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Immanuel Kant and Scott Peck
Scott Peck was to psychology what Immanuel Kant was to Western philosophy. In the same way as Kant had used philosophy, after a blossoming during Enlightenment and Romanticism, to affectuate a return to the Protestant dogmas that philosophy had sought to replace, so did Peck use psychology, after its psychoanalitic beginnings in early 20th century and its existential humanistic blossoming in 1960s and 1970s, to affectuate a return to religious dogmas that psychology had struggled to overcome.
The philosophy of Kant – and the psychology of Peck – employed a device referred to by Mortimer Adler as suicidal epistemologizing and suicidal psychologizing. Kant claimed that the imperfection of human perception meant that it was only capable of apprehending the phenomenal (apparent) instead of the noumenal (the true); he also claimed that beauty was relative, illusory and insignificant (“in the eye”). With these claims he trivialized and denigrated both science and art. In creating in public mind the suspicion of both empirical and intuitive modes of cognition, practiced respectively by Enlightenment and Romanticism, he destroyed both Enlightenment and Romanticism. In the same manner did Peck, through his contributions, place in the public mind contempt for and denigration of both reason and passion, equating the first with Cartesian logic that was inadequate to describe his experience of synchronicities and claiming the second an invalid basis for either relationship or meaningful interaction. The result has been contempt and invalidation of both reason and passion and the destruction, first by philosophy then by psychology, of both aspects of humankind.
Both of course are wrong in all aspects. Reason is not limited to Cartesian dogmatism, and the intellectual and scientific pursuits, in higher physics, anthropology, and more advanced psychological studies, have uncovered knowledge that entirely exceeds Cartesian dogmatisms and its brainchildren – skepticism, behaviorism, logical positivism, and similar abominations. True rationality, when taken to its logical consummation, results in respect for nature and for human mechanism as possessing great intricacy and great intelligence encoded in them; and the disrespect for the same is not a result of reason, but a result of inadequate reasoning.
Beauty has been shown scientifically to exist both in absolute and in relative forms, with a Judith Langlois experiment showing that a face with certain proportions will be rated as beautiful by people across cultures – and another experiment, in which 500 faces were shown to 20,000 participants, saw every face being picked as the most beautiful by at least one participant. The implications of this affirms what both sides in the beauty debate are right about – the Romantic idea that there is universal truth in beauty (as revealed by there being a mathematical formula for absolute beauty); and the egalitarian idea that there is someone for everyone, regardless of whether the people around them think that they look good. The Langlois experiment therefore disproves the idea taken by many in the politically correct movement that beauty is only subjective, or that it is only cultural, or that it is trivial, or that it has no roots in reality; and the other experiment disproves the abusive idea that the people who are not deemed beautiful in their hometown will never be able to find a suitable mate.
As for romantic passion, the cultural cross-examination shows it to be a positive to every culture in which it exists. The Hindu and Muslim cultures that have forbidden romantic love feature far greater rates of violence against women than do the cultures in which romantic love is affirmed. In the West, the times that were favorable to romantic passion – Renaissance, the Romantic Era, and 1960s and 1970s – likewise featured less violence against women and more appreciative treatment of women than did the Medieval era, the Reformation, Victorianism, and 1980s that despised, devalued, demonized or criminalized romantic love. And in my own experience, it has been at the root of the best marriages I’ve ever seen – marriages that produced wholesome families, meaningful and lasting love between partners, beautiful and intelligent and accomplished children, and are still going strong 50 or 60 years down the road.
In taking the stances that they did, Kant and Peck thus became destructive of both the intellectual and the passionate aspects of human being – and destructive of all the greatness and progress and richness of life that these two aspects have produced. And in pursuit of their dogmas, was created a character that is essentially necrophilic and seeks to destroy, in its relations, policies, thoughts and activities, all that creates and affirms and adds to life.
In both cases, a pursuit that produced great improvement for many and at multiple levels was effectively destroyed by being used against its own foundations. With Kant, philosophy had destroyed itself – the Enlightenment philosophy that made possible Western science and Western democracy, and the Romantic philosophy that made possible the world’s greatest literature, cultural blossoming and richest interpersonal experience and relations – by claiming the mechanism for both to be imperfect or trivial. With Peck, so did psychology, in both its analytical and its humanistic aspect – by trivializing and denigrating the aspects of human being to which it spoke and which it worked to describe. And the pursuits that have given the Western world its greatest accomplishments – democracy, science, innovation, freedom, great literature and art, understanding of nature, civil and human rights, meaningful and beautiful relationships between men and women, and humanistic life-affirming values that went to a great length to make most of both accomplishment and experience – were subverted by the pursuit that had conceptualized them being used to destroy its own foundations. And in both cases, the result was an imposition, against a flourishing of life through affirmation of passion and intellect, of orders and character that were fundamentally anti-life.
The Victorianism that followed Kant, like the three decades that followed Peck, were contemptuous of both intellect and passion – contemptuous as such of the life-enhancing and life-affirming aspects of humanity. It is a mentality that by its own nature can only lend to systemic violence, oppression, and war against both feeling and intellect, which lead directly to abusive, controlling and systematically destructive mental, emotional and relational habits in people who are a part of that mentality. But furthermore still it leads to destruction of all that thought and feeling make possible: science, democracy, freedom, ingenuity, innovation, human rights, beauty, compassion, art, love, vitality, and every meaningful form of improvement in people’s lives. This, of course, has been the essential character of both the Victorian era and its more contemporary equivalent. And just as Kant and Peck came to believe that the source of evil was hubris – which their followers use to damn both reason and passion and people who affirmed, cultivated and benefited from both – so has the far greater hubris of their own mentality made apparent itself in its values and its effects.
In both cases, just as Kant used philosophy, and Peck used psychology, to destroy the ages of reason and passion, so have the concepts they brought in to replace them convicted the orders that they had ushered in. The Protestant morals that were used and then hideously misused to sustain the dark night of Victorianism were in the end employed themselves to convict as morally damnable an order that consigned the bulk of the people in it to colonization, child labor, brutality, squalor, suffocating formalism, hysterical prudery, internecine warfare, disconnection from life both within and without, and brutal, cruel, degrading, unforgiving existence. Likewise the concept of responsibility that was used and then hideously misused for the last three decades is now making apparent the irresponsibility of suffocating innovation in energy sector to keep alive the stranglehold of oil cartels, giving taxpayer subsidies to beef industry that takes 10 times as much biomass to produce a burger than the vegetable industry to produce an equivalent amount of grain, consuming 4,000 calories a day and driving SUVs while millions are dying because of disastrous climatic events caused by ecosystemic destruction and accumulation of CO2 missions in the atmosphere, destroying with no thought for the future or for what made them possible the natural treasures that man cannot conceivably recreate, and ladening the future generations with trillions of dollars in debt, amid collapsing family incomes, in order to pay for irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. By applying at the collective level the characteristic that is demanded of the individual, is seen the corruption of the arrangement itself. Victorian moralism was rightfully used to show the moral wrongness of the Victorian order; and the more modern-day responsibility is likewise making apparent the irresponsibility of the present one.
And just as personality psychology has been used and hideously misused in the period following Peck to target people who thought or felt differently from the social or communal entities of place and time, whatever the character of these entities or their intent or the actual substance of their beliefs and behaviors, so has it been used by others, rightly or wrongly, to describe business, politics, religion, psychology, media, and even the Western civilization, as possessing a psychopathic and predatory character.
The same concept is now used by me to describe any communal or social entity that seeks unlimited power over the minds, beliefs, personalities and lives of the people within it – and then seeks to impose itself on others.
To believe that an unofficial organ of power, that unlike official organs of power in a constitutional democracy is not subject to check and balance and official accountability, is somehow less prone to corruption and wrong and abuses of power than official organs of power, is ridiculous. Such an entity becomes law, reality and sanity unto itself and therefore is capable of the worst forms of corruption and systemic crime. And in countries where the power of official organs is checked and balanced and made to accord with constitution and bill of rights, but for some or another reason the power of unofficial organs is not subjected to similar scrutiny and is thus used to commit most horrendous abuses and most illegal abominations against the people within them and without them, these entities not only can be seen as unconstitutional, but in fact should be seen themselves as possessing the worst of these disorders.
The sociopathic character that does not recognize law, is the character of the community or the social network that becomes law unto itself and thus not only perpetuates and then covers up systemic crime while totally controlling the people within it, but also commands of people inside of them unconditional loyalty regardless of scale of their crimes against people both inside and without. And it is these entities, not the people they demonize, that are the true danger not only to democracy, but to humankind as it exists at this time and as it stands to exist in the foreseeable future. The crimes and coverups of small towns, gangs, old-boy networks, cults, Islamists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, paramilitary organizations, and corrupt networks and operations in medicine, law, police, courts, psychiatry, and politics, are a far graver threat to rule of law than are the works of any number of axe murderers – and they affect people’s lives to a far greater extent.
The same can be likewise said of religions that think that they are superior to both nature and to humanity – indeed to entire Universe – and denigrate then destroy all accomplishments of science, democracy, business, art, literature, human rights, and nature in all its richness, in order to make room for their supremacy over a world that they have inherited both from nature and from the people who had created and contributed to these pursuits. The people who claim the universe to be God’s, and all accomplishments of mankind and the vibrancy of nature and all things lovable to be belongings of God, appropriate for the Church or the Mosque that had created none of these things – that destroyed them where they existed and resisted most of them every step of the way when they arose in the areas of their dominion – the credit for nature and for humanity and all things lovable and life-affirming, both natural and manmade. All things of course that the Church and the Mosque condemn, deny, sabotage and then, when created by others and coerced from others, want to claim as their own to wield as tools of control against the existing and yet-to-exist. Such an entity can by itself be seen as not only psychopathic and narcissistic, but totalitarian and indeed necrophilic.
For such an entity to claim to define people, humanity, nature, and all that exists in the world, as any kind of evil or good, is preposterous. The evil belongs with these entities themselves and with the philosophers and psychologists – Immanuel Kant and Scott Peck – who brought them back into influence in these respective endeavors, after the mind and the genius of humanity in both these endeavors and their brainchildren had struggled to help humanity out of their grasp.
The religious supremacism has become so complete as to war in the past decade, with effective and thoroughly disastrous results, against both science and democracy as well as constitutional law. In the same way as it has warred in the previous two decades against individuality, relationships, culture, eros, beauty and romance, it is now warring, disastrously, against science and democracy. First it destroys Romanticism; then it aims straight for Enlightenment. And it is then that is seen its true character, in all its psychopathic totalitarian apocalyptic horror.
The extent of the necrophilic character of such a mind is seen in its future predictions. Its hubristic hatred of life at all levels is so complete as to foresee a violent destruction of the world itself. And the economics and politics practiced by those who most loudly claim to profess Islam and Christianity are all directed toward planetary destruction and global war. There is no future in this; the future in this is complete destruction of all that lives on the planet. And I see it as duty of man, as a being of life, to not only preserve nature but to preserve humanity, and to create a future in which both humanity and nature can live, coexist, blossom, and reach their ever-greatest fruition and accomplishment.
This comes through thinking – and pursuant that activity at all levels – that is affirming of life at all levels and dedicated to its enhancement, enrichment and perpetuation. The necrophilic mentalities – and pursuant that the necrophilic effect on the world of all the activities that they inform – must be replaced with ones that are biophilic and make most of life – both human and natural – in short, medium, and long-term. With this change in mind, all human pursuits – business, politics, technology, relationships, families, science, art, education, spirituality – can begin to work toward a viable future. The people who truly love and embrace life, will value life, and will create demand for – and supply of – economics, technologies, policies, ideas, art, and modes of interaction that are life-affirming and that add to life, extend life, and make possible life worth living for their descendants and for humanity, as much as they will take care to protect life that they have not created. The people who think that destroying the world will get them to heaven, will and do take their political, economic, spiritual and interpersonal activities to the direction of violence, destruction, plunder, theft, torture, abuse, and death.
To tip the balance for life, man must become a creator more than he is a destroyer. At all levels of thinking – and all levels of action – man must do more to enhance life than he is to destroy it. It is then that there is a better future in view than that of the Apocalypse. And it is then that man can be said to be equal to nature and even possibly an improver.
The period after Victorianism saw electricity, telephones, airplanes, automobiles, skyscrapers, women’s rights, middle class, Panama Canal, national parks, higher physics, film, psychology, Harlem Renaissance, Fitzgerald, Akhmatova, Modligliani, and an open, livable social climate that directly enhanced both the quality of people’s lives and accomplishment of civilization. What this period of innovation and freedom was for 20th century, can be accomplished on even greater scale for 21st at this time. Solar and hydrogen energy, space travel and colonization, nanotechnology, biotechnology, economics designed to maximize intelligent creation and minimize destruction of what one has not created, prudent resource management, intelligent positive collaboration between private and public sectors, affirmation and rigorous defense of human rights, values favorable to innovative and creative thinking, positive regard for and affirmation of both the feminine and the masculine and a mutual understanding between one another allowing beautiful and happy relationships and marriages, respect for and cultivation of both feeling and intellect, affirmation and cultivation of both individuality and dedication to benefit of the species, and political and economic policies designed to maximize intelligent creation and minimize blind destruction, can be a seed of a renaissance with unlimited potential both for the currently living and for the yet-to-exist.
This can only come from this: An understanding of and respect for life at all levels, allowing man to see and feel life at all levels and, enriched with this understanding, to become an organ of life-creation, life-perpetuation, and life-enhancement, making possible livable long-term future for both the planet and humankind. Necessary is a concept of human being as an integral entity with relation to self, species and nature, that leads to an affirmation of individuality and an affirmation of humanity and an affirmation of nature, allowing people maximal self-definition, maximal contribution to good of the species, and appreciation of nature resulting in minimal damage to it. Necessary is a recognition and valuation of all aspects of life in both natural and human forms, creating a life-affirming mentality that finds expression in people’s thoughts, feelings and actions, and thus their effect on the world as well as the covenants they create. The values, perceptions, cognitions, and consequently arts, science, economics, policies, and relationships, all stand to be improved by transition to modes of thinking that are affirming of life at the natural, individual and species-directed levels. And then all these pursuits will direct themselves to creation of life and enrichment of life instead of its destruction, while having respect enough for what man has not created to minimize damage to it.
The future can and should be better than present, and there is a way of making it so. It comes from embracing the modes of thought, feeling and relating that recognize and make most of life at all levels and moving beyond destructive, necrophilic mentalities and orders, to ones that are biophilic and creative, resulting in similar transformation in all activities of humankind. It is time to embrace nature, humanity and life itself, and to create for all these a viable future. The choice is about nothing less than artificial destruction of the planet and all its inhabitants, or a sustained improvement in life human and natural for as long as the informed genius of humanity embracing and building upon the givens makes it possible for nature and for humanity to flourish, grow, and reach ever greater achievement and ever richer experience and fruition of life.
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