Letter to the Editors: February 2005

by | Feb 16, 2005

Who is against human values? Dear Dr. Lewis, I am doing a paper on the topic of “What does a soul or center, if we have one, have to do with human values? I am taking the position of having a soul to be important and as a need in today’s society. I will use […]

Who is against human values?

Dear Dr. Lewis,

I am doing a paper on the topic of “What does a soul or center, if we have one, have to do with human values? I am taking the position of having a soul to be important and as a need in today’s society. I will use Plato’s philosophy for my supportive evidence. However, I need to argue his points, and mine with a group or individual. This is rather difficult because who is against human values? I need a philosopher who is against Plato and human values? Any ideas?

Thank you,
Romeo LaRiviere
Seattle, Washngton

Dr. Lewis responds:

Dear Mr. LaRiviere

Philosophies that uphold the presence of a human soul usually claim to be upholders of values. The presence of a soul does imply a value in each person, and the early Christians deserve credit for acknowledging this individual worth. But their views of such a soul–as in Plato or Augustine–are almost always otherworldy, and they see the reward for living a moral life as coming after death. They see the soul as a spiritual side of life, a non-material substance that can exist independent of the body. On this earth, “the body is the tomb of the soul,” as Plato and others said, and death is a release from the prison.

The body, they claim, dies and decomposes, while the soul is perfect and immortal.

Since they find true value only in the higher dimension, life on this earth is simply not important. Life is at best a way-station, and at worst a miserable prison, on the route to the next world.

This split between mind an body actually makes it impossible to pursue values on this earth. If you took this seriously, why should you strive for love, or a career, or wealth? Sex is dirty, and non-physical Platonic love is true bliss; a career is an improper focus on your own ego’s desire to advance; material wealth is the very thing that will keep you from heaven. Death as a pauper is the goal, and the path to the next world.

Thus the most consistent upholders of these views–monks, medieval saints, and their successors such as Mother Teresa–live without material values and without love, as ascetics and in chastity. They know that their pursuit of heaven cannot coexist with the human values of this earth.

Contrary to these views, each person does have a center–his private, personal ego. This constitutes his self, and is his most precious, sacred value. This is not a soul in the Platonic-Christian sense, since it cannot exist apart from the living person, but is the essence of a living person. Other philosophies see value in death; Ayn Rand sees value in life. Only a truly this-worldly philosophy–Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism–makes it possible to pursue life-affirming values, and to create the pride of self that makes pursuing them worthwhile.

Why pose the question as if being against Plato means being against values? I am opposed to Plato and all his followers because I am in favor of human values, and because I think people are good. Plato saw a drooling beast at the heart of each man, and thought that each man was engaged in an eternal jihad within himself. Politically, he concluded, a dictatorship was needed to keep people in line. Is this upholding the value of each person?

There are other points to be made about the question posed here. A philosopher’s work–such as Plato, and also Ayn Rand–is not evidence, but rather a framework for understanding the evidence. To understand the essence of life, you need to observe the world first-hand, and ask: what facts give rise to the concept of the soul? How can maintaining that there is a non-earthly presence in each person help you to pursue values? Why do the most consistent upholders of the soul become haters of the things that make life on earth worth living? Doesn’t human life become truly valuable only if we accept that this is it–the only life we have–and that it must be treasured, and lived to the fullest?

John Lewis

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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