You Are Who You Are


I sometimes visit internet forums about Philosophy to participate in discussions concerning Ethics, Metaphysics, Logic, etc. I do so in order to gain insight, help others, and of course, to promote the views of Individual Valuism. Whenever I answer an ethical question, it usually involves my position that goodness is relative to individuals and each person can judge right and wrong by his or her own standards. Whenever I state this position, there is usually someone who asks a question to the point of “If there was a situation in which a person could choose either the death of a billion people or stubbing his big toe, surely it could not be moral for him to choose the billion to die!” To this, I can only reply, “Well, it depends on what sort of person he is. How much does he value people and how much does he hate toe pain?” When I say that goodness is particular to individuals, I mean it. I don’t mean that you can create a situation where an assumption of what is objective or universal makes a difference. I am serious that what is right to a person is what has good results to him based on his values.


You are who you are. By this, I mean that your perception of something is based on your biological ability to perceive it. If you see a painting of a lake, your enjoyment won’t be based on some objective measure of beauty, but how you perceive it to have a pleasing arrangement of colors and textures. Someone else might not perceive it the same way, due to having different likes, experiences, or viewing capabilities. Perhaps another person doesn’t appreciate the painting very much because he likes mountains better; perhaps another almost drowned once and doesn’t find the image of a lake appealing; perhaps another is color-blind and the painting just doesn’t appear to be harmonious to him. And perhaps another wouldn’t have thought it was that great, but thinks it’s pretty good in part because his friends seem to like it.


What does this have to do with morality? Like the beauty of the painting, the goodness of an act only makes sense in the context of a subject and his perceptions. Empty space cannot decide that a massacre is bad. No particles of goodness can be found in an act of charity. The subject matters and matters a lot. Is a massacre bad? To me, yes. To you, probably. To the victims, certainly. To the killers, doubtful. What if the massacre is not of people, but of ants? Do you care now? Do the ants care? The point is that different people have different criteria for judging goodness, based largely on their identity and nature. It’s pointless to create scenarios that try to label someone as bad when he or she is doing what he or she sees to be good.