12May 2020

Values, Virtues & Feelings

Posted in Ethics, Morality, Psychology


     Whenever we catch a shoplifter, the entire staff feels varying degrees of contempt and/or anger towards the shoplifter – the entire staff, except one. This person always feels sorry for the shoplifter, they feel empathy.

     My wife and I had two identical cars. They weren’t luxury cars but they had a certain elegance about them. It was our habit to park the cars out front. Customers would complement the cars; they would say, “Nice cars.” or “it’s nice to see success.” One customer said I should park the cars out back.

     Feelings are an automatic response to your values. If you value justice you’ll feel contempt and/or anger towards a shoplifter. If you value success you’ll be uplifted by the success of others.

     Feelings are not within your immediate conscious control. But your values are. You can think about your values, identify them and re-evaluate them – and thus in time your feelings will change to reflect any different values you have adopted. So the question is not what you feel, but what you value.

     Man must pursue values, food, water, shelter, in order to survive. The character traits required to create and maintain values are virtues. There are two prime virtues – rationality and productiveness. I refer to them as prime virtues because they are obviously indispensable to man’s survival. You would need rationality and productiveness even if you were marooned alone on an island.

     But fortunately, we do not live alone on an island. We have the incalculable benefit of being able to trade with millions around the world. If you suck at what you’re doing, you’re not going to have much to trade – it would be a good idea to find something you’re good at – competence is a virtue. Successful traders are trustworthy traders – they do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it. They don’t lie, cheat or steal – honesty is a virtue.

     Rationality, productiveness, competence, honesty – their reward is more than material gain. One gains respect and something far more important – self-respect. You must like yourself, know you’re a good person, before you can like others and enjoy values other than material goods – friends, family and love.

     Being virtuous, being a moral person is in your own rational self-interest. By thinking about your values, by adopting rational values, and practicing the virtues to achieve them, your feelings and emotions will align with your values – you will know what you feel, why you feel it and importantly that you’re right to feel it.

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