09 July 2020

Are values dead?

Are values dead?


When we think of values we naturally first think of moral values. But the term “value” can cover more than just moral or ethical values. Values can stand for codes of conduct by groups and organisations, aesthetic values, monetary values of currencies, market value of goods and services, our loyalty to brands, and our appreciation of some mementos we picked in our life.


Whilst moral values are an important candidate for our topic, I will focus on some of the other values I mentioned above. Supposedly our aesthetic values are something we are responsible for. We can dispute whether moral values are innate in us or whether they are some sort of objective principles. But there is no question about the origin of non-moral values.


Non-moral values do not have the universal stigma of goodness and badness (evil) which moral values have. But even moral values are not as irreproachable as we are supposed to believe. Values based on an evil ideology or dogma cannot give rise to universal moral values with much goodness.


Value judgements that we make as rational agents that lead us to buy a certain painting or wear a certain outfits, are not based on moral principles, although moral decency might come into it, but on personal tastes and personal beliefs. But where do these tastes and beliefs come from? How do we acquire our aesthetic values? There is no question we are entitled to our value judgement, but how infallible are our value judgments? As we know from life many of our value judgements are far from being infallible.


How free are we really when we make a value judgement? The problem here is that we don’t all follow the same criteria when making value judgements, a lot depends on our background, our upbringing, our state of knowledge, physical factors, and so forth. In other words it would be difficult to identify the mental/neurological events that go into our value judgements. Sure we can point at this area of the brain or that area but this does not imply that processes of the brain are processing the same information.  But there is another set of possible influences that might explain parts of our value judgement: peer pressure.


Peer pressure might be severe coercion or we are expected to do what our peers do  for example peers of a gang. Peer pressure can also be mild for example following a fashion. But the worst form of peer pressure is based on our belief that we have to conform by a designer or employees feeling they have to conform to the tastes of the boss. Having to wear a suit for work is one thing but wearing brown shoes with a grey suit because the boss does is another matter.


Indeed, today our most influential peers are not necessary those we interact with in person. Many of our peers also include groups and participants on the internet. This means that our sphere of influence includes many more people than we have been used to since the dawn of civilization. The difference today is that the time frame from processing the information we have on something, arrive at a value judgement to act on it and actually acting on something could be a matter of a few seconds.


We see an advert for a tea pot, read the comments below a nice picture of the tea pot, and immediately decide to buy it using our credit card. In the past we could equally have entered a shop, saw the tea pot and bought it because we like it. What is missing from the two scenarios is that when we entered the shop in the past we didn’t have immediate access to the opinions of other buyers. But how do we know that that the opinion of these people is honest?


Today we use the opinion of others on the internet, and maybe indirectly from others, not just to inform ourselves but more to justify our own value judgements. In the past our peers were people we knew personally, or belonged to our special group, colleagues at work, members of our dance group, parents in our child school, and so on. Today we are just as likely to believe and follow a blogger or a comment on a shopping site as our life long school friend.


Of course, just because we look for the opinion of others, i.e. our peers who happen to be tea pot loving peers, does not mean it is not a rational thing to do. Or that we are doing something illegal. No, the issue is that today we also have to make value judgements about the information we receive and access. For example how old is the information, has anything material changed about the product and so on.


Today it is very common for companies to buy old defunct brand names that were famous at the time and then use the brand to push an average product. There have always been charlatans and there will always be charlatans, there have always been gullible people and there will always be gullible people. The difference is that today we might actually have information about the charlatans the thing is that we now need special skills to process and find the information.


So, if our values, in the form of value judgement, are dead, are they dead because we just forgot how to form value judgements or because we have lost the art of reflection?


Best Lawrence


telephone/WhatsApp: 606081813


Email: philomadrid@gmail.com









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