Perhaps what you are in part getting at is
the difference between statements of opinion or value, on the one hand, and statements
of fact (either empirical or logical truths) on the other. The distinction
seems to have come late in the history of Western philosophy (the British
Empiricists, particularly David Hume), and it still isn’t appreciated by
most non-philosophers. There is a sense in which the former type of statement
can be turned into the latter, if we accept some axiom against which statements
of value can be tested; however, the axiom is commonly either unrecognized or falsely
accorded the status of an empirical or logical truth.
Jef Albright writes:
Finally, the very notion
of continuity of personal identity, which is necessary if "survival" is
to have any meaning, is just as much a product of evolutionary expedience. That
is, it is no more logically necessary that an organism is the "same"
individual from one moment to the next than it is logically necessary that an
organism will strive to survive from one moment to the next. Those organisms
which run away when a predator approaches because they believe they will be the
same individual in the next moment will thrive, while those which believe that
the organism with their approximate shape, memories, position etc. in the next
moment is a completely different individual, and don't care if that other
individual gets eaten, will die out. Such considerations do not apply to most
of the devices that humans produce, which "replicate" on the basis of
usefulness rather than a desire to survive and have progeny. A car does not
care if it is wrecked for spare parts for use in another car, or a modern
sculpture, or whatever, while even a non-sentient organism such as a bacterium
is essentially a machine with no purpose other than maintaining its structural
integrity from moment to moment and producing exact copies of itself.
I want to add that while I agree with Stathis' remarks, we can abstract this
further and thereby resolve some of the popularly conceived paradoxes of
personal identity and of morality if we consider that what we really want is to
promote our *values* into the future. This explains how one can
rationally sacrifice one's life for one's family or the good of the greater
group on the principle that this is consistent with promoting the kind of world
one (and by extension, most others) would like to live in. It also
resolves the paradox of taking actions today for the benefit of a self in the
future, without the unrealistic requirement of static personal identity.
Of course, we tend to think of these actions as "good" because we are
enmeshed in and a product of the very process of evolution that tends to
promote "what works" into the future.
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