Values and Valuing: Speculations on the Ethical Life of Persons

Values and Valuing: Speculations on the Ethical Life of Persons

Values and Valuing: Speculations on the Ethical Life of Persons

Values and Valuing: Speculations on the Ethical Life of Persons

Synopsis

This provocative book argues that people are naturally endowed with the ability to speak an articulate language and to form a culture. Language and cultural life require self-appraisal, and hence an evolution--through self-conflict--of desires into values. Nerlich demonstrates that this valuing is a natural process, one that underlies the morals of duty and obligation. He concludes that such valuing will be good only if it results in objective values that are authentic to the individual's nature and surrounding culture.

Excerpt

A good way of understanding values is to naturalize them. One portrays the good life as that in which human nature flourishes; this takes more than a leaf from the splendid book of Aristotle (ed. 1941). It prompts one to look for the core ideas of ethics in the good life and in leading that life--in pursuing value through excellence and virtue in those more or less global projects in which a person cultivates her humanity and aims to make it flourish.

1.1.2 the commoner ideas of morals--duties, rights, permissions, obligations, guilt--barely get a ride on our trip, and then only in the back seat. What follows is mainly concerned with explicating the idea of valuing, something that people do which is connected with, but not the same as, their desiring. To say that someone values something and that it is a value for him or for his culture is not to value it oneself. People's values can damn them; we often speak of the poverty or shabbiness, or worse, of the values of people we know. That sense of valuing and having values is what I try to shed light on in the first six chapters. Only in the last two is an attempt made to explain what it is for values to be correct. Even that leaves us far short of an account of morals.

1.1.3 Naturalizing value means learning about the aspirations and challenges proper to a human life by seeing what people are, and are by nature. of course, people are far from what they ought to be, so that finding what they are by nature must come to more than mere report on how they just happen to turn out. Presumably, the 'more' it comes to must be something normative--but modestly, perhaps, as when we say that a human face ought to have a nose. It is natural for humans to live socially, to learn a conceptually articulate language and begin self-consciously to excel what they unselfconsciously are. That is how a human being ought (in a modest sense) to be. My naturalizing of values does not try to . . .

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