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Just as abstractions are necessary and non-arbitrary, so are values and the process of evaluation.

While we are justified in applying our own values to the values of others, it is important to understand, and thus be able to communicate and receive, the sources that “cause” people to value what they do.

There are many sources of values. Some are built into us when we are born, some are inculcated in us by our environment and those with whom we learn as we become. Some are immediate, such as emotions. Others still are those that appeal to us in ways we cannot rationalize; the things we have faith in.

All of these things – biology, environment, emotion, faith, reason – are all sources of information, and they are all equally valid as long as the information is useful to us in the satisfaction of desires. Values, their sources, and this information are only invalid when they do not help us go through this process. There is no way for us to know what is valid or invalid for another person, since we do not know (completely) their desires or their values.

But we are predisposed to think that certain sources of information are invalid. We prejudge others based on our own values, knowing full well that they are the same as we are – but we are so strongly ready to dehumanize them in order to protect our own values and our own egos. It’s deep, and it’s instinct. It is a valid source of information just like any other, but one that needs to be put strongly in context as it is an attempt to reify our own values into a construct that can be applied to others.

We have also been taught that if the source of values is not “rational” then it is invalid:

The list is innumerable. But it is imporant to note a common theme; to treat the sources as worthless – as “merely” constructed… as if there were anything that was not constucted.

This is a cruel lesson, as the majority of our sources are not rational at all, particularly faith and emotions.

Alternatively, sometimes we reify the sources of values themselves, appealing to their authority or tradition alone as a case for their absolute, permanent validity. But remember, truth does not imply permanence. Once the values are no longer conducive to satisfying the desire process, they will be and should be deconstructed.

The primary purpose of reason is to break down values that are no longer useful. It is not meant to be used in breaking down others’ values when we only have a minuscule amount of information about those values, because we are not the other person. But we do this all the time, and most of the time it is only to reinforce our own ego and our own values – a dangerous practice, as it can reify them to the point where they will not be broken down when they need to be.

This does not mean we cannot give advice, or communicate to others what we value in the context of what we see them doing, to see if there is some insight that can be gained. All this means is that we must understand that when doing so we are speaking entirely from our own context, and do not – cannot – have all of the information that they have. In the end, only the actualizer experiences its desires, and will make its choices based on the values and sources of those values that it has come to know.

3 Responses

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  1. Alison with One El

    I totally agree with you that no one can know the full breadth of the sources of another’s values and what one doesnot know is not necessarily worthless. But maybe they can be know given the appropriate tools to explore and express them such as the arts and the forum to receive them (ay, there is the rub). I feel we must because if we are ever to know the world outside of our own heads we come that must combine each of our situations. Then we might see it from all sides and discover its inherent incongruencies.

    September 5, 2010 at 5:59 am
    • Alison with One El

      Sorry for the typos. iPhone

      September 5, 2010 at 6:03 am
    • jayson

      I think they key to what I am trying to say here is that even in trying to know another’s values, we are only putting them in the context of our own. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do that, only that it is true – seeking understanding of another’s values is a ritual that can be used to refine one’s own values.

      The great thing about art (though really – what isn’t art?) is that it makes at least some attempt to convey complete, irrational ideas, which can be more helpful in communicating desires that are inherently irrational.

      September 5, 2010 at 7:05 am

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