Good subject and good post. This is an area of fascination for me, truth be told. I continue to be amazed at the complexity of human behavior; but moreso, that idealistic notions of human priorities pretty much don't exist. The vastness of our differences (mentally, culturally, temporally) preclude any "ideal" or "true" states. The more I learn, the more I see this idealism not only isn't true, but never was. In any case...
Are there any real "true" values? At the societal level?
No, not really - as you suggested. But it's complicated.[INDENT]1. By its very definition, there isn't any absolute values since they'll vary person to person; they'll also change within each person based on circumstances and immediate priorities.
2. What we value (either individually or as a society) also varies by degree and basis for valuation. Further, these are dynamic, changing and morphing by person. So yea, if you're looking for a 'true' or 'absolute' value, give it up; there aren't any. So the apparent contradictions you brought up aren't much of a surprise
3. That's not to say a study or inquiry into what we value and why isn't worthwhile. It does temper our discussion or search away from a condemnation for lack of true
and towards an appreciation for the dynamic, changing nature they show us to be
. That they'll sometimes seem to conflict mechanically is an inevitability.
... but it seems like society as a whole creates unobtainable values (and no doubt why religion is that way).
attainable though; all I need to is show one person as having attained 'that state' for any value spoken of and ta-da! Its proven doable. I'm not saying that there aren't 'states of achievement' that aren't impractical or flat-out impossible, I do think that most
cultural/individual achievements we value are doable.
Our standard of living has changed dramatically over the years. In the 50's, families had modest homes, maybe 1 car, 1 tv, 1 phone, 1 bathroom. No a/c, no internet, vacations were a big thing. Clothing was homemade. Buying new possessions was definitely not an every day thing. By today's standard, this lifestyle is very feasible. But instead of feeling relieved that we can attain this lifestyle, we readjusted our "needs" until they were unattainable again. We needed two cars instead of 1. The houses got bigger. We needed more tv's. We need a cell phone.
This is a good example of the complexity I mentioned above. Yes, attaining these things could be called a value, but that they don't make us content or happy isn't a surprise. We think
we're reaching for happiness when we buy <this> or <that> but I doubt that's what's really taking place. What we're actually doing is reaching out to satisfy a perceived
need or desire. Owning material goods can only be called a value in the most vague context.
We value women's purity and men's promiscuity, which is not only an inconsistency, but in order to obtain either ideal, we must violate the opposite value. We could easily value either one individually, but we set up a system that is by necessity self defeating. We can attain one or the other, but not both.
This is an interesting one. I'm not sure either male promiscuity or feminine purity is valued as much as it once was. But accepting that they are, we're talking about two different conditions that come from completely different motivations: Males being viril and females being discreet or prudent. Both are influenced by reproduction and desirability as well as cultural mores (some of which are vastly influenced by religion and perceptions of role). They're actually so different, so divergent, that the realization of them being in practical conflict isn't a surprise
. Further, much of their basis doesn't come from society; each has large influences from evolutionary development. So yea, practically they conflict, but they're so divergent with so many influences and caveats that to gasp at their apparent conflict is somewhat banal.
Standards of female beauty seem to be inversely proportional to what the general society looks like. If you look at the ideals a few hundred years ago, the "beautiful" women were quite plump, while food (and therefore plumpness) was scarce for most of society. The ideals got progressively slimmer as society got bigger. The midcentury models and actresses are curvier than in the 80's and 90's. And then as obesity was reaching high levels, there was a dramatic slim down in the early 2000's. If you watch shows that spanned from the 90's-early 2000's, you can see a ten or so pound drop in just about every actress from the beginning of the series to the end. Society is changing how it views beauty in terms of how difficult it is to attain.
Sure, but not just in how difficult; since this pendulum's been swinging all over the place for thousands of eons. These standards have always varied wildly from person to person, place to place and from time to time. Even within your fine examples there've been wild variations. Again, this isn't so much of a representation of changing or conflicting values as it is a testimony to the dynamic and complex nature of preferences as well as values.
It seems like we compulsively create artificial social structures where attaining something that someone else cannot is the goal. When we get to Jr. High, we instinctively organize ourselves in a hierarchy of popularity. Can humans only be happy if we can prove to ourselves that we're somehow better than others?
This deals with levels of acceptance that plays on that part of us that's social. It's relational and - I should add - certainly not shared by all. So no, it isn't a matter of compulsively creating a situation where the goal is to attain something other's can't, in this case it has more to do with young adults seeking to establish themselves and/or achieve acceptance by degrees. Again, its yet another illustration of the complexity of those conditions we strive for.
Maybe we reject that which is different because they refuse to "compete"? (example: gays. "How can I prove I can get more tail than him if he won't even try???") It destroys the social order if people won't buy into it.
This is insightful. I think you're definitely on to something in characterizing our rejection as often having its basis in their not 'playing the game we value'. However, it doesn't destroy anything. It can; though, be an outward manifestation of their not buying into our values (assuming we're
playing they game that they refuse).
If it really was a "true" value (whatever that means), wouldn't it hold value even after it is attainable? But as soon as something becomes attainable, we move the line making the value unattainable again. It's like we don't truly value the thing we think (beauty, wealth), it's attaining the unattainable that we value. But only if others don't have it.
Of course, there isn't any real "true" value. Within each person, from day to day even and varying by situation values change; so give up the ghost on "trueness" (I see "True Value" as being a grossly inexact characterization).
As far as moving the bar goes; sure! But this too is expected. What is ubiquitous generally isn't coveted - just a basic parameter of human thinking. Pave the streets with diamonds, cover the beaches with them and they'll not be as much sought after. Its the same with conditions of humanity: Those with competitive natures will push to distinguish themselves by moving that bar - as we will via adoration in recognition of that new milestone; neither surprising nor contradiction. To the extent that this is true, it just "is" - neither intrinsically good nor bad.
I'd agree on your core sentiment: That values we have, as humans, carry value sets that seem flighty or downright unworkable. But remember, we're all different; we're complex, inexact and changing - that they sometimes crash into each other is completely understandable and unsurprising.
Again - Thanks for the good thread
---------- Post added 06-05-2010 at 07:28 AM ----------
Soul Brother;173255 wrote:
... so he thinks he can finally buy that new latest phone that has come out, so he buys the phone and he is content, but do you think he will now be truly happy? do you think he will now be satisfied? It is much the same way in which you were saying of how life was in the 50's, so if we think of how much we have in present compared to then you would think that we should be at least 10 times as happy, but instead of these new pleasures making us happy by filling our desire and satisfying our want, we have simply focused our want on new items...
This is absolutely correct.
Most of us - I'd wager - live in industrialized, consumer-based societies and we all share this danger, this risk, that SB mentions above: Focusing our energies on getting material things. Many indeed do perceive them as "needs". But whether want or need, they only serve to tittilate us (and then, often for a short time).
Getting "stuff" won't make anyone happy, even though our enthusiastic desires cheat us into thinking it will. And focusing all our energies to work jobs we hate to buy stuff we don't need (and won't make us happy) is a sure-fire way to becoming disatisfied, malcontent, bitter and generally unhappy. I'm so sure of this; I'd almost term this merry-go-round bad result as 'universal'.