A small reflection on “moral value”

Dear friends well returned to this cage of madmen that we call blogs. Today I started thinking about the meaning of the word “value”. The reason, you will probably understand it in the next article but in the meantime I try to clear my head with the definition of “moral value”.

Obviously, don’t think about considering this article as something that has a philosophical reliability or use it for some serious academic research because you will fail badly! It’s just a personal thought of mine, that’s all.

By moral value I mean any kind of thought or behavior devised by an individual or a group of individuals to be of theoretical benefit to a particular unit, group or thing. A set of thoughts and behaviors considered positive, gives value to the individual that, theoretically and if it were lacking, would be worth less or not at all.

Taking for good my definition, some reflections could arise spontaneously. Contrary to the definition that I have read on some sites, I have defined the moral value both the thought and the behavior. In these sites but also in other books, the moral value is defined only and exclusively as a behavior. It immediately comes to mind that the reason could be related to the fact that, under normal conditions, thought could be seen as a form of behavior or action.

However, since this is an article written by me and therefore offers my reading key, I wanted to emphasize a distinction that I consider quite important. To give an example, if someone were to see an action considered morally questionable carried out by one of his peers, he might or might not have the following reactions.

In the hypothesis that he had the tools to understand that the act that is taking place is immoral, he could for example choose to ignore it. In this case his own value, from a moral point of view, would be greater if compared with those who are not even able to recognize that that particular fact is immoral. And again, he could be considered better than another individual who, recognizing the immorality of that action, strives to favor it in some way. However, an individual who actively works to put an end to a certain event considered immoral would undoubtedly be considered more valuable when compared to previous cases.

We cannot overlook even those times when the order of the cases presented above changes for reasons of conflict of interest with other values, opportunities, duty, a different interpretation or simply by choice. It seems clear to me that the concept of value and inspiration to our choices, must necessarily be considered not exclusively objective.

To a certain extent, all cultures, although sometimes to different degrees, give value to life. It is a primitive value that has been incorporated into our most ancient instincts and therefore respect for life is objectively considered a value. Otherwise, to give just another example, to be ligi to the dictates of a particular church, could be seen as a value by some and a value by others. In this case we will have a value that is no longer objective but extremely subjective.

Although there are therefore objective and subjective values, at this point I feel like including in the equation also the fact that there is a hierarchy of values and that this is exclusively subjective. To better explain my thinking, I give a concrete example. Let’s imagine for a moment the moral value of life. There have been historical moments in which value in battle has been put in the background.

And so, dear friends, as it is easy to guess, I just want to say that I am convinced that the scale of values is extremely subjective, that it has been, comes and will always be used to control a social fabric.

What moral value does another species have?

As we have seen, I am convinced that the moral value of other species is instinct. In reality, instinct changes according to the species under examination. There are animal species that give their lives for their young and others that abandon them. Also in this case I think it is a matter of “opportunity”. We can therefore say that moral values change according to opportunity, what do you think? Could it make sense?

I think it is undeniable that the other animal species (because we too are animals), are completely alien to what are the regulations of human society. They would not be able to understand the complexity of the laws necessary for order and quiet living. They are therefore forced to follow their instinct and, in case they are “pet” species, some small rules dictated by human necessity and convenience.

A dog suffers a lot if it disappoints its owner and so if we can also talk about feelings, would it be plausible to talk about conscience and moral value? A cat, however, does not give much the impression of having at heart the satisfaction of the owner and then where is the concept of feeling, conscience and moral value? Some time ago, this speech would have made everyone laugh out loud and I do not deny that while I am writing I am also having a great time.

If it is true that pets have been anthropomorphized to such an extent that they have been given rights (as happens in many countries including my own) and even considered as legitimate members of the family, it must be equally true that there are a good number of people in the world who have lobbied for this to happen. So there must be a good number of people convinced that other animal species should have the same rights as human beings. What is this if not a moral value?

In fact many readers may be annoyed by the use of the word master but another author will talk about it in another article that is already being written.

Apparently, human beings can give other species of moral value through their thoughts and actions. For this reason, in the introduction of the article, I specified that moral value is not only about actions in my opinion.

And the moral value of things?

I understand that at this point, some of you may think that I am exaggerating but let’s try to take stock of the situation a bit. If it is true that human beings can give a moral value to other animal species and it is true that there are real religions based on idols, how can you think that the human tendency to give a moral value does not involve things too?

Another example can be the banners and flags of various nations. Could anyone ever say that these objects are devoid of moral value?

At this point, I think we are all a bit confused, perhaps it would have been better for you that you had relied on some specialized book but I warned you.

Until now, we have said that moral values change according to the opportunity, the subject, the group and the moment. I like to define this characteristic as relativism. That is, the human predisposition to change the cards on the table according to convenience. Surely you will have met him at least once in your life.

Have you ever happened to talk to a person who convinces you with a speech but after some time he changes his mind and tries to convince you by completely overturning the point of view? I am sure you have had to deal with this kind of conversation.

In the end what are these moral values?

Even if I was so enlightened to know them all and list them all (and they are not) I doubt that you would read them so I’ll briefly mention those that come to mind. Also because it’s a miracle that you have even read this far. Consider that certain values come to my mind precisely because I am immersed in a social fabric that affects me.

To begin with, I would include the moral value of love. Some might say that love is not a moral value but a feeling. I am referring to true love, that feeling of sacrifice and sense of duty that pushes us to take care of the other person even if “it does not suit us”.

Many at this point could say that love is not love when it is a sense of duty. It seems clear to me that these people do not have the same way of thinking about me. Is love the love of a couple that separates when it is discovered that one of them will remain in a wheelchair forever? Is it love to selfishly choose to go on and make a new life by abandoning the other person? Let’s not talk nonsense, please. Love is something that lasts over time.

Another moral value could be friendship for example, friendship the real one. Many people do not recognize, for reasons of social immaturity I imagine, the difference between acquaintances and friends. Here are two perfect examples of something that leads us to change our behavior by virtue of an ideal.

We also have the moral value of courage which I will talk about in one of the next articles for example. We are all enthusiastic when we see someone showing courage, as long as this individual’s actions are in line with what we believe in, otherwise we strip the individual of this value and call him or her stupid, when it goes well of course.

Loyalty together with courage, for example, is sometimes approached to our animal friends dogs, just to dispel any kind of doubt about what I have said before.

Are values always a good thing?

A moral value much publicized but little applied is certainly that of sincerity. This, as well as many other characteristics, is almost universally recognized as a value but in fact behaves as a disvalue. Always telling the truth at any cost, you know and learn by experience, is not always a good idea.

Being consistent with one’s ideas and always telling the truth can sometimes be considered a weakness easily exploitable by opponents. This predisposition to make the subject vulnerable and the almost total lack of intellectual honesty on the part of the interlocutors, means that sincerity is not used because it is difficult to relate to someone who respects it, avoids instrumentalizing it and appreciates it.

However, in order to avoid that the article is too long, I will see to reflect together with you about the most common values and disvalues in other articles.

On some books, there are those who are convinced that the value, to be such, must be followed to the letter and never deviate from the so-called right way. I had the impression that they confused the ideal with the principle. Value is something that when applied to something else or someone else, elevates the subject to a higher degree of approval and therefore gives him value.

As I have said beyond the values, the opposites exist that are the disvalues. The honesty is a value and its opposite is the dishonesty for example. Also the dishonesty, although it is seen as a disvalue by some, has certain advantages, at least temporarily. By the way, always be honest, because it pays off in the long run.

At the end of this disclaimer, which serves to avoid being accused of having said that sometimes it is better to be dishonest, let’s move on to the next reflection.

Ideals, principles and values are the same thing?

We already gave the definition of moral value at the beginning of this article. The ideal is a distinct set of ideas to which the individual or a group of individuals adheres or should adhere. An example could be the ideal of freedom, justice and democracy.

Principles are a set of moral foundations to which a particular social fabric or individual is inspired or should adhere by choice of one’s own or others. An example of principles are constitutional principles.

It is very easy for there to be confusion on the merits but it seems quite clear to me how the three things are extremely correlated and linked. It is enough to turn your thoughts to everyday life and you immediately realize that we are constantly conditioned by these elements of human thought.

How do values condition us?

Any human activity is directly or indirectly conditioned by moral values. The latter are certainly the basis of laws, religions and interpersonal relationships. The application of one or more moral values recognized by a social fabric could be the expression of a law that protects freedom or limits it, but not only that.

The application of values, whether of a moral or innate nature, has a decisive influence on our behavior and our future. The need for some values to be complementary to others should not be underestimated. To give an example, values such as intelligence, knowledge, stubbornness, humility, compassion, goodness and faith must necessarily be complementary in order to make a positive contribution to the subject and society.

Let us better define these values that I have mentioned in order to apply them to a purely fanciful example. I define intelligence as an innate and trainable property of the intellect not necessarily human that allows a given entity to find solutions by processing sensory perceptions or experiences. Then a mathematician solves an exercise by reading the trace (sensory perception), accesses the portion of memory related to his culture and other exercises (experience), elaborates by applying his experience to his perceptions and writes the solution.

With this example, I want to hope that it appears obvious that there is a correlation between intelligence and culture. To be cultured without having the ability to apply this culture to the new situations that arise is tantamount to being a useless database. To be intelligent but without having the elements for problem solving provided by the culture is equivalent to being a processor without memory, and therefore equally useless. Moreover, it is not possible to acquire the necessary culture without a certain amount of stubbornness, which in turn risks becoming obtuse and stubborn without a good dose of humility.

It is my personal belief that intelligence, culture, stubbornness and humility are necessary but not sufficient values for the realization of an adequate thought. By way of explanation, I abandon myself to a further example of fantasy.

First of all, I would like to say that never, ever, ever should you eat mushrooms that have not been before analyzed by a specialized laboratory.

Going back to our example, imagine having a recurring appointment with a friend of yours. He writes you a message warning you that he has a fever of 37° due to the fact that he ate a mushroom soup from a forest.

Your intelligence would encourage you to browse the internet or another means of information to acquire the necessary culture. The first site would not mention fever and so if you stopped at this, you would conclude that mushroom poisoning does not give fever. But since you are also stubborn, you would investigate this and you would find that it can give a high fever and therefore not 37°. If you were therefore only made of intelligence, culture and stubbornness, you would undoubtedly be led to think that your friend lied to you.

However, since you are also endowed with humility, you would rightly think that you are not a doctor anyway and that there may be some things that you do not know that contribute to the malaise status of your poor friend. Goodness would push you to accept this friend’s decision to spend his time with another person and compassion would give you the tools to understand that this is right and you might even go so far as to justify the fact that he lied to you. The result would be that you would be very sorry and avoiding to express your doubts, inevitably, in the long run you would move away from your friend, convinced that you are the problem.

It would be a disaster if there was no faith. Whoever is endowed with faith will undoubtedly be able to overturn any kind of reasoning without losing logic. Anyone who wants to believe in someone or something, will be able in our example to believe that there is another explanation and that coincidences also exist in life. Belief in someone or something is as powerful as love, and it depends on love if you think about it. It is with faith and love that lasting bonds are built.

As is well known, the opposite values that are doubt and hatred, have never led to anything good in life and never will. Let’s imagine what could have happened if the two friends from before had been two lovers for example. If we also think that the amount of values and the hierarchy of the latter varies over time and also changes according to opportunity, we realize that we are dealing with something I define as “moment”.

A person or a group of people who are aware of the concept of value and disvalue, depending on the moment, may make very different decisions about the same thing.

In conclusion, any entity, can be invested, acquired or innately have in itself many types of values in different measures and hierarchical orders. There are cultures that imagine the individuals as a container that has in itself many other small individuals different from each other and that individually represent the different facets of the human soul. These small entities make the individuals or the groups, as much similar among them as extraordinarily unique.

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