The Cost of Action, Sameness, and Survival

In order for each animal to survive, it must garner the value necessary to continue functioning. The amount of value, necessary for any creature to survive, constantly changes with the age, health, and internal and external circumstances of the specific being. It should be obvious that there is not an identical value which creatures, of the different specie, could garner and then operate at the same level of functionality. Even within a species, among the infinite sets of chromosomes, no two beings shall operate at the same level of functionality in any standardized, formulaic manner that is a dependent upon an identical garnered value.

Even biological twins, whom share the exact same chromosomes, will operate at dissimilar levels of functionality if both have garnered the identical amount of value. This must be the case. The two siblings which have identical ages and chromosomes may have different health statuses and different internal circumstances. For the sake of argument, we can assume that even there health, which has no inherent cause to be similar, is also identical. But it cannot be that the two siblings inhabit the same space within external circumstances. By the laws of sound body and matter, they must be dissimilar in this regard. If the external circumstances of any two beings are distinct, then the physiological and psychological perception by the respective beings must also differ. Therefore, even if two beings garner the same value, the measure of activity which that value fuels will be different. One being will achieve more than the other. This will matter for survival when applied to specific situations, but the logical argument for dissimilar operative functionalities need only rest in differing internal and external circumstances.

We can give a name to the level of value that is required for a specific state of functionality. It is called the cost. As a creature becomes ill, the cost, that is, the amount of resources necessary in order to maintain an unchanged level of functionality, increases. As the external circumstances change, so does the cost of maintenance of functionality. Readers who have ever exercised or performed manual labor outdoors have also recognized the toll that the summer heat can take on the body. They recognize that, under the beating rays of the sun, water consumption increases, breaks become more frequent, and exhaustion more imminent if the same level of activity is attempted as if on a day more temperate. The sun is one of many determinants, and the increased maintenance necessities are examples, of the required value – the cost – to operate at a specific level of functionality.

Since we can conclude that identical garnered values among two creatures will produce dissimilar levels of functionality, then maybe we can then conclude that the same level of functionality can be attained by distinct levels of garnered value. Since all people must occupy different places in space, then this cannot be strictly true in the sense that an exact action can be replicated. This is a tautology. Beings are limited by the constraints of matter. If we just wanted some nice philosophical logic, then this would suffice quite nicely. We could stop here, smoke a pipe, and lounge in our armchairs confident that no two being could ever do the same thing.

But the point of this entire exploration is not to define terms and create provoking syllogisms. The point here is to provide a positive account of life and death – and, more immediately, to give our exploration some real life applicability. If we simply pronounce that our costs and capacities to garner value are different, then, though correct we would be, we’d also have lost all impetus to apply the positive account to anything beyond fanciful theory gratification. We must then explore the levels of degree.

For specific actions, it is entirely normal to label two separately performed instances as identical. In light of the above deduction, we must know that, logically, this can’t be the case. So then, what is the same? The thing that may be judged as identical is not the actions by two individuals. Although we often label things as ‘the same’, – even photocopies – it is merely a semantic abbreviation. Two friends may encounter one another and the one may exclaim that they have the same hair style. The second friend does not stop and wonder in aw that each strand of hair is positioned identically and is of the same length as on the head of the other. It would be an absurd construal to consider that to be the meaning of the one friend’s exclamation. What was really intended by the declaration was that the hair styles are similar enough.

“Of course”, the reader might say, “we’ve already established that external circumstances can not be identical. And physical objects, like hairstyles, can be considered circumstance. So what have we even concluded?” In order to answer this we must return to action as our subject. Keeping in mind that two beings must be different in a multitude of measures, we may ask: “what determines the ‘sameness’ of two discrete actions”? The short and sloppy answer is that it depends on who you’re asking. The more precise answer is that it depends on what the observer measures in the evaluation of the actions. A farmer doesn’t distinguish between two plows by noticing which of them moves a teaspoon of soil more than the other. He wants to know which plow glides through the soil more easily, quickly, and cheaply. The farmer doesn’t judge the similarity of the actions which the plows perform. The farmer instead judges by what the actions achieve. It may be that the two plows under evaluation plow dirt equally well insofar as they satisfy the desires of the farmer. The farmer doesn’t care that the plows are different and that they perform differently in some literal and metaphysical sense. The farmer cares about satisfying his own standards of performance. It is possible, even probable, that two plows equally fulfill those standards.

The farmer and the plows in the above example can be extended to innumerable examples. To bakers making cookies. To accountants keeping books. To axmen chopping wood. To chauffer driving limousines. To students completing math problems. Obviously no two persons perform the same actions. But the actions are similar enough to whomever judges them if they meet the same standards of performance which the observer deems worthy of measure. One will inevitably find that cookies, tax ledgers, firewood, and so on conform to a desired standard of operative functionality. This does not infer that the judge is measuring the actions scientifically. Since all actions have a purpose and an intended goal, the observer will most often judge them based on the efficacy of either action to achieve that goal. In this sense, a Lugar is no different than a Colt if there is a life and death struggle between two enemies. Either gun would adequately reach the desired outcome of either opponent.

Coming full circle from our digression on sameness; we can then determine that is entirely possible for a single level of operative functionality, as measured by the achievement of goals at such a level, may be reached by two individuals of very different internal and external circumstance. Since internal and external circumstance determine the cost of performing all actions, we can then conclude that all people are require different levels of cost even though the same operative functionality can be achieved.

We have already established that operative functionality is, in the eyes of any spectator, measured by the outcome of actions performed. One may then identify a desired goal and then give a name to the operational functionality which can achieve that goal. Since all circumstances are different, this says nothing about the level of value which is necessary for an individual to garner in order to achieve that state of operative functionality. All the same, such a state can be defined in terms of the outcome that is achieved by its attainment.

We can define survival this way: Survival is the operative functionality which achieves the goals of cognitive logic, ability to communicate, maintaining some degree of intentional motor control, and the ability to sustain unintentional physiological tasks for some arbitrary period of time. Survival then describes a class of operative functionalities, which at least achieve these goals, and not only a singular level. All of those operative levels which achieve in excess of the above goals also satisfy the definition. The levels of functionality that achieve more than the goals which embody survival, at this moment, are inconsequential except that they are included among the defined class. The other class of levels includes those operative functionalities which do not satisfy one or more of the goals. We can name this category ‘death’ or ‘dying’.

The general deductions above can be applied to survival. No single level of garnered value will also result in the state of survival for all persons. Distinct and unique costs require, by definition, different amounts of value to be garnered by each creature in order to reach a level which can be said to satisfy the definition of survive [with some sameness]. The doctor can survive, the cat can survive, the elderly can survive, and the child can survive. It will surely cost them differently to do so. We’ll save defining a specific quality of life by the satisfaction of certain amenities for someone else. Here we have at least built an environment in which we can discuss the goings on of life and death. We no not yet have the tools to analyze a normatively.

The next post will detail concept of value and how exactly it is garnered.


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