Chosen Values

What’s important to you, what’s most important? Maybe family over work, or religion over science?

Chances are quite high, that if you compare your values with someone else’s, you don’t quite agree, or maybe the comparison isn’t even close. Once you realize that you have different values from another, it can be very tempting to try to “correct” the other person into “thinking” as you do – an endeavor that both of you might take on. Where that desire to “correct” the other comes from, doesn’t matter for my purposes here.

What matters is the assumption that values depend on the notion of “correct thinking”. Who is to say that one person’s values are more correct than another’s? Maybe you decide at this point that the more correct one is the one that feels right? Or maybe you think it’s the one that’s more logical? Or maybe you have some other criteria with which to weigh the two? But this attempt to weigh, or value, one set of values over another is just another value, a value that might not be shared – is there a way out of this without circular reasoning?

Yes. In short, using whatever method that comes to mind, you break the cycle with someone making a choice. Maybe an arbiter’s choice, or maybe the choice to accept a coin flip, or maybe choosing to change one’s mind. For simplicity’s sake, suppose you are making the choice. Somehow, perhaps only to yourself, you have to justify your choice.

I suppose some of you are thinking about cases where you don’t choose, or shouldn’t choose. For example, imagine you’re a father of two daughters being asked, “Which is your favorite?” and answering “Both.” Or imagine you’re an investor not putting money into stocks because you don’t see a way to know which stock is best. The first involves a conscious choice “to not choose”, while the second can be framed as a choice to give in to uncertainty.

By justifying to yourself the choice you have made, you make the decision within yourself between values and say of one, “this is more important to me” (yes, even in the coin flip case). The resolution creates or uses a value that, most likely, was not previously part of the equation (in the coin flip case, for example, it could be put as choosing expediency over correctness). Now, strictly logically, this is a leap, since logic doesn’t actually force a system of values to be consistent. But human nature, in my opinion, forces the result. Not that the resolution forces complete consistency either.

In any case, the attempt to reconcile conflicting values, whether within oneself or between cultures, reinforces or discovers other values. Thus decisions and conflicts are at the heart of building a system of values.

About twio

In accepting Doubt, I find Certainty
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