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Re: proving values
In his last posting Jamie Dumas brought up the question again ,how can individuals
debate values when values seem to be individual choices based upon individual
experiences. As someone who is doing an undergraduate thesis on the topic of moral
philosophy I decided that I could procrastinate for a short while and explain why many in
our society feel the same way as Jamie or at least what the person I'm reading now says
on the topic.
This may be boring for some so bear with me...
1. Way back in Aristotle's time, the individual identified him/herself and was identified
by others through his/her identity in a variety of social groups i.e. identified as brother,
cousin,grandson, member of this household, that village, this tribe...these roles defined
obligationsand duties...to know oneself was to find oneself placed at a certain point on a
journey with set goals. One's life was evaluated as either making progress or failing to
make progress towards a given end. and generally a good/bad life was determined at
death when one's whole life could be evaluated.
Contrast this outlook with the modern vision who, when it acquired sovereignty in its own
realm, lost its traditional boundaries provided by a social identity and a view of human life
as ordered to a given end. In other words, the modern self no longer defines itself in terms
of the social role...i.e. beyond being mother, wife, lawyer, daughter there exists what an
individual claims is "the real me." but this wouldn't make sense in Artistotle's time
because once you stripped away your role, there was nothing there.
Now in Aristotle's time you had certain virtues or vices....virtues are those things which
lead the way to fulfilling the obligations or duties identified by the social role you
inhabited. i.e. virtues were those things that helped you be a good citizen, a good father,
etc. Artistotle, Plato, and Aquinus felt that a cosmic order existed which defined these
virtues. Human nature moves human beings to a specific end.
So, for example, courage, friendship, fidelity were all virtues and I equate virtues with our
term for values in Ceda today.
The problem is that during the 15th and 16th century people started throwing out Artistole
and the theory that man has an unltimate end or goal in life. The problem is that after they
threw out Aristotle and the belief in a cosmic order defining the right virtues, they had to
find another way to justify why people should act morally and have any values what so
ever. And they tried this during the Enlightenment. (i.e. Kant, Hume, Diderot). The
problem is that each proclaimed something different as the rational justification for acting
morally and then debunked what the other had to say. So we were left with a net gain of
zero...a void in the place where there used to be a justification. i.e. that man had an
ultimate end in life.
So now, in modern times people rightly claim that there is no authority to act morally or to
have to accept what one person claims is a value as being the only or the right value.
And it gets worse as time goes by and more people reject any religious belief they might
Consequently our moral debates are interminable in character. And our debates can be
reduced to rival premises. Which are merely one person making a claim and another
making a counter claim.
So Mr. Dumas, if you actually read to the bottom of this posting...I think people will find it
difficult to argue values unless they can first prove where the authority is for invoking this
value over another.
Does this help at all?
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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