonetheless, most knowledge would be irrelevant with respect to these two values.

If it is possible at all, science is the first (if not only one) to furnish us with knowledge we can rely upon, while the social sciences are the first ones to provide us with reliable information with respect to people as mental and social beings, and with respect to social groups or institutions. Or, at least they would be the first ones, for if knowledge is really an ultimate value, it is also in the social sciences a good thing regardless of how it would be obtained. By isolating people or social groups for one or many years, or for one or many generations, and by manipulating them just like closed systems in physics, or just like plants and other animal beings in biology, scientists could obtain a full storehouse of psychic and social information. And this knowledge would be 'good', and this pursuit of knowledge would be 'right', merely because of its being knowledge. Some might now object that altho the knowledge thus obtained is indeed good in itself, other normative considerations, like those concerning the personal rights infringed upon, are far more important. The violations of these rights are so evil that they would always outweigh the goodness of the psychological and sociological knowledge obtained as knowledge. This objection would still not make knowledge acceptable as a good thing in itself, however. It would also have to be claimed that knowledge of whatever kind is good even tho it would and could never reduce the suffering of people or sentient beings; even tho it would and could never lead to a greater socioeconomic equality between people; even tho it could never and would never make them act better in a moral sense.

Knowledge as an ultimate or derivative, perfective value, as something to be maximized for its own sake, is the self-aggrandizing fabrication of a certain type of intellectuals who but too emphatically and blithely also label the human species "Homo sapiens". (This pseudoscientific name is supposed to designate a biological category, but being 'wise' or 'intelligent' --what sapiens means-- is not a biological, bodily criterion whatsoever. Biologists should stick to their last as biologists and not use an epithet which does not belong to their field of inquiry and which, naturally, has been selected for anthropocentrist, ideological, rather than for scientific, reasons.) It is no use trying to acquire knowledge if it would and never could have any relevance with respect to one or more other values which are perfective. The belief that knowledge would be a good thing in itself, for example, regardless of whether there is even a chance that it reduces suffering or distributive injustice, and regardless of whether it is experienced as something pleasant, is too outrageous to be taken seriously. Such belief is an intellectual excrescence.

The acquisition of knowledge can, indeed, be a pleasure in itself, and some theorists assert that knowledge, power and the like are valueless in themselves ('cold and bare') unless they are experienced with some kind of enjoyment. Yet, this is to admit that they are not ultimate values, and serve enjoyment or pleasure or happiness instead as a perfective or other instrumental value. That knowledge is merely of instrumental significance does by no means imply tho that it would not be important -- on the contrary.

What holds for knowledge, holds for intelligence if it is possible to look at that value as a performatory value, that is, a value which plays, or can play, a role in a person's actions. This entails that intelligence can be created or improved, but even then it is at the most an instrumental value like knowledge. If there is one thing that intelligent people should not mix up in the mind, it is the instrumental and the ultimate.

©MVVM, 41-56 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Instruments
Elements of Normative Philosophy
Sieving the Values of the A- and C-Horizons