In his essay "Fact and Value" (online here), Leonard Peikoff writes:
"In the objective approach, since every fact bears on the choice to live, every truth necessarily entails a value-judgment, and every value-judgment necessarily presupposes a truth.... [E]very fact of reality which we discover has, directly or indirectly, an implication for man’s self-preservation and thus for his proper course of action."
This is clear enough on the examples Peikoff gives, such as sunlight and gravity: these are important facts which have implications for all our actions. However, it is not difficult to come up with facts which seem entirely irrelevant to our actions. For example, the exact number of hairs on my head is a fact of reality, but it is hard to see how this "bears on the choice to live" in any way, even indirectly.
What is the correct answer to this type of objection?
Sure, there are "insignificant" facts, in terms of their demand on your attention. Dr. Peikoff, I believe, is speaking of the principle of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. Take the hairs on your head. If there are suddenly more in your comb, you may be suffering from some health issue. If there are the normal number, that is one sign that things are normal. A baby and very young children are interested in absolutely everything, to begin with. They don't know what's significant and what isn't. Learning consists largely in becoming familiar with "normality" so that it can be ignored. A great deal of one's sophistication consists in how wide one's context is for automatically knowing what deserves attention and what doesn't. The point of this is that adults may be impressed, when they stop to think about it, that they overlook thousands of facts and tons of information moment by moment. But if one of those things is suddenly out of place, etc., it grabs one's attention. There may be only very slight significance to certain data, but the metaphysical principle of the unity of the universe makes everything in fact relevant, whether you know how it is or not. Another way to look at this is that what is irrelevant is only relatively irrelevant. The onus is on the person who claims irrelevance to prove it for the issue at hand, and that will be only an abstract, a partial irrelevance.
answered Nov 07 '10 at 14:37
Mindy Newton ♦