Is Morality Necessary?

Is a value system necessary?

H1 I am now in a position to consider the question 'is a value system necessary?'. An obvious rejoinder to this question is 'to whom?'. So I shall consider the question in stages. For the morality problem the question of interest is: 'is it necessary to society that the individual members of society have value systems?'.

H2 Let me first look at this question in terms of logical necessity. And to simplify the question yet further I shall consider professed value systems. Firstly I content that it is not logically necessary that someone have a professed value system. A person would not have a professed value system if he professed to have no value system. For the sake of consistency we might also demand that he desist from making any value judgements. If interrogated he must report that he finds everything quite indifferent, neither good nor bad, and that he never values one thing higher than any other. It might be objected that this is just an exeedingly flat and uninteresting value system, one which values everything alike, but nevertheless a value system. If I were to accept this objection then it would probably force me to accept that a professed value system is a logical necessity. However, though it is not a position to which I have overwhelming objections, it is nevertheless a position which I chose not to adopt. Professing that sort of value system I shall describe as professing no value system. I shall take it as a necessary property of a value system that it does not value everything exactly the same.

H3 How about apparent value systems, is it logically necessary that an individual have an apparent value system? These are muddier waters and so I shall not delve deeply. At first thought it seems to me logically possible that on the basis of someones behaviour and his remarks no explicitly about values, I might in fact come to the conclusion that he in fact valued no one thing higher or lower than any other. In such a case I should be inclined to describe him as having no 'apparent value system'.

H4 What then can we say about the necessity of value systems in the light of the above? Given that I have denied any logical ties between apparent and professed actual value systems it might still be the case that someone need of logical necessity have an actual value system. (henceforth I shall use 'actual value system' synonymously with 'value system') However I shall proceed on the basis that a flat value system is no value system at all, and I can see no reason to doubt that it is possible. So far as logical necessity is concerned we have it that it is not necessary to an individual that he have a value system.

H5 Now let us broaden the dispute a little to consider a broader notion of necessity. The 'pros and cons' approach. What dire consequences might there be to an individual who did not have a value system? The most startling effects accrue to someone who lacks an apparent value system. For if someone does not appear to value those things necessary to the sustenance of life then he is likely to die. If someone eats with reasonable regularity then he does at least appear to value food, it would seem that he prefers having a meal each day to not having a meal. It is possible that he might remain nourished despite not valuing food, if he had friends who regularly pressed food upon him, but there are so many ways in which he might come to grief if he had no value system that it is difficult to imagine that the most diligent of friends could prevent the severest consequences. What would happen to someone who did not have even an apparent preference for keeping out of the way of double decker busses? N14

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