Moral Values

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Moral values form a subset of the set of all values, and a value simply consists of the things (abstract or concrete) that some people value. What one person values highly another person may despise. It has become common for groups of people who hold one set of values to claim that others have no values, but a person who had no values whatsoever would be unmotivated in all respects. The same general analysis holds for moral values.

Moral values tend to be strongly influenced by cultures. Each culture has a socio-normal set of values for which it has created methods to use in inculcating them in the members of its society. Certain fundamental problems involved in humans living together as societies have been addressed by various societies using different sets of human inventions. When conflicts arise within the minds of members of different cultures, the ways the conflicts are resolved can be very revealing about the personality structures that are socio-normal to each society. The story of the Spartan boy who died because he bravely refused to show any sign of the stolen fox concealed under his cloak indicates that the Spartan society valued bravery and cared relatively less about thievery. Other cultures would assign very different value judgments to the same story.

Since morals are inculcated to help soften conflicts among individuals in a society, it is clear that the original disruptive motivations do not disappear. They can appear in the actual behavior of individuals -- even the individuals who are charged by society with maintaining adherence to that society's values.

Among all the motives that cultural institutions are intended to bring into harmony within a society, the selfish motivations can escape control and then can result in trusted individuals using their powers within the society to put others under their own control for selfish reasons. For instance, religious leaders, teachers, law enforcement officials, etc. can use their positions of trust and authority to take advantage of others.

The simple assertion that someone has moral values can be true and yet ambiguous both as to what those values actually are and as to what behaviors will be exhibited by the individual under various pressures.

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