Values

Questions of right or wrong, good or evil, are answered in wide variations of ethical and moral systems. Ethical systems consist of principles of conduct: how we behave in various situations of life and why we behave in one particular way given that other options of behavior are available to us. The principles of conduct  are themselves formed by our values. If we value self above most other concerns, we will behave in ways that tend to benefit ourselves. But where do values come from?

Sometimes they are inherited from others, parents perhaps. Sometimes they are formed on pragmatic concerns: we tend to value what "works for us" and dis-value what doesn't. Sometimes they are formed by strong motivations to be a part of a particular group. For example, Marine Corps boot camp is designed to instill a strong commitment to the purpose and unity of one's fellow marines--something deemed of great value on the battlefield they may one day occupy together.

The questions that are plaguing society in America today (likely societies outside America as well) are questions about whose values ought to be determinative of acceptable social behavior. Whose principles of conduct ought to be the standard by which all behavior is either right or wrong, good or evil? 

The connection between values and behavior should be self-evident, but most people seldom pause for even a moment's reflection on the nature of this connection. Moreover, we all tend to operate at the practical level more according to assumptions that have never really been tested against a standard outside our own ethical system. We tend to be much clearer on how we want others to behave toward us, and much less clear on what ought to determine our own behavior toward others.

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