Sunday, January 02, 2005

Are Values Valuable?

Are Values Valuable?

Dear Dan,

Thanks for the email. I agree with you that “many people use 'value' precisely to mean enduring non-subjective moral truth.”

The problem is words must have an objective meaning as CS Lewis said or they become meaningless. For example, the title of Phyllis Burkes’ lesbian book is “Family Values.” If the word doesn’t mean opinion then how can you and your friends use the same word as Burkes.

I suggest the word virtues be used instead of values.

If you want a little chronicle of the word read historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. She said,” It was not until the present century that morality became so thoroughly relativized and subjectified that virtues ceased to be virtues and became “values”...Values as we understand that word, do not have to be virtues; they can be beliefs, opinions, attitudes, feelings, habits, conventions, preferences, prejudices, even idiosyncrasies.”

Fred

Dear Fred:

Thanks for your interesting article. I agreed with just about everything except the major point of departure. Not to be patronizing, but I'm not even sure you mean exactly what you say in the article.

I agree that there is much confusion in language discussing moral questions, but I don't think it's true that everyone who uses these confused terms agrees with the Nietzsche, Adler, Jung, Maslow, Rogers, etc.
Many people use "value" precisely to mean enduring non-subjective moral truth.

Part of what makes our task so daunting is the necessity of doing basic education, i.e. the right signification of words, the rules of logic, etc., before we can discuss more difficult topics like "what is good".

If this education had really been attended to in the past 100 years, rather than being thought babyish and uninteresting, I don't think charlatans like Maslow and Rogers would have gotten to square one.
I certainly agree that the scandals so much noted today were largely hatched in the free thinking era of the sixties when all this pseudo-psychology became so popular with the clergy and religious.

Dan

Note:

The article "Nietzschean Psychoanalysis and the Catholic Scandal" is the first draft of one of the chapters in my book Hidden Axis. If you want to read click the archives below.

Fred

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