AS THEY MATURE, all human beings think about which actions are really excellent ones, which ones are reasonable or at least acceptable, and which ones should be avoided. But long before young people reach this stage of reflection, they have very naturally undertaken thousands of actions. Many of these are at the prompting of or in imitation of their parents. As they reach adolescence, school and neighborhood friends become much more important as influences on their actions. As young people move through their teen years, media also increasingly impact what young people think is appropriate or excellent.
This first section looks at general values about which most everyone agrees. The claim is not that everyone agrees which actions are right or which are wrong, but rather that there is a fair amount of convergence of views with respect to the goals human beings seek. The agreement is understandably greater among people who live in the United States, and we would have to be more nuanced if we simultaneously considered all countries or cultures. Nonetheless, in this section we note the very wide agreement that exists with respect to the larger human goals, which we call fundamental values, as well as with respect to actions that lead toward those goals and actions that undermine those goals.
Note that we are not claiming that everyone agrees on everything, which would be a foolish assertion. Rather we are pointing out that, with respect to