Forward Thinking: A Values Development Project

As far as I am concerned the vast majority of blogs I read, whether they realize it or not, are values blogs. And this is because values are an inescapable and fundamental part of life. Most of the political, social, and personal questions that concern us daily are unintelligible apart from their values dimensions. If I am right, judgments about values cannot even be rooted out of science, and is especially relevant to what we do with what we learn from science.

Conservatives like to claim a lock on values. They often preposterously charge that those who want to question and revise received values are against values entirely. Some even argue that values cannot be reasoned about at all. They think both fundamental values and particular value judgments must be simply accepted as dictates from a supernatural source with no input from human beings. Others, from across the whole political, philosophical, and theological spectrum, claim that values are just a matter of arbitrary emotionalism.

Libby Anne of Love Joy Feminism and I want to counter these impressions. We want to showcase explicitly how forward thinking people reason about values and spur discussions of under-examined values questions that have real world ramifications. Twice monthly we are going to raise a question for our commenters and our fellow bloggers. Then two weeks later we will round up our favorites from our commenters’ remarks and provide links to the bloggers that participated constructively, with representative excerpts of their posts. We want these to be collaborative conversations that explore the complexities of problems and the diversity of insightful, rational approaches that can be brought to bear for solving them.

We need your help, commenters and fellow bloggers. Or, to put it the other way around, we are willing to help you get your thoughts heard on important values questions that you care about! If you participate in our project and write a post, be sure to e-mail your link to the blogger who posted it. My e-mail is camelswithhammers (at) gmail (dot) com. Libby Anne’s is lovejoyfeminism (at) gmail (dot) com. Look for new questions and responses to old questions on the first and third Mondays of each month. A week ago, Libby Anne kicked us off. Here’s her first prompt:

Our first prompt involves an issue that is, I think, too often left undiscussed. It is my suspicion that differing ideas about the nature of civic responsibility and what all it includes often underlie political differences in ways we do not always recognize. I believe that we as forward thinkers would benefit from bringing this issue out of the shadows and discussing it directly and enthusiastically. And so, without further ado, I give you this month’s Forward Thinking discussion question:

What does civic responsibility mean to you?

Reply by Sunday to be sure you’re in her round up this coming Monday (1/21).

Your Thoughts? Your Blog Posts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Marta

    This is an excellent idea, Dan and Libby. I’ll definitely try to participate, both as a blogger and reader.

  • Lou Doemch

    This is a really cool idea! It certainly helps to have some prodding, especially for those of us with BAD (blogging anxiety disorder).

  • Chris

    The project seems misguided. You’re a philosopher, so you should be aware of Alistair MacIntyre’s critique of the enlightenment’s project (which is essentially the same as what you are doing). To think that some random blogger/philosopher will achieve what entire generations of philosophers failed to do seems at the very least misguided.

    • RobMcCune

      So philosophers since the enlightenment have tried and failed to examine and discuss values? I’m sure that’s news to 500 years of philosophers.

    • Marta L.

      I think it’s a mistake to assume that intellectual progress proceeds linearly. Just because Mr. A provides a compelling case for why B is a good value, it’s not like people won’t go on questioning B for some time after that. Perhaps indefinitely, unless Ms. C makes the same case in a way that’s rhetorically easy for people to wrap their heads around, or at a time that’s more opportune. Or perhaps the argument needs to be made repeatedly, so people who haven’t heard it yet (or heard it at the right point in their lives, etc.) will continue to be exposed to it.

      Personally, I’m not crazy about being pigeonholed as the anti-conservative. In America that usually means liberal, pulling on a Kantian conception of freedom. Since my political thinking has been increasingly Aristotelian, I’m not sure how well I fit into the not-conservative in the American political sense. I consider myself progressive because I think society can progress and improve itself, and I do see a difference between progressive and liberal. And philosophical wibbles aside, I’m always up for discussing ideas for their own sake, particularly with other people who are interested in ideas and values. Sounds like a worthwhile use of a blog post to me.

    • Libby Anne

      I don’t think either Dan or I “think that some random blogger/philosopher will achieve what entire generations of philosophers failed to do.” I conceived of the idea as a fun way to get people thinking and talking, and as a way to focus a blog on positive ideas rather than just on tearing down others’ bad ideas (which I do a lot on my blog). No more, no less.

  • Lou Doemch
  • gc

    great idea! i will be following the essays with interest!

  • jose

    I think big questions are likely to take us nowhere. That’s the case in science. If you want to get anything done, you don’t ask yourself, for instance, “how does the earth work?”. That’s a hopeless enterprise unless you’re the moral equivalent of Newton.

  • BethC

    One of your fellow patheos bloggers has an interesting post up on what is truth.
    As a result of reading that, I’m mulling over the different meanings of truth and what different people mean by truth.
    I realize there is probably much work that’s been done in philosophy on that, but I’m not schooled in those ideas. I also think that there is something that Mr. Woodlief is talking about when applied to Jerry Sandusky and the culture that it occurred in that most sane people can agree on even if they don’t about the other ‘Truth’ he discusses. It would be nice to have a well-articulated definition of the difference between other than the % of the population that agrees about the meaning if we’re going to call it ‘Truth’