July 06, 2019

Morality and Values in language

Timothy Birdnow

Here is a thoughtful essay on the difference between values and morals - and why it matters.


From the article:

If you look in an Oxford English dictionary, under the term 'values,' you will discover that it was not used as a moral term until later in the 19th century. It is very recent. Prior to that, people didn't speak about values as moral language. 'Values' was a language restricted to economics, and when you think about it, the value of something is how much you pay for something, what is its cost. And we know that with respect to aesthetic choices such as clothing, or sports, or whether I will be (like the people in the next building) at bingo tonight or listening to a talk on values, those are, in a sense, personal choices that can be related to aesthetics — to how things look. You may value a burgundy T-shirt more than I value a blue blazer, and you have your values in that area, and I have mine. But is it the same thing to say that you value justice, and I don't? Can I say that I value courage, and you don't? I don't think so. I think if somebody says, "I don't value justice, you do, that's part of your value system," we would say there is something wrong there.

Yet this language of values, where all morals, all the categories of morality (and I will get to those in a minute), all of what used to be called virtues, are treated as values, makes no distinction between justice and the colour of a T-shirt. The idea of an objective moral principle has been reduced to a matter of personal choice and aesthetics.

There has been a shift away from the idea of morality as an objective thing to the notion of values, which essentially means we VALUE something. It's subjective and malleable. It makes it impossible to say anything is right or wrong. It makes the individual a god, answerable to nobody EXCEPT the society which imposes its will by virtue of social stigma. So being a sexual deviant can now be excused if the deviant can acquire the political power to enforce their acceptance, while, say, the Christian can be forced into hiding by that same sword.

It is the road to socialism, which sees society as existing under the will of the majority rather than being bound by Nature and Nature's God.

Language is a huge part of it. Change what we say and we change what we think.

Ever wonder why the so-called "War on Terror" has largely failed? Well, the name for starters; we have a nebulous, weak enemy called "terror" rather than a specific enemy. Throughout the war we were told we were fighting some sort of sanitized opponent "militants" or "extremists" rather than, say, ragheads or Muhammadans or any other concrete or pejorative term. Every effort was made to make us NOT hate the enemy. But in war you have to hate the enemy or you will lose. We have basically lost this supposed war, primarily because we never actually fought it.Oh, we had soldiers fighting, and supremely well, I might add, but they never had the resources to do what they were supposed to do,because America couldn't get on a war footing. Why? Because we simply refused to use the proper language.

Wars are won or lost by the words we use.

Which is also why conservatives have been on an endless losing streak in the war for America's soul. We allow them to define the language, to choose the terms. How many of us call those who support murdering babies Pro-choice" rather than baby killers, or at least abortion advocates? How many times have we been tricked into using terms like "marriage equality" for homosexual unions, or using the term "social justice" for revolutionaries? We are forever falling into that trap because the media is overwhelmingly leftist, and they know half the battle is in the words used. We follow along like children behind the pied piper. Then when they win the battle we scratch our heads. Gee, I wonder why?

Confucious said that if you want to renew a nation you must first true the language. True dat!


There's more:

Now George Grant, the Canadian philosopher, whom I mentioned a while ago, made this point in an important comment on a CBC radio program a few years ago. Here is what he said, "values language is an obscuring language for morality, used when the idea of purpose has been destroyed. And that is why it is so widespread in North America." In North America, we no longer have any confidence that there are any shared purposes for human life. We don't. It is that dramatic. Consequently, we cannot order any human action towards an end, because all means are related to ends.

The means are the techniques of disciplines, what we study, how we live together, how we choose to live in a family. Those are all means towards an end. What is the end? If the end is spoken about as living virtuously, where virtue is crowned by love and love is shown to us by particular acts and stories then we have something to teach and something to learn. It is not "imposing values" but "teaching in truth" for, after all, how we learn to love is in the context of the lives we choose so that loving will be highly personal as well as shared. This is how "virtue" is similar and dissimilar to "values."

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 09:15 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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