Teoría crítica del vivir

 Peter Baltes


Teoría crítica del vivir

ISBN 9972-603-16-4 ?

Lima: Universidad del Pacífico. 1999


La Teoría critica del vivir es parte de la teoría general de las fuerzas. Es parte del visism.

La versión actual de la teoría, en inglés, se puede imprimir de forma gratuita: 



To put  it in a nutshell:

Do what you want, but without harming you or others.


                       V i s i s m

      Summary of the theory and elucidation through its application

Our life, the world we live in, is understood most deeply by someone who grasps it as a pattern of forces. Forces cause or solve the problems of life. NEWTON already recognised how all forces of nature form a coherent system, HEGEL recognised that in that system the naturally occurring forces act on each other. KANT proved that man can release himself from naturally occurring forces; he can invent new forces and bring them to fruition in the world he lives in. In that way he determined and fixed the equality of rights of all men in their claim to a good life.

So the common good life is the measure by which the theory orders, and evaluates all forces. The theory shows that among the many forces especially health, love, freedom and material strength – money – are those that make for a good life which determines both security of existence and what goes beyond that, that is to say, expansion of existence. Only he who brings that forces to a positive impact for himself and others can be lastingly satisfied and happy – with the help of (self)education and (self)training.

Linking the theory of visism, the theory of forces, with what is a given of evolution for man, his existential relativism, protects us from getting lost in unprovable speculation (for example, the “ideas” of Platon, which he claimed are unchanging and independent of man). Rather, what everyone can know by experience and reflection is to bring into a logically coherent system, hence in effect a philosophical one, that really serves the common good life.

The self-interest of all living beings is a given of evolution without which evolution would not at all be possible, and so it is the pre-condition and characteristic of human life. Whether and how self-interest is directed is therefore the basic question in every explanation of human conduct and action. Cui bono?, who benefits? was asked already by the Romans. It is therefore clear that the goal cannot be to abrogate things already known, already written, but to develop criteria of examination to be able to decide which knowledge is valuable for life techniques and hence for solving problems.

In the world of man six basic forces are to be distinguished: one’s own intelligence/reason, one’s own corporeality, the others’ intelligence/reason, the others’ corporeality, and finally the organic and inorganic environments. That is illustrated by a hexagon in whose area the reciprocal effects take place. But every person has his individual force-field, his own life structure which is linked in community in a general life structure.

For the technique of life it is not essential whether reason and corporeality exist separated from each other, but it serves for the good life if we think of them as distinguishable. Each person experiences that he can direct his feelings, a force of his corporeality, with the help of reason, a force of his intelligence.

If we ask about the relative effects on life of those six basic forces, we can, with PARSONS, give this structure: one’s own and others’ intelligence/reason creates in particular culture and community in which each can develop as a personality; on the other hand corporeality effects via its characteristics, for example through feelings, activities, by movement; the organic environment conspicuously through animals and plants, the inorganic though objects, landscape, climate.

All forces constitute a unity (a system). In that unity through reciprocal effects of the six basic forces are constituted almost without limit many individual forces, of which, as written above, four characterise our life: health, love, freedom, and material force such as money.

Conduct or action

The effects of the forces on each other man perceives as desirable or undesirable tasks, that is as problems, which he himself creates or which come to him. As challenges they require conduct from him, in the best case consciously and in a planned way, that is, his action. Every action has its content and needs a method (a text is the content of action, a method is his reading). Contents and methods are to be applied in the six steps of each action.

First in internal action, that is, reflection: starting with finding a goal, analysis, planning; then in external action, in focus a performance: organisation, realisation, evaluation. With that structure, as justified in the book, basically all problems in the world of the life of man are to be handled. Another two features (forces) should be named since they operate in all the steps of an action: the fine structure from the point of view of method. Every step, for example analysis, has its own goal-finding, analysis, planning, organisation, realisation, evaluation, which means that each of the six steps can be divided into six steps. And so on, if necessary. 

Applications ordered with the help of the general "structure of living"


Conduct we define as an action if it is based on arguments. Actions are possible only for man, animals and plants have conduct. If we were to make contact at some time with extraterrestrial living beings, they would have the same rights as human beings if they were open to arguments.

Religion and belief are inaccessible to reason and its argumentation. For example, natural sciences can neither prove not refute the existence of God. The various religions therefore each construct their system from incomprehensible things, from miracles that can be believed or not. Religions are to be understood as more or less distinguishable attempts to grasp a world-force; also in the hope of security of existence after death. As early as the Gilgamesh epic, written more than 3,000 years ago, the hero wants to achieve immortality in order to overcome his own death.

But we must understand: rats directed through a labyrinth do not understand that direction. The intellectual difference between rats and human beings is, however, almost infinitely smaller than that between human beings and that world-force named God. So what can man know of that force? Why there is matter, why genetic material strives for survival and expansion, why human beings came into existence in that way, why therefore self-interest is an inextinguishable characteristic; after all no man can answer those questions.

For enlightened religions that ignorance, which of its very nature is true for atheists too, means that focus is on moral education, that is, on the equality of all men, and on help to making a good life on earth so as to be a force against material and intellectual poverty. From that ignorance it also follows that religions that claim to be in sole possession of the absolute truth persecute or murder people of a different faith, and are invincibly opposed to a theory of life technique that has as its goal a good life for all. That is true, for example, of the persecution of Christians by Jews in the late Persian Empire and for the incomprehensible murder of Jews by Christians in the Second World War.

But since we have known that we are results of evolution, formed by the principle that what enables our survival and secures our existence is the truth, in all the sciences, including the natural sciences, our thinking has to be governed by the relativity of truth. A meteor that blows up on reaching earth, destroying everything in its proximity, does that silently if there are no organs that have developed in such a way that they can “hear” its force and effects. Another example: an apple seems to us to be “red”, ripe and tasty because that has shown itself to be favourable to our life, to our genetic material and its expansion. Whoever cannot perceive any colours is at an existential disadvantage. For the sciences, for example for philosophy, the consequence is that all knowledge that is not relative for human beings, claimed to be absolute and independent, can now only be a part of the history of science.

Human truth exists only relative to the human being. That must distinguish a philosophy today from SOCRATES, PLATO, ARISTOTLE up to KANT and HEGEL. The categorical imperative of KANT (act only in such a manner that it could be valid as a general law), which we have made easier to grasp through the principle of security of existence, makes that clear. It can in reality be an approximation to knowledge that serves man. For example, a white lie to save a person’s life is justified, in contrast to what KANT claims.

But what makes KANT’s ethics unique and superior is the basis, namely the conceived separation of practical and pure reason. Pure reason considers not what actually exists and happens in the world, but what would be if man existed as only reason, as an unchangeable force. Then no man would have an individual corporeality with its ephemeral feelings and varied talents. Then everyone would be only reason and hence everyone equal.

However, the categorical imperative till today is assessed by most of his critics as inefficient “formalism” because it names none of the individual problems of man as contents, while a free thinker recognises its essential contents: the categorical imperative deals in the first place only with reason, so only with human beings; in the second place it deals with all human beings without distinction. So the categorical imperative recognises a right the same for all, equality.

One more thing is not sufficiently recognised by traditional philosophy. Respecting equality is indeed a duty, and that is how – felt negatively – the categorical imperative is almost entirely interpreted. However, it opens up freedoms and chances. Act in such a way that is consonant with your needs and wishes, but avoid hurting yourself and others, help them when necessary. That is the general, more realistic law of equality.

Ancient writings show that that fundamental right was known about, but that it almost without exception contradicted the self-interest of the mighty. That is how it was expressed in 2000 BC in a Babylonian hymn: For seven days the slave woman was equal to her mistress, the slave walked with his master, in my city the mighty and the lowly slept side by side.  Whether ancient Greece, where women and slaves were excluded from equality, can still be admired as the birthplace of democracy, should probably be reconsidered. Similar things can be said of the volks-thing of the Germanic peoples, in which only the free men were allowed to participate.

The revolutionary significance of the categorical imperative lies in that very point, the right to a good life on the basis of equality. That makes it a measure independent of time, valid in the past (the “great men” Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon are to be evaluated as power hungry, covetous, merciless mass murderers); in the present (the life of a person has the same value everywhere, whether on the Nile or the Thames); and in the future (unexplainable except as self-interest, that in future this will still be possible: a government, a few persons, decide on war, possibly against a despot ruling his helpless people, and then the war costs an unforeseeable number of lives among the innocent people).


Among the essential characteristics of evolution is that everything living must be self-interested in order to preserve itself and to be able to pass on its genetic material. That is valid for human beings too, though they are from birth dependent for those purposes on the community. Since both of those things are characteristic of man, self-interest has to be a basic problem given by nature within the community.

If self-interest is inherited as a core of the human being, it is different with equality. In today’s Iraq, over 4,000 years ago, the ruler was an early social reformer, Urukagina. He called himself the protector of widows and orphans; he forbade exploitation of the poor by the rich. Our finding: morality, as respect for equality in the claim to a good life, is not inherited; it has to be handed on to every newborn. Hence the task of education arises. Its procedure is arduous (through argumentation, being a model, praise and criticism), and yet the inborn unscrupulous self-interest again and again succeeds in dominating. Education, since its content is morality, is characterised by conflicts; training for a life in technology is not to the same extent.

Hence another insight is that the reality in a democracy can be only an approximation to the ideal. Not the idea of democracy is wrong, it is based on equality, but it becomes imperfect because of the citizens in their self-interest in every area. That argument can also be put forward by the models of communism, of socialism. But the essential difference consists of control through free elections. Whoever – in a democracy – is elected on the basis of unfulfillable promises, which is all the easier the less educated the voters are, risks being voted out by the disappointed. You can indeed win elections with half-truths and untruths, but not rule for long with them. But being voted out is contrary to the self-interest of the one elected. So in a democracy there is an added check by the voters through the self-interest of the rulers.

If a society is democratic, that form of state has the additional task of struggling against excessive controls. Just that distinguishes democracy from dictatorships. Excessive here means every control that does not contribute to the common good life. The basis for that is a reciprocal effect directed by reason, therefore dependent on education, between the life structures and the life concepts of the members and the overarching structure of society, right down to its legal foundation.

In that we see the general problem of many developing countries. For the transition from despotic or dictatorial systems to democratic ones there is usually a lack of education among the people. Self-interest is a given as a characteristic of every corporeality; recognition of equality on the other hand is a force that arises from reason. And reason is above all a result of education.

Democracy has to come from within, it cannot be forced from outside. From within, that is a very lengthy process lasting generations, because it depends on education, best achieved by small, careful steps from despotism via dictatorship to democracy. Whoever wants to impose democracy from outside by violence exposes himself to the arguments that he is either “simple-minded” or dependent on political-economic, or on religious grounds. Probably on a hodge-podge of things that contains something from all of them.

What is to be done if taking wars from outside into a country is ineffective or disastrous because the “liberated” people, uneducated in the short and long term, does not know what to do with the results? The government changes, but not the basic inability to use democracy. The number of refugees to the industrialised states grows even bigger, because the deceptive, probably short-lived freedom in the ensuing disorder can also be exploited in that way.

More valid would be: enduring development aid can be brought about by political and economic pressure on the ruling powers there. Such pressure should demand and promote a modern, democratic education; after all, it brings about – with sufficient probability – a basically better life for all in the more or less distant future. That is the continuation of war by other, more legitimate means. However it would be one-eyed to overlook that it must be difficult for the self-interest of the exporting industrialised countries and their citizens to actually help technologically in a lasting manner the increasingly competitive developing countries.

Of the four fundamental forces (health, love, freedom, material goods) the material, whether as product or money, is particularly important for security of existence, but also for expansion of existence in all areas. So every community needs an economic system. That works best, measured against the good life, when it is based on the market economy; on the market, whether a vegetable market or a complex financial one, the self-interest of the buyer runs up against the self-interest of the vendor, so the product and its price can be reciprocally negotiated.

Social market economy, capitalism in the market economy, or a planned economy?

What is necessary for life is the production and consumption of goods. Between them money functions as a general means of exchange. So money comprises only a part of economic processes.

But because of its universality money – especially paper money – can be conceived of as independent of production and consumption and accordingly be used independently – as capital. Its market, the capital market and its conception in capitalism, can therefore flourish almost detached from the state of the economy as a whole, independently of the quality of life of the population in its majority. That proves that capitalism cannot be the justified basic and economic form of a society. It is lacking the moral foundations needed to qualify as a general system according to the categorical imperative, that is, to serve the good life of all citizens.

A socially directed market, on the other hand, can basically do justice to the claims of people to a good life. It encompasses as a market economy production, consumption, and also the money economy and – committed to the common good life – the solution of social problems, especially security of existence of those individuals who cannot look after themselves, who are lacking marketability: children, the sick, the old, and those unable to work.

A social market economy is necessary for the ecology too, because it regards future persons as having equal rights, and so it pays attention to sustainability. So a social market economy is the best security against the risks of globalisation; it aims to provide every citizen with the basic ability to be able to take care of his own security of existence and expansion of life in a flexible way. Educated in that way, the citizen is most able to do justice to his striving for a good life, in a global future too, through exchange of his intellectual or material production and products.

We should not overlook that a social market economy is not a rigid model. Its concrete form and its possibilities are dependent on the conditions of a society. To the needy only that can be given only which is available as superfluities, as taxes. But only he can pay levies and taxes who has more than what is necessary for the security of his own existence. The more economically viable, the more wealthy persons there are, the better it is for the non-viable ones.

Hence the question must be asked why the development of a social market economy is even being hindered. Here too we see self-interest at work. It is obvious that capitalistically organised enterprises, which are therefore less burdened by social levies and socially oriented legislation, have better chances of gaining high profits for their owners. And certainly, as proved by history, to the basic disadvantage of the workers. It was not until the uniting in trade unions – almost two thousand years AD – that that could be changed. In addition: whoever has achieved big profits with low taxation prefers to be celebrated as a generous donor and benefactor rather than to have paid anonymously taxes aiming at welfare.

The “planned economy”, a counter-concept especially to the market economy, means the directing of the economy of a country in a centralised way and by functionaries on hierarchically descending levels. It is basically an ideal model with a social orientation, so to say of pure reason, which in reality has to fail because of corporeality, the individual self-interest of man. Who, when there are no free elections, controls the self-interest of the controllers? Socialists confuse cause and effect when they describe the first fenced-in private property as the beginning, the cause of social inequality. Castle and key, fence and city wall serve first of all as protection against aggressive self-interest of others.


In our world of scarcity of many resources and of self-interest of all persons it is basically difficult for each individual to attain a good life. So it will have negative consequences if we live from day to day without a plan. Whether it is a search for attractive jobs or an attractive partner, the advantage will be with him who fashions his present and future according to a thought-through “life concept”, a life concept by which he determines individually and flexibly what he himself must do, wants, and justifiably may do – and keeps aiming at that.

With our life concept each of us sets the individual meaning of our life, and to a great extent we ourselves determine that. Security of existence is a given of our nature, expansion of existence on the other hand we must ourselves create in its goals. Hence in our concept of life, in the system made up by the goals of a person, both necessity and relative freedom merge.

Being pleased with achieving our own individual goals and realising them is what makes for satisfaction, happiness. Major goals we basically reach step by step. Step by step, as on a staircase, we get closer to them. So we are conscious that momentary happiness has its best meaning only if it constitutes a mosaic stone in the picture we are striving for of a successful life, and momentary unhappiness is easier to bear if it does not smash that mosaic.

In a world of self-interest we should not be an independent satellite, but rather a “sun”. The point is not to make our good life dependent on other people alone. Each of us should live – nearly independent as a “sun” – our own life too. However, a partnership will probably be more stable if the life structures interpenetrate, if the partners have as many common elements as possible.

To become a “sun” is also a leading thought in education and training for the good life. Even at the pre-school level security of existence is indeed the basic thing, but expansion of existence must be achieved individually. Independence, the freedom to live by one’s own goals, is what constitutes the good life and should be prepared, promoted right from the beginning.

Learning is closer to self-interested security of existence than education which tries to reshape self-interest in a social direction. So education is more conflict-ridden, and hence as well as the fundamental methods of argumentation, learning of models, and conditioning, particular importance is placed on “management of conditions”. Then the conditions shape directly, but the educators not directly, which lessens the resistance of the adolescents.

Even being a “sun” was – and is – never a characteristic feature of the majority. Since the earliest times men have sought a leader, above all on the grounds of security of existence, but then he raised himself above them, made them his subjects – expanding his own existence as an “aristocrat” – exploited them, sent them to war and death. Napoleon is an almost incomprehensible example of that. After the hundreds of thousands of dead in the Russian campaign, whose purpose it was, as he himself said, to lift his own fame, he succeeded in a short time in winning the French people for himself again and making them enthusiastic for his wars.

So: an individual fighter, an outsider, or a member of a network, that is, a member in a union of forces? Outsiders are freer and more creative (as explained in the book, through the difference between pure reason, socially less dependent, and practical reason) but often endangered in their existential security (Mozart was an outsider, Haydn in the network). Members of a network support each other (security of existence) and promote each other (expansion of existence). But they also limit, because the common consent characteristically diminishes the chances of the particular, the unique (Bruckner’s friends worsened-improved his groundbreaking symphonies).


An argument against the basic self-interest of man is the readiness of a few to risk their life for others. Why does a fireman put his life at risk? In non-human nature that is unknown toward others. So it is basically linked with the unique intelligence of man. That enables him to feel the suffering of another living thing as his own and – empathy arises from reciprocal effect of corporeality and intelligence – to try to save someone. A necessary force in that is the concrete perception of the person addressed. That explains why among educated, morally trained people killing is rare, while in wartime, for example, men firing cannons and bomber pilots hardly show inhibitions. On the atom bomb directed at people in Japan was written: “With love and kisses”.

The good life has as its basis corporeality, so death is waiting for all life. That shows that our world of life is not marked by an “eternal cycle” (NIETZSCHE) but by a temporal beginning and a temporal end. Points of time in the past are to be defined as systems of forces that no longer exist. For a human being looking back, only approximations are possible. The worldwide life structures of man at any chosen point of time can be known and described only in a very abbreviated form. The limitation to what is still visibly influential today from the past, is the sort of approximation of the scholarship of history.

The future should be defined as a system of forces that do not yet exist. Here all the more only approximations are possible. It is a part of the essence of the future that it goes beyond human power of knowledge, because the future will consist of force systems that have arisen not only from necessities – their results are easier to predict – but also from a share of human freedom and other unpredictable contingencies.

Between the past and the future lies the present. Since the world as a system of forces is incomprehensible for the human intellect and as well quickly changes, even the present can be defined only subjectively and relatively. The present is for a person what he himself knows and feels individually.


Man has evolved from nature. The theory of evolution teaches us that most probably it was that living being (including man) which generated offspring if it best secured its existence by reacting best to the forces, the conditions of its environment. The human being of today therefore has a fundamental interest in not having those conditions altered in a dangerous way. Impacts on the environment are to be examined particularly critically and to be implemented only carefully. Only when they mean enduring security of existence or expansion of existence, judged by the measure of the common good life, are they justified.

Environmental problems that arise due to the complex reciprocal effects of man and nature are global dangers. Depletion of raw materials and enlargement of raw materials, deforesting or intensive farming, do not only bring advantages for the good life, they also mean risks for man and animal. Industrialisation brings with it existential problems if it involves pollution of the atmosphere. Chinese landing at a west-European airport in 2015 only hesitantly take off bit by bit their breathing protection, wondering at the unaccustomed positive quality of the air.

We are becoming more and more aware of the twofold relationship to animals, in particular to animals as food for human beings. Whoever lives in proximity to animals notices in them likenesses to humans. A cat lost its partner through death, and the dea one was buried quite deep under a stone slab, imperceptibly for the cat, apparently imperceptibly. Days later it showed the humans what it knew. It leapt onto the slab, marked it, and started a dance never seen before. For joy, for lamentation? It could not say – and there is the difference, in speech. However: in our world of approximations the following argument is not easy to rebut: if, according to KANT, equality is valid even for stupid humans, why should it not be valid for intelligent animals? Still now or forever man’s self-interest rates man before everything in the world.