THE BASIC PRINCIPLES of natural law have remained consistent over centuries of ethical discussion and debate. But exactly how those principles are understood and explained has varied. This book relies on one explanation that is based on fundamental values. In this approach seven values—life, knowledge, beauty, friendship, playfulness, religion, and practical reasonableness—are deemed intrinsic to being human. The claim is that in the context of their own community all people can recognize how various good activities are oriented toward the pursuit of one or more of these fundamental human values.
Obviously, to be truly “fundamental” or “fundamentally human,” a value has to be centrally important for everyone. More carefully expressed, seeking the value through particular activities or practices should yield genuine satisfaction to each person. A fundamental value should be one we know by experience and reflection belongs to the heart of what it means to be human. Figuring out which values those are is a challenge. Polling every person in the world is not feasible, nor does it get to the heart of it. In the end, the values that humans call fundamental have to correspond to our being, the way we are made, the way we are constituted, in part by our DNA.