Values Clarification #2

In a previous post I talked about some questions from How to Think Like a Roman Emperor that I thought worth considering:

What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you?

What do you really want your life to stand for or represent?

What sort of person do you most want to be in life?

What sort of character do you want to have?

I also admitted that I didn't have a good answer for the first question, which I thought seemed bad.

At this point, I'm somewhat tempted to go off into a tangent on Objectivism's theory of values and trying to sort that out. I think that might be too big of a step at this point, though. A more practical immediate step is to identify some things that I do value. I could do this in order to see if any pattern emerges from the things that I value.

Some things I value in no particular order:

  1. work that engages my mind
  2. clean, nutritious food
  3. vigorous exercise
  4. reading/books (especially on philosophical ideas but also lighter stuff like fantasy novels)
  5. modern technology like computers, internet, smartphones
  6. a clean, safe home
  7. interesting/helpful ideas
  8. learning new things
  9. labor-saving appliances (like dishwashers and washing machines)

Are there themes here? I think so. One theme is liking stuff that serves certain basic physical needs (like a need for food, shelter or exercise). Another theme is stuff that offers certain conveniences (like convenient access to information, or convenient accomplishment of certain tasks like washing dishes). Another theme is stuff that engages my mind (like certain kinds of work, reading, learning, and interesting ideas).

The items that go to basic physical needs are important. One needs to eat to live. The items that go to engagement of my mind are also important. Doing work enables having the resources to do various other values. Being able to learn new things/ideas helps both with doing work effectively and with other things like general happiness. The category of conveniences seems relatively less important than these other two. It's not that they're not a value, but just a lower order of value. If you took them away entirely, or just made them somewhat worse or less convenient, you could still lead a decent life. But if you took away food, you couldn't live life at all. And if you took away the values more directly related to the mind, then life seems not worth living.

Are the values related to physical basics more important than the mind-related values? I don't think so. There are lots of people with full bellies and nice houses who are unhappily leading the unexamined life. But now I'm introducing the promotion of happiness as the criteria for what's an important value. I should talk about that topic in detail instead of just assuming it. More on that next time.