Root value analysis

When having a debate or an argument, there are hopefully some outcomes that are reached by the end. A debater may better appreciate the positions of their opponent, and why they have arrived (erroneously or otherwise) at their conclusions. A proponent of abortion may hold that position for many reasons, some or all of which may be considered to be wrong reasons by an opposing party. For example, they may believe (i.e. hold the value) that a woman has the right to her body, above and beyond the right to life that the fetus might have. Alternatively they may believe that a fetus is in fact not alive at all, and hence the question of the right to an abortion becomes moot.

These so called values may be basic root values, or they may be derived values, built upon inputs from other values. We can think of them as forming a directed graph, one which I initially attempted to call acyclic, but I dare not make such an assumption. It is important to note that derived values may not follow logically from their “parent” values, due to inevitable contradictions between values. Hence derived values are often compromises rather than the consequent of a logical syllogism. For instance take the value “all humans have an inalienable right to freedom”, whose logical consequents include “Bob has the right to free speech” and “Jane has the right to physically attack people on the street”.

What is interesting about the process of debate is that it forces you to break down your rooted values in terms of derived values. It allows you to better understand your own position, as well as allowing you to amend some values, which may have been initially miscalculated or simply failed to update in relation to changes in your value graph.

Of course this account of value propagation gives more credit than is often the case to a purely rational thought process. Needless to say people often refuse to update their outdated values for reasons typically to do with emotions, I would suspect. I do not advocate for the removal of emotion from the equation, and indeed one is not obliged to follow the “rational choice”. However I feel that it is important to be able to break down the emotional forces behind our values and choices, à la Fourier analysis, and that shielding oneself from having this discussion makes one susceptible to value manipulation.

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