Replying to LO24472 --
On 27 Apr 00, at 17:03, Gavin Ritz wrote:
>...Also my values are different from At's and Winfried who both seem to
> have harmony and entitlement needs so I tested that with certain anchors
> that include rejection, disapproval, disharmony, as this invokes a
> particular response. I have more freedom and expression values (more
> American if I might say so) they are not like Winfried or At's who are in
> a sense cut from the same clothe. Remember no values are better or worse
> just different and many disagreements are around this very different
> points of view.
The above paragraph claims:
(i) Individuals have values, which can be found out by some testing.
(ii) All values are equal, no values are better or worse.
I would like to reflect on the tension the above two claims produce in me.
In some situations, I have made use of the ideas contained in the above
claims. However, I also experience a tension in thinking about them
because, to the best of my knowledge, the entire practice of science (and
its origin) negates the first claim and the entire practice of ethics (and
its origin) negates the second claim.
Very brief elaboraton:
In my daily life, I find it convenient to ascribe values to people and
then use that ascription to decide my future course of interaction with
them. However, I also realise that this can also be counter- productive.
My ascriptions might be arbitrary; my actions might be prejudicial; the
person might come to know of my ascriptions and counter-act in unhelpful
ways; I might be seen as one who goes around putting people in boxes; etc.
Often in my daily life I fail to compare values and therefore find it
convenient to toe the easier line that all values are equal. However, I
also realise that this can land me in serious confusion. I might be seen
as a person of no convictions and an extreme relativist; I cannot
contribute effectively in ethical discussion (because I would always end
up with 'you are right and I am right' type of statements); I cannot
criticise corrupt officers, thiefs, and perpetrators of social violence
(after all they too have their own values!).
'Finding out by some testing' is equivalent to 'observing'; and the main
difficulty with values is that they are not observable in this (classical)
sense. This 'scientific' problem has been discussed extensively by social
theorists such as Weber, Parsons, etc. I feel, this is still the most
fundamental scientific problem in the social sciences (Zeeuw, 1995).
Zeeuw, G. de (1995). Values, Science and the Quest for
Demarcation. <italic>Systems Research</italic>, <bold>12</bold>, 1. pp. 15-24.
All cultures have striven to counter the claim that 'all value are equal'.
This striving is reflected in the entire debate on ethics. Again, the
debate (i.e., how to differential among values) does not seem to have been
resolved, but it has been enriched over the years with notions such as
categorical imperative (Kant), social contract (Locke), natural
obligations (Rawls), etc. See, e.g.,
Therefore, although sometimes in my daily life I make use of the ideas
expressed by Gavin in the paragraph quoted above, I am always circumspect
about it. In more formal undertaking (e.g., in learning conversations, in
research, in discharging professional duties, etc.) I make an effort to
restrain myself from using those ideas. When I cannot do so, I make an
effort to state the nature of the difficulty* in explicit terms so that
someone else might address them more effectively than I.
* The difficulty of observing values and
the difficulty of comparing values
Prof. D. P. Dash
Xavier Institute of Management
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