Saturday, July 08, 2006

Universal Values

A couple posts back I talked about the opponent’s strategy of dismantling the universal hierarchy of values that our faith professes and I wanted to give a rational argument that defends against this dismantling.

Values do have an element that is subjective but values are also objective in that some values are written into us as humans. We cannot be happy without being connected to something beyond ourselves, something transcendent. It is in our nature to hunger for something beyond us. Our modern society has a metaphysics of materialism which tends to undervalue the intangible. This causes problems because people aim for things that are less than transcendent.

The major faith traditions throughout history testify to needing something transcendent. The Greeks i.e. Aristotle (and latter Christian’s) recognized four levels of happiness. I am quoting the following;

1. laetus: Happiness in a thing. Thus, “I see the linguini, I eat the linguini, it makes me feel good, I am happy.” This kind of happiness is based on something external to the self, is short-lived and, on reflection, we do not consider that it is all there is to human happiness.

2. felix: The happiness of comparative advantage. “I have more of this than X.” “I am better at this than X.” This kind of happiness results from competition with another person. The self is seen in terms of how we measure up to others. It has been called “the comparison game.” Such happiness is rather unstable and, if one fails, can lead to unhappiness and sense of worthlessness. Exclusive pursuit tends to oppress others. Most people would not imagine a world as satisfactory if it was composed of only happiness #2 type people.

3. Beatitudo: (Beatitudo = happiness or blessedness). The happiness that comes from seeing the good in others and doing the good for others. It is, in essence, other-regarding action. Happiness #3 is, in some sense, at war with happiness #2. One cannot be at the same time in competition with someone else and doing the good for and seeing the good in them. Most people would prefer a world (community, family, relationships) structured around the pursuit of happiness #3 than entirely based in happiness #2. Happiness #3 is higher than happiness #2. The problem with #3 is that it is necessarily limited. We cannot be someone else's everything. For example, we or they, will die and if our happiness is contingent upon them, it dies with them. “There must be more than this.”

4. Sublime Beatitudo: (sublime = “to lift up or elevate”). This category, the most difficult to describe, encompasses a reach for fullness and perfection of happiness. The fullness, therefore, of goodness, beauty, truth and love. So we recognize in this category, those things that are, in a sense, beyond what we are capable of doing purely on our own. LINK

Our materialistic consumer culture tends to overvalue level one and two at the expense of level three and four which puts the hierarchy of values on it's head.

I have used this argument in the most hostile anti-Catholic environment there is, a pro-abortion website, and no one really addressed it head on. Here is the link of this post LINK

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