Personal and/or cultural values could be an absolute or relative ethical value system that we are “obedient” to and which forms the basis for our ethical everyday actions. A value system is a set of consistent values, priorities and measures of our actions and behaviours.

Values which are not physiologically determined are normally considered to be collective and applicable for all people, under all circumstances (i.e. sameness dimension), are values such as a desire to avoid physical pain, seek pleasure, to survive, …etc. Values that are considered to be subjective, vary from one individual to another (i.e. difference dimension) and across cultures (i.e. similar dimension) and in many ways are aligned with various belief systems in existence.

Any combinations of different value systems - regardless whether collective, individual or culturally based - include the following components…

  • ethical or moral values,
  • doctrinal, dogmatic or ideological values (e.g. religious, political),
  • social values and
  • aesthetic values.

Presently it is heavily debated whether some values - which aren't clearly physiologically determined - are intrinsic, such as altruism and whether some values, such as acquisitiveness, should rather be regarded as human virtues than actual values. Values are the basis of our judgments about what are important in life. Values are an integral part of every person and every culture. Along with our world-views and preferred archetype, values determine choices, direct decisions and generate actions or behaviours.

Being part of a cultureWhich can be a nation, community, company, organization, team, family or group. that shares a common core set of values creates expectations and predictability, without which a culture would disintegrate and its members would lose their personal identity and sense of worth. Values “tells” us what is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable, appropriate, …etc. Thus, values tend to answer - to some extent anyhow - the elusive question of why people do what they do. Values guide us to solve common human problems for collective survival.

Over time, these values become the roots of traditions that various groups of people find important in their day to day lives. Values can be positive (i.e. nourishing) or negative (i.e. toxic) and sometimes even downright destructive, especially when values are opposing or resisting change unconditionally. To really understand individuals of other cultures, we should come to understand the values, beliefs and assumptions that motivates their behaviours. Communities, groups, societies or cultures (either “physical and real” or “virtual and implied”) have values that are largely shared by its members. The values identify those objects, actions, conditions, behaviours and/or characteristics that members of the society consider to be important and that what is valuable. The values of a society can often be identified by observing and noting which individuals collectively receive honour and respect.

For example… professional athletes at the top levels in some sports (e.g. rugby) are honouredIn the form of status, monetary payment and various bonuses. more than university professors for instance. Sad as it is - in essence - our western-capitalistic culture value “excellence through sport” much, much higher than personal growth and the development of the human spirit. Further more, how much time, money and effort is spend in entertainment and gambling centers, in comparison to places of worship and learning? A bit shocking, isn't it!

There is a difference between value clarifications and cognitive moral education. Values clarification is guiding people to clarify the meaning of their life's and what is worth working or striving for. Individuals are encouraged to clearly define their own values (i.e. compile a personal value statement) and to respect the diverse values of other individuals and groups of people. Cognitive moral education is based on the premises that individuals should learn - even by brute force if necessary - to value things like democracy, patriotism, some form of organized religion and justice as the basis of their value system. The latter develop, establish and sustain shared umwelt's sourcing from common strata values which allows for the harmonious existence of communities, societies and nations. Providing… that such a value system isn't dogmatic in nature.

Values are closely related to personal and cultural norms, but values are more general and abstract than norms. Norms are rules for behaviour in specific situations, while values identify what should be judged as good or evil, better or worse. For example…

  • Flying the national flag at an “important” sporting event is a norm, but it represent the value of patriotism.
  • Wearing dark clothing and appearing solemn, are normative behaviours at a funeral, which reflects values of respect and support to the family and friends of the deceased.

People take part in a culture (i.e. real or virtual) even when cultural values do not entirely agree with personal values. This indicate our ability to synthesize and extract aspects valuable to us from the multiple subcultures that we belong to. However, when and individual expresses a value that is in serious conflict with the group's norms, the group's authority may carry out various ways and means to encouraged conformity or stigmatizing the non-conforming behaviour of its members. For example…

  • Imprisonment may result from conflict with social norms that have been established as law.
  • Condemnation, subtle undermining and harsh judgments to “punish” a particular point of view, not in line with nor accepted by the collective point of view held by society.

In our modern society there are frequent and ample references to the term “Highly Evolved Values”. The term “highly evolved values” is generally used, assuming that it implies “special”, “much better”, “more civilized”, “superior” and “enlightened”. However, within real life, objectively examined and in a practical context… no one value or value system is worse, better than or superior to any other value system. Apart from universal values (i.e. sameness dimension) all other values are merely a question of views, opinions, perception and personal interpretations (i.e. value lies in the eye of the beholder).

With the above in mind, what is actually implied by “highly evolved values”?

Highly evolved values are values that is properly digested, incorporated and clearly defined measures as the platform for our purpose in and meaning of our life's. Thus, “highly evolved values” are the basis of or stern foundation for the personal believe system that we obey; regardless the many pressures from the external world and despite group opposition, we stick to it with dedication… even when “nobody” is watching us. Highly evolved values are the essence of and the foundation of doing things right, rather than doing the right things. Thus, becoming a better - rather than just being a good - person.

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  • Last modified: 06 November, 2018 @ 12:14am
  • by Jan Viljoen