Posted: May 31, 2022 5:09 pm
by Spearthrower
Ok, I will expand dramatically rather than in pithy fun form :)

For me, values are a class of fundamental positions about the world...

- fundamental in the sense that they're not specifically defined statements on particular topics but work more like a general motivating stance preceding the consideration of arising topics; a heuristic resulting from biology, culture, personal experience etc.
- position meaning a perspective of the world, a sense of one's place both perceived and aspirational, specifically with reference to one's family, friends, nation, religion, society, culture or any other perceived community.

... that are quintessentially human.

(This doesn't mean that other animals - particularly social ones - don't have something similar operating that was honed over evolutionary time, and we too are also subject to similar deeply biological values - disgust and reactions to disgust makes for an interesting example seen throughout all human cultures but mammalians generally exhibit strikingly similar response patterns when witnessing a fellow expressing disgust.)

But rather, that humans are, insofar as we know, the only animal which holds a verbally defined mental map of the world which, with consequent imagination, intellectual consideration, moral reasoning etc., allows us to ratchet up consideration of values, such as through the pursuit of ethical philosophy, and in the traditions of many religions.

There are many actions that nearly all humans for nearly all of history have shared opinions of, for the most part. Cannibalism, for example, is nearly universally frowned upon, expect when it's not, but when it's not, it's generally for very specific cultural reasons which make it not an evil act in that specific moment under those specific conditions. Incest more likely has a biological basis (Westermarck effect) but still it became codified as bad nearly universally across all human cultures both in practice and eventually in law.

So values have many layers; they can be instinctive, they can be uncritically recapitulated expressions of one's family/society etc., they can be reasoned, developed and evolved over generations.

All they share is that it basically boils down to someone's feelies. Everyone has feelies. By and large people's feelies are important to them, and they really mean it when they say X is <value> - evil, for example.

A good example of this is looking at the American evangelical right's repeated accusations that 'abortion is evil' - they're not pretending to believe this, they're not doing this to milk lib tears (which has become a rather frequent motivation of the loony new far right), they genuinely consider it an unspeakable act of desecration they cannot bear to permit, the same way most people perhaps might feel about child abuse.

So values really don't have to make much sense, but they're... well... valued by people.

What then is evil? It's something intrinsically anti-social, something that offends the foundations of one's beliefs, something that cannot be witnessed and ignored, but must be publicly rejected in order to stake a position in the world, to say what should be and what shouldn't. A line in the sand.

But because we're a social species, at least partly the motivation is to signal to one's fellows that one is not like that! whether true or not. A web of social expectations, alliances and rivalries - human primates verbal grooming and seeking comfortingly similar grunts in return.

Evil is whatever you define evil is - that's what evil always has been, and what it always will be.

The universe doesn't possess the characteristic 'evil' independent of the human mind (expect possibly in the evolutionary stable strategies of social species) - when humanity dies, evil dies with us! :cheers: