Relationship

David Cowles

Jul 30, 2021

Following up on an earlier post, in an I – it relationship, the ‘I’ has complete dominion over the ‘it’. The ‘it’ is merely a passive receptor for the actions of the ‘I’. Therefore, this model ascribes infinite intrinsic value to the ‘I’ and zero intrinsic value to the ‘it’. But can such an arrangement be called a relationship?

Following up on an earlier post, in an I – it relationship, the ‘I’ has complete dominion over the ‘it’. The ‘it’ is merely a passive receptor for the actions of the ‘I’. Therefore, this model ascribes infinite intrinsic value to the ‘I’ and zero intrinsic value to the ‘it’. But can such an arrangement be called a relationship?


Intrinsic value is derived from relatedness: relatedness to God, to the cosmos, to other human beings and/or to any other being within the cosmos. This might seem strange: if the value is intrinsic, how can it require relatedness?


Nietzsche wrote: “There exists nothing which could judge, measure, compare, condemn our being, for that would be to judge, measure, compare, condemn the whole…But nothing exists apart from the whole!”


Nietzsche denied the reality of God…or of anything that might “transcend” the immanent world. Unlike A.J. Ayer, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and many, many others, Nietzsche had the intellectual honesty to understand that his ideology necessarily ruled out any “eternal values”; he did not attempt to reintroduce values through a “back door”.


For Nietzsche, all relationships are ‘I – it” (or “it – it”) relationships.


Value can only emerge in the context of an “I – Thou” (or “Thou – Thou”) relationship. Every Thou transcends every I. There is something about the Thou that stands outside the immanent world of the I.


Solipsism excludes value! There is no value outside the context of relationship. Then in what sense can we say that “value” is intrinsic in every being?


The intrinsic value of every being lies in its potential to enter into an I – Thou (or Thou – Thou) relationship. The extrinsic value of every being lies in the actual Thou – Thou relationships it enters into.

It is not obvious that beings in a cosmos would automatically have the potential to form Thou – Thou relationships. Such relationships are only possible in the context of transcendence and eternal values are only possible in the context of such relationships.


Thomas Aquinas offered 5 proofs for the existence of God (transcendence). The only one that is still of interest to modern philosophers is the fourth, a proof based on the existence of values in the world. Aquinas was on to something!

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