Tragic Application of Values

It is often useful to analyze a situation through the lens of the values that motivate the people involved. Values are often provide a powerful lens allowing us to understand how people see and experience various issues, how they choose to act, and how some justify their behavior.

And on top of that, we often discuss how a misguided moral sense can motivate people to do some awful things. (Steven Pinker on this point.) Our moral sense is a powerful motivating force, which means it can be dangerous unless we’re careful to combine it with clear-eyed reasoning weighing the costs and benefits of each action and position.

Tragic Application of Fairness: The perception that steps taken to protect a vulnerable group or individual are, in fact, favoritism or the granting of special privileges.

Tragic Application of Purity: The demand that the world ought to conform to a specific vision of perfection, that would exclude, injure, or disenfranchise others or violate their basic human rights.

Tragic Application of Friendship: The expectation that a friend must side with you on all things, right or wrong, and that loyalty to one another demands conformity to one another’s views, tastes, and impressions.

Tragic Application of Authority: Assuming that those in power are infallible and must be obeyed even when orders violate basic moral impulses like compassion and kindness.

Tragic Application of Cleanliness: Demanding that children be protected from any and all germs (and then bathing them in anti-bacterial soap and hand sanitizer) even though we now know that exposure to germs helps develop and strengthen young immune systems.

For more on how to use values as tools of analysis, click here.