I accept that there are widespread (if not universally held and revered) 'common human values', which must include truth, peace-seeking, altruism, and not least also justice and human rights. To believe these to be immutable 'divine' values, given to mankind by some uncreated Creator God is a contradiction. Such values are generated by humans, and - in my view - they arise naturally due to our various natural human faculties, such as reason, insight, sympathy, and empathy...

Contents (click as requird):
1) The Common Acceptance of Human Values

2) In what may human values consist?

3) Distinguishing and defining values

4) Human values defined in practice

5)Values and Anti-values

6) Values, character development and psychic health

Much controversy arises or is made out of the question of values; what is meant by 'values'? Which values are good and which bad, if any? Which values are to be tolerated even if their rightness is controversial? Has one a right to express and teach values? Can any science or doctrine be neutral with regard to values? These are key issues of psychic and social development, not facts merely to observe and describe.

The modern tendency is to avoid firm and definitive statements of values, often in the imagined interests of maintaining a reputation for scientific objectivity or of cultural and social tolerance. This widely prevalent misconception assumes that the spirit of truth and liberality somehow binds us to remain passive observers and never to intervene in the free-for-all of moral conflict by asserting positive values.

The long-bemoaned loss of central values through the disruptions of traditional religious society and the consequent value relativism in all fields, from science and the humanities to religion, from morals to the arts, as world cultures come into contact and clash with one another has tended to obscure the existence of common denominator values that have always existed and been practiced to various extents in great world cultures.

The values according to or against which we act are the unavoidable and essential element of all important decisions in the human arena. Values are the link that tie together personal perceptions and judgements, motives and actions. The same applies in understanding social and political life. A make-or-break idea is that values or precepts - and their various practical consequences in life - are at least as fundamental to understanding man and society as are the much-vaunted physical necessities. They are also essential in improving man and society too.

Values are more important and primary than facts in forming and understanding all kinds of human purpose. Values, rather than observable facts, are keys to understanding the reality behind the scene outwardly presented by human behaviour. Motives and purposes are value determinations. The best-attested of 'facts' can alter colour when explained by an interpreter. They appear in deeper perspective when looked upon as the result of meaningful, intentional 'acts' (provided the acts were voluntary). An action that seemed good at first can be seen as bad from a proper appreciation of motives, or unfortunate when the practical consequences are known.

Whether any values exist that are universally held in esteem and have objective validity as an essential part of the human make-up is today often either doubted outright or regarded as an unverified hypothesis. Whether such a true ethic is somehow commonly inherent to humanity or not, has been the subject of centuries of debate. Methods based on natural science cannot decide the issue, precisely because values are not facts. Opponents to the idea assert that such values that exist are simply the result of sensible adjustments to circumstances or pragmatic behaviour for ensuring survival, reducing conflict, maximising security or even pleasure and so on. Hence, morals in modern societies today are in practice often made dependent on the perceived interests of either the individual, the group or the nation, and are thus 'relativistic', that is, without any definite or fixed value basis. Or they are simply denied, as in out-and-out moralism on the lines of 'every man for himself' and the idea of a free-for-all with an ethical carte blanche.

The idea that there are 'human values' is becoming widespread, but few people can actually explain just what these may be. A general disillusionment about the disunity of humanity amid the great cultural clashes of the 20th Century seems to have hindered realisation of a common human value system coming to expression through the fundamental strivings of humanity in much of history. Research into this hardly occurs, even though we are in a process of increasing world integration and the global interaction of value systems.

Common human values, to be essentially human and common, must be demonstrably derivable from universally-held precepts, however differently the values are articulated in different situations in varying cultures, societies and religions. There should be no question of human values representing any mere ideology or philosophical speculation, for the implicated values and norms should be testable both by reason and, where relevant and possible, by empirical and historical research, not excluding experimental 'trial and error method' in action research.

The great predominance of violence, war, hate and crime in most societies and eras of history may seem to refute the universality of human values. However, the values do go back to the earliest recorded human societies and religions and have somehow persisted throughout all the eras and all cultures. In this sense they are universal, added to which is the evolutionary nature of the human being and civilisation, whereby the assertion of these values becomes eventually more and more secure... and now on an interactive global scale through international laws and practices.

The essential goodness of human nature is ultimately something for us to reach out to together, through discovering, experiencing and further developing it personally. Progress in this direction invokes many kinds of feedback from others in one's personal sphere of experience, which strengthen the conviction that, despite all, values are a human heritage, while anti-values are but the result of ignorance as to our this heritage and shortcomings in so far discovering and pursuing our true destiny, whether individually or collectively. The values that have been at the essence of the so-called 'perennial philosophy' represent or are closely involved with human values. The five human values are 'universal' in that, though values are not always held in the sense of being followed, they are everywhere generally held in esteem... hence are universally held as being values. In distinction to these are a range of attitudes and aims which have traditionally been considered as going against common human values... being deleterious to the common good of society and/or humanity as such. These I refer to as anti-values or counter 'values (rather than the self-contradictory term 'negative values'. Each counter-value is identifiable as the contrary to some widely-accepted value and is usually definable as such. Thus, for example, if we recognise the value of truthfulness, frankness, openness the counter-values would be lying, conniving and deception.

Human values can be formulated or expressed in many ways. Anything from practical examples to moral principles at the highest levels of generality. However, genuine human values are not abstract principles developed by academics or preachers, but life-embedded ideas and precepts, along with their various justifications. Because they are human, values are not divinely ordained rules of behaviour - not commandments set in stone. They are related to differing cultures, unique persons and situations and are developed and expressed in human terms for the human aims they collectively represent.

Because values of any kind in actual life depend for their meaning and the forms they are expressed in on the kind of social culture, language and human environment where they apply, it is obvious that no one rigid system or hierarchy of values can be said to apply everywhere and equally. In many respects, the culture itself is the determining factor in what are regarded as values and what as anti-values. Values are mostly related as much to the history and traditions from which they arose as to the demands of the current environment, which now must be said more and more to be a global one. Theologies and philosophies throughout world history contended with the question of values. Each have their ways of identifying what is of value, why and for whom etc., each have developed their various sets of reasons for and against the varieties of human behaviour and aspiration. Any attempt to develop a single value system to account harmoniously for all the behavioural tenets of all the major religions and cultures would be vain and most probably counter-productive in practice in the global society. Bearing this in mind, there is always a need to reflect systematically over values and the conflicts that arise between them - and more importantly, between them and what anti-values. As societies become more closely inter-related and common positions and practices emerge as a result, the question of values must be reconsidered and reinvigorated as part of aiding that process.

In a book by Clifford Sharp, "The Origin and Evolution of Human Values" he gives this useful problematising description:

"Human Values are the 'habits of thought' each of us acquires as we mature so that we can assess and deal with 'ethical'
problems (where 'ethical' relates to the fundamental question of how we should live). Should we aim at happiness or knowledge, at virtue or the creation of beautiful objects? If we choose happiness, will it be our own or will it make proper allowance for the happiness of others? And what of the more particular questions that face us? Is it right to be dishonest in a good cause? Can we justify living in opulence while elsewhere in the world people are starving? What are our obligations to the other creatures with whom we share this planet, and to the generations of humans who will come after us? What do we regard as a 'good' quality of life? For us? For others?"

In order to begin somewhere, the isolation and explanation of some of the major values which have wide common appeal - possibly even a universal relevance - must be attempted. This needs to be developed continuously according to changing societies, cultures and human circumstances. With this in mind, the following set of most general (abstract) values, and how the can tentatively be defined and ordered in relation to more specific and socially-situated values, is forwarded as follows:-

The truth in any matter does not depend upon the will or wish of the individual, but is independent of desires and their related interests and opinions. Truth has both individual and communal aspects. Just as individual truthfulness is the basis of a secure society, the common effort towards truth about life and the cosmos is represented, for example, by the sciences, by jurisprudence and philosophy. The faculty for rational thinking possessed by all humans, however much developed or not - or in whatever form it takes, is in the first and last instance what enables us to distinguish the true from the false in so far as this is humanly possible. Evidence that truth is an inherent value in the human psyche is found in the fact that no-one likes to be called a liar, not even most liars. Further, it is much harder to sustain a lie than to maintain the truth, because one lie leads to another until the complexity is unmanageable

The word 'love' should be taken in the very wide sense of 'care' or 'concern for' (German Sorge). This can be taken as a basic category or general human value which relates to concern and respect for others and the environment. The word 'love' is here used in a broader sense than in common parlance where personal and/or erotic love is the common interpretation. Love as care does not refer to an emotion or a state of mind so much as to a human faculty of identification with others, sympathy with all beings, creation and - in spiritual or religious beliefs - of Divinity. Love seeks many and various channels of realisation. It's essence can be characterised by the words "Love is unselfish care and concern for the well-being of others and the world at large. The less selfish it is, the more it enriches life. Being universal, it takes on different general forms in different relations; mother love, fatherly love, conjugal love of one's partner, loving friendship etc. Patriotic love is for one's country, true brotherhood expresses love of mankind, care and respect for nature is love of creation and - for those who profess religious belief - devotion is love of the Creator. All these have in common the 'heart' and an intuitive identification with spirit, with the universal miracle of Being. Thus, love of oneself (contrasted with egocentricity) is also a valid expression of this power and, moreover, a duty to all at the same time. Being neither a sensation, an emotion nor a mere conception, but being identifiable only at the heart or core of the human consciousness, love in this universal sense is the characteristic par excellence of the human soul or psyche. It is common to include altruism, understanding and forgiveness under the more encompassing (but vague and ambiguous) word 'love'.

Peacefulness in a persons's life, in society and in world terms is a product of all positive values working together sufficiently. Without truth, caring concern (or 'love') and justice, conflicts arise and peace is endangered or lost. While peace is the absence of disturbance, violence, war and wrongdoing generally, it is tangible present when experienced individually as peace of mind, the mutual respect and pleasure of friendliness and tolerance.. As a universally-accepted positive value, peace refers to the experience of harmony, a balanced but nevertheless dynamic mental condition. Peace of mind can be independent of 'externals' like the absence of disturbance in 'peace and quiet', or the intrusion of an environment through noise, violence, terror etc.). Peace of mind - as contrasted to mental agitation - is a primary goal for human strivings to reach happiness. Peacelessness, in whatever respect, is not conducive to the happiness of equanimity. Peacefulness is not to be confused with lack of activity or mere physical quiet. As a psychic condition it is closely related to control of the mind, positivity of attitude together with calmness of mind. Inner blissfulness which is not dependent upon external sensory or physical conditions is a high expression of peacefulness. The peace of nations at least partly arises and is sustained through the cumulative efforts of society, including the peaceful and just behaviour of at least an aggregate of individuals. It can first be fully realised when we have confidence in the inherent ability of humans to see good, do good and be good. Thus, its internal connection with rightness of action and other human values becomes evident. As a social condition, peacefulness is clearly a state of freedom from violence and from destructive influences generally, whether it is war, the over-exploitation of people or the destruction of nature. Because of the emotional and mental dependencies that arise from attachment to material things, peacefulness is related to controlling one's desires, limiting them when necessary. This implies temperance in all things from quantity and type of foodstuffs taken in, the number and type of material possessions as well as the type or quality of 'sensory impressions' to which one subjects the mind. Peace of mind is individual, but peace in society is the result of positive acts, which are not violent or destructive but tolerant and constructive.

Human actions are physical events brought about through physical behaviour. However, no definitive and specific codes of behaviour can be prescribed for all times and places independently of environmental, social and other conditions. The human values themselves provide the general criterion for good behaviour, but because of the changing nature of life and society, they cannot be formulated as explicit norms, laws, rules or regulations. Towards living nature in general, the human value of doing one's duty is closely related to non-violence. This is the reasonable tendency to wish to avoid harm to creatures or their environment wherever avoidable. Respecting the integral nature of eco-systems or of a social-natural environment as against the destructive influences of pollution, misuse and excessive exploitation exemplify the spirit of non-violence (the Hindu concept of ahimsa as well-developed by Gandhi). It is the inherently-sensed value that prompts us to draw back from unethical meddling in life processes, such as where its consequences are beyond the range of well-tried and proven knowledge. Knowledge of what is true combined with insight into what is good are the basis of duty, also conceived as 'acting rightly'. Behind any conscious act lies the thought. If the thought is fed by the will towards the true and the good - in contrast to purely selfish aims - the act is 'right'. This is also found in the Eastern concept of dharma or action in accordance with the universal laws of nature (both physical and human nature). Central to dharma is truth, that is - action based on truth and in accordance with one's deeper or potential nature. A full understanding of right action, whatever the circumstances, presumes thorough insight into the mutual relations of dependence between humans, between all beings and within creation as a whole.

The European tradition has long embraced justice as one the highest human values, even as the highest (eg. Socrates & Plato). Because jurisprudence is (optimally) based upon the widest possible considerations. These include right or wrong, good or ill, blame (responsibility) or guiltlessness and the institutions exercising justice take into consideration past events, behaviour, motives, intentions, personal and social change, and the circumstances conditioning all these, the idea of justice is difficult to define satisfactorily... and certainly cannot be set in concrete terms. It is based on fairness, where the equality of every individual before the law is fundamental. As such it is a social value in that it aims to resolve and reduce conflict, guided by the principles of care and non-violence (involving the minimum use of force required). The aim to achieve social justice for the perceived common good (however ineffective or wrong in view of current standards) has certainly a long pre-history as a central idea in all human societies. The Classical Greek idea of justice eventually gave rise to that of 'human rights', first formalised in the Charter of the 1948 Geneva Convention, which is continually undergoing further development and extension. The human value justice also has wide-ranging political relevancy, such as in the strivings of egalitarianism in political democracy and other systems of rule. As such, justice is a major human value that embraces most aspects of social life. This value is to be understood in the deep Vedic sense of Ahimsa, being universal in implying respect for all living beings. This is founded on recognition of the (truth of) the unitary nature or 'integrity' of creation, in which all individual beings together make up one integral whole within which all parts or aspects are ultimately mutually-interrelated.

Justice is expressed in all forms of human interest in and care for living nature, obviously including humans, while it clearly also remains an ideal to be striven for in the interests of peace of mind and love. Towards others it is positively realisable in such ways as through protection, circumspection, understanding of real needs and sympathy etc. and thus in all forms of social activity that protect and forward the personal integrity of persons. Thus, human rights are duties we have towards our fellow men to avoid harming them physically, emotionally or otherwise. Forgiveness Many people consider forgiveness of one's enemies or wrongdoers as of high moral value, something which is 'truly human'. It was most famously preached by Jesus as one of the two basic Christian commandment.

'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is not adequate as an absolute moral imperative. Taken literally, it requires what you should do according to who you are and what you want, NOT as to what others want.

A fully moral law cannot instead require that one should do unto other what they want you to do, as this raises many issues and complications. Oscar Wilde said "Don't do unto others as you would they should do unto you, because they may not like it." This means, don't make yourself the measure of what the good is, but take account of others, their needs, individuality - in which they may be very different from yourself. Immanuel Kant tried to 'decant' the clear essence of that commandment. It was not easy. To do so he the 'do unto others' theme further logically until it is firmly based on comprehensive reason. The result is his famous 'categorical imperative'... which, simplified, say that the principle you act on should have universal validity. In other words, a good act is one done in good will, which means that you try to do what you think everyone would see as right (i.e. on a principle which would apply in every like instance). In modern terms, this means we should not accept religious faith in any commandments or scriptural commandments as the basis of one's actions, not unless the commandment is such that you can honestly say it expresses a universally valid human value. It is this reasoning, not faith which must be the test of goodness of one's intentions.

What is a universally-valid human value, however, can be most difficult to determine in respect of any given situation. Not all would agree that one must forgive wrongdoers regardless of what they did, whether they admit guilt and show remorse or whether they would do the same again if they could. For most people, forgiveness may have to wait upon the remorse of the guilty party, and far from all would see it as right to forgive certain crimes even so. This shows how human values cannot be fixed or unchanging 'universal' commandments, for in every case of a value being applied (or ignored) in practice, many situation-specific circumstances are unavoidably involved in moral decisions.

The values outlined are not independent, separate principles or categories but are all mutually interrelated while having an inter-dependent essence in each case. They serve to summarise and unify all other (positive) values, which come from them in one way or another. A value usually appears as a guideline or norm that helps us to judge what is or is not right or good in any situation. A person's value judgements may be seen as expressing one or more of the 'universal' human values and sub-values. Societies concretise many values as statutory laws and so forth, or even as unwritten norms. As soon as values are interpreted and expressed in definitive laws or explicit rules and regulations they become specific to given situations and are no longer necessarily universally valid.

Sub-values represent more specific forms of the five values and can be organised in their inter- relations beneath one or more of the main values. Truth, for example, summarises many sub-values such as 'factual accuracy', 'honesty', 'personal disinterest', 'reasonability' (under which we might again subsume rational judgement, logical self-evidence, consistency etc.). Some sub-values derive from one or more of the five values; eg. 'fairness' and 'justice' relate both to truth and non-violence, while 'enthusiasm' may relate both to love and right action.

While the chief human values are universally found in some form or another, world culture also presents a hugely variegated spectrum of less universal notions of goodness, truth and beauty. Some may be meaningful only when the peculiarities of the society, era and people are understood, making them less than universal as values. Meanwhile, others result from unquestioned traditions based on a mixture of truth and distorted ideas. The possibilities are legion and the variety is obviously of a thousands blossoms, quite apart from the many weeds too. In this changing world, there will doubtless always be valid debate as to the exact formulation of values, so the matter is left open to further discussion and research. Therefore, the list of sub-values given below is obviously not held to be definitive or complete. However, is gives one guideline for seeing how commonly-recognised ideas of goodness are related, how a hierarchy of values is derivable from one or more of five key values. The number of values involved is arbitrary, for there are many different possible forms of expression or terms of varying connotation that can cover the field more or less adequately. There can never be any final or 'absolute set' of human values, for this depends on cultural forms and the different features of various languages:-








The above table is a mere guide to indicate a selection of the many human values that pertain, using general and imprecise keywords. It is definitely not an exhaustive list nor are the general values necessarily separate principles or fixed set of values.

In contradistinction to the human values are what I prefer to term 'anti-values'. There is a cogent reason for not referring to ill-will, destructiveness, jealousy, covetousness and so on as 'negative values', for they are not really values at all, but denials of values To every value one can surely find a corresponding negativity, and this fact itself illustrates that we are dealing in such cases with a lack of the value rather than a definitive quality which has substance. Essentially, it affirms the reality of goodness as something with substance and experiential fullness, while its relative lack or absence has no similar autonomous existence. Falsehood (untruth) is the absence or lack of truth and it can have no eternal validity as does truth. Strictly speaking, falsehood cannot be present, only truth absent. Though this point may seem somewhat philosophical, it is not unimportant, for it can have far-reaching ethical consequences, both in thought and action. In theological terms, the Absolute Good exists, but there is no Absolute Evil or Eternal Hell. As a shadow is cast by a hindrance to light, bad qualities are the adumbration of good ones. Ignorance is thus the lack of knowledge but is nothing in itself, just as egoism is the lack of self-realisation. Under the heading of human justice, the value of non-violence seems at first to present a difficulty, for it refers verbally to the absence of violence. One may argue that most instances of violence are tangible and real enough. This is a pseudo-problem - just an unimportant consequence of how the word and its meanings have developed in modern usage. But violence in whatever form does not manifest value, at the very best it is only a 'necessary evil', such as in a just war or the repression of forces threatening society itself. Non-violence as a value refers to the harmony, mutual respect and love of peaceful and right living.

Truth, love, peace of mind, responsibility and justice are all somehow intrinsically human aims and ideals. Though some actually argue that lies, hate or violence are acceptable or necessary under certain extreme circumstances, it is only the deranged mind that refuses to accept it would be better had these been avoidable. The same applies to all human values. Doing bad and hate may be understandable, but good acts and love are preferable by far to the great majority of people.

All 'bad' tendencies are therefore here strictly regarded as 'anti-values' or 'non-values', not as the expression of divergent or alternative values. The kind of so-called 'liberalism' that in principle makes values dependent upon nothing else but subjective, personal choice or belief is rejected here as self-defeating and self-contradictory. Values cannot be without distinguishing between good and bad, for that is what values are about. The assertion that there are universal 'human values' implies what is truly good is the good of all. This is shown clearly in that no human society has lasted long if it has set up as ideals any of the opposites of the human values (i.e falsehood, wrongdoing, hate, peacelessness violence).

By seeing values as more fundamental in human development than observable facts, scientific psychological thinking is as if turned 'inside-out' so that its preoccupations with external facts is replaced by development of the inner qualities. The causal materialism that dominates orthodox psychological 'realism' today regards values merely as externalised results of evolutionary, historical and social causal processes. Much social thought has been effectively misdirected by Marx to regard values as mere ideology, a product or result of social processes like class struggle. Yet values had always previously been seen as a driving force in human affairs. What is needed is a view that combines the best of realism/materialism and idealism, where the former is always kept under the critical eye and inspiration of idealism.

If people lack higher ideals in their daily lives, this does not prove that such ideals are figments of the imagination... for lack of imagination and ignorance of one's true nature can be the reason. The human values are inherently felt and understood by us, making their presence known through conscience and the rationally-discriminating intelligence (buddhi). The relative clarity of individual conscience is itself also caused by karma and thereafter it is influenced by the will. Only by heeding the dictates of conscience and by seeking to become more aware of them can these karmic limitations eventually be overcome. This indicates the crucial role which human values have in our development as human beings.

All values - as opposed to anti-values - are expressions of the illumination human beings can develop and realise. They are part and parcel of our human identity, that towards which societies and people strive and/or evolve. Without values, there is no psyche. The values we follow in life in the world - and our potentiality for realising them - are not self-evident and are only developed through experience and gradual self-realisation. They are relatively obscured by our physical embodiment and the environmental demands and possibilities each individual. That is, the degree of realisation of 'positive' values in thought and action depend on the nature of the accumulated tendencies of each person interacting with others... in particular and differing social and cultural environments.

What relevance have these human values and anti-values for the study of the human psyche? The thesis here is that they provide a crucial key to understanding human action; our motives, our successes and failures in life as happiness-seekers and as members of society. At least an entire volume would be required properly to explain the many-sided role of values and the possibilities of constructive experiential-experimental action research into the subject.

The process of evaluation begins in life with simple, concrete experiences and instances. It is almost a platitude of psychology that these can be vital for the growth of a harmonious personality. As the mind develops and learns a great variety of generalisations about human behaviour, human values have to be understood in much wider contexts and in respect of the whole spectrum of challenges that face us in daily life. This has given rise to a great range of social norms and codes of behaviour.

A code of behaviour is a set of practical rules or maxims valid for certain persons and circumstances. There are professional codes, institutional codes, local regulations, national laws etc. Such codes rely for their eventual 'rightness' on more general values but are not themselves universal as human values are. This is because they do not have the certainty of truth and permanence. As pointed out earlier, laws and codes are subject to change along with altering societies and conditions. Human values, however, are always inherent to the human psyche.

The chief thesis here concerning human values in psychological growth is that optimal psychic balance and the closely-associated qualities of equanimity, autonomy and non-dependency are attained and established firmly only as a result of the long-term integration of values in personal behaviour. This is to say that their presence or absence in life provides the key to psychic stability or health. 

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