The Things That Matter Most: An Approach to the Problems of Human Values

The Things That Matter Most: An Approach to the Problems of Human Values

The Things That Matter Most: An Approach to the Problems of Human Values

The Things That Matter Most: An Approach to the Problems of Human Values

Excerpt

Plotinus, who lived in the third century after Christ, defined the Field of philosophy to be "the things that matter most": TÒ TIMIÓTATON. With all the changes and developments that have taken place during the centuries since, this definition has a strikingly modern sound. We are still endeavoring to find out what are the things that matter most; in fact it is one of the most conspicuous fields of modern inquiry. There are many opinions as to what is most worth while, and many people who could make a most respectable list of the things that matter, yet show a great hesitancy in seeking them. They are quite sure about what is best for the neighbors, the Hottentots, or the children, but display a remarkable lassitude in seizing these values for themselves.

The world of our time has been fairly obsessed by the idea that the principal values were to come by the way of better education, greater abundance, increasing scientific discovery, without apparently asking a serious question as to whether thereby it is possible to purchase peace of mind, without which nothing matters. An age of great invention, and increased luxury, with goods enough to make everybody comfortable, may suddenly find itself in the most disastrous social and political chaos the world has ever known. Such has been the experience of multitudes in days recently past, that all values of money, physical comfort, and luxury were out- classed by the simple values of the presence or safety of some member of the family caught in the maelstrom of war. Under the spur of such questionings as we are likely to experience, it may be necessary to open the problem of value anew, to discover what is most worth while. In this crisis, philosophy, which is supposed to have things to say about the moral values, has on the whole seemed strangely silent, or has lent its assent to the claim that there are no moral values. This teaching seems today inappropriate in the face of what unscrupulous men, armed with the latest inventions, can do to a world which for the most part would like to live in peace, justice, and common well-being. There is serious question as to whether philosophy has any task comparable to that of considering the reality of the things worth while. The present status of the world emphasizes more than ever the fact that, regardless of physical comforts or scientific discoveries, little is to be gained by . . .

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