Prioritizing Values – In Practise

So I’ve decided that this blog has changed from just a general rant blog into general philosophy blog, hence the name change. I’ll be talking lots about religion, because religion removes curiosity in people, and only through curiosity do we actually learn about what is real. I’ll probably be talking about how corrupt the government is. Hopefully, you’ll have questions, or it may inspire you to try to apply philosophy to your life.

It’s a scary process at times, because it is so foreign to what we normally do, it’s easy to see why most people don’t bother. I am just starting out, so mistakes are inevitable, but philosophy has a way of giving you clarity about situations. Constantly applying the principles of reason, evidence, logic to your life will lead you on the path to find out what is actually true and false. These principles help us find the truth about the world around us. I’ll share a few of my values with you, so that we can analyze a situation with these values.

In any relationship, I value honesty and truth over everything else. There’s nothing else that I can think of that I would place above honest. Not intelligence, not wit and humour, not beauty, not passion, and not creativity. The way we test this is by putting the two values side by side and determining which is better. Would I ever find it acceptable for someone to lie to me if they possessed such and such quality? No, there’s no value that I can see that I want above truth. The reason is simple, and spelling them out from the beginning is what gives you the clarity. Things are either true, or not true. Simple, right?

The effects of this are quite deep, much more than most people will ever come to know. This will be quite challenging in nearly every one of my relationships. It’s almost enough to make a person doubt trying to start. But if I’m to take philosophy seriously, then I have to apply and live my values. What’s the point of having values and not living them? They just become opinions. So the proposition “live your values” is probably something you want to live by, because if not, then literally, you’re not living your values. If I don’t live my values, then I can’t expect other people to do it, and I have no right to complain about people who allow other things to take place of living their values. I don’t place “inconvenience” above “live my values”.

So applying this to my life, what happens? I realize that when people argue in favour of anything else over honesty, they are doing it because they don’t value honesty over what they are defending. I’d recently brought up some issues that I was having with a relationship of mine, and this person was genuinely mad at me for two things; a lack of empathy and the fact that I sent it by email. She attacked me for my integrity, for which I’d never given her a reason to in the past. The lack of empathy was something I could agree with upon reading it without the inflection that I’d assumed was there. My letter was missing my value of empathy, and I completely agreed and apologized for that.

I didn’t quite know what to say about the second part, the fact that I emailed her. I knew that it didn’t make sense in some way, that somehow the fact that it was an email rather than a phone call or a conversation in person, that the information is less valuable. I was told that it was a spineless thing to do. I didn’t feel that it was spineless, seeing as I was attacked in my action. I asked her why she felt the need to call into question my integrity and call me a coward, and she responded that it was because what I said was hurtful to her, and she didn’t mean to lash out. This also didn’t sit with me, but I didn’t have an answer until a few nights ago.

She’s blaming me for her actions and feelings, at the same time she is mad at me for my actions and feelings. If she can blame her reaction on her hurt feelings, and that her hurt feelings were caused by my actions, then my writing of the letter was just a reaction of whatever my feelings were, and not caused by me. Either we are responsible for the way we react to our feelings, or we aren’t.

If at I’ve doubted honesty, this is how I’ll know it’s a good principle. If I’m honest with myself, and it guides me in the wrong path, then I may have to rethink my values. So, I’m scared of telling her. By letting myself acknowledge my fear, instead of crushing it with a non-answer, I let my curiosity do the work. Why am I afraid? Well, either she will agree with my conclusions, or she will not. If she agrees, then we can explore why she felt that she had to attack me. If she disagrees however, it will mean that our values are quite different. If she is disagreeing with me, then she’ll be putting x value above honesty. If I don’t value that reason more than I value honesty, then it’s obvious that we can’t have a meaningful relationship.

So why do I have a fear of her disagreeing with me? Generally, when faced with these types of questions, again you want to use the first non-answer that jumps into your head. But let’s use curiousity to see what happens. Why do I fear that she doesn’t value honesty as much as I think she does? It’s not so much her values not being aligned with mine that worries me, my worry stems from the fact that I believe that her values could be much different than what I’d believed them to be. If she does disagree with my assessment, then I will have been a terrible judge in character.

All this stems from a few simple ideas. We will be arguing from the beginning, just like in my last post. We’re starting with honesty as the greatest ideal in a relationship, because if we can’t agree on that, we’ll literally be arguing fiction with each other.

Philosophy gives us such insight when we put it into practice because arguing “honesty with loved ones > causing discomfort to loved ones” is not at all arguable to me. When we don’t actually assess our values, we lose sight of what they are, and we’ll be forever lost in the forest of inconsequential and make believe arguments.