william blake good and evil

I think we err in thinking of values as being unimpeachably universal, homogeneous principles. Rather, consider that values aren’t atomic units, but receptacles into which aspects of the collective human experience pour into. A value ought to arise of a weighing at the scales, of discrete yet tangentially-related events and considerations, which then coalesce around each other to create a composite, namely the said value. As then follows, values aren’t eternal, static placeholders; instead, they exist in a state of flux over different epochs.

I explicitly say the collective human experience, because it is only when one begins to view a human being and his acts in conjunction with other, similarly sentient human beings and their acts, that the concept of value becomes crystallized and achieves real meaning. Good and bad are the dichotomies to which all consideration of values eventually devolves to, but what could they possibly mean to a hypothetical someone who chooses to live away from human contact?

One could say that for such a hermit, the idea, and even the practical application, of good and bad can be simplified to a binary, algorithmic choice, but this can be so only when the individual thinks in terms of his self-interest and nothing else. But what is good for one may be evil for another; such an elementary concept of values then necessarily becomes untenable as the individual’s sphere of interests expands and comes to include other individuals.

For any holistic, all-encompassing edifice of values to exist, one that can bring under its aegis a wider community – a nation – it is important to realize that the idea of good and bad cannot exist in a vacuum. Instead, it needs to be generated by a lateral dissection through layers, of both time and space, much like a metaphorical white oak spreading its roots through the undersoil, unseen to the regular eye. A course of action – and courses of action, by definition, are designed out of a desire for the greater good – needs to reconcile itself with the chain of cause and effect in historical space that has brought it to pass. This requires a shedding of the temptation to easy categories, a willingness to introspect, to confront our past, and to simultaneously circumscribe that chain of cause-effect and our sphere of interests, as they relate to each other, and pertinent to what we want our future to be.


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1 Response to Values

  1. anon says:

    Very cool. To the bit on picking a course of action, I’d add that there are roughly two kinds of people in the world. 1 – that are secure (in psychological terms this means have secure attachment styles) and think that all humans are the same and that the “greater good” lies in humanity on progressing together. 2 – that are insecure and think that humanity lies on a scale and every other human is either above (better than) them or below (worse off than) them and they spend all their lives trying to climb up this scale and do things like ingratiate themselves with the ones they perceive as being above them, until they are able to perceive them as being below them via perception of self-betterment. So therein lies a massive break in the way values are formulated already. Some are thinking for themselves only and some for societal progression at large. This sets into you at around age 7 by the way and we don’t have a definitive answer yet on whether that’s nature or nurture or a little bit of both.

    Another great point you made about how values eventually crystallise into being, did you know that correlations have been observed between persons with prejudice for factors of low-influence (things you can’t change like your race or gender) and low cognitive functioning? Similarly persons with prejudice for factors of high-influence (things you can change like awareness) are found to mostly have high cognitive functioning. Interesting huh?

    Though you may already know all of this, it’s pretty commonly published. You were going to start a separate blog for writing not related to metal, is that still running? What is it called again please?

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