GRE Issue Essay 164
“Most people think that their deeply held values are the result of rational choice, but reason often has little to do with the way people form values.”
Social values are taught to a child from the time he learns to understand his environment. As time passes by and the child grows into an adult, he may have the perception that his deep rooted values have a rational backing, but the real truth is that values have little to do with rationale and more to do with the society that one has been brought up in. Therefore, it is true to a large extent that reason has nothing to do with an individual’s deeply held values.
Man is a social animal and he cannot survive without the assistance of a society. For living in a society, everyone has to follow the ideologies that are being followed by the rest of the people in the society. There will always be some people who choose to rebel against the norms laid down by society, but when seen in the larger perspective, people form their values because of socializing with other people either from their own society or from other societies across the world. There are a number of societies that have orthodox rituals and traditions. Such societies may have stressed upon their youth to carry forward their customs and traditions either by force or by advocating the good that will come by adhering to those values. For instance, almost all societies stand by values that advocate giving respect to the elders. Most people of the society following these values would think that this is a result of their rational choice, but the truth is that these values would have risen with no apparent reason behind them. There is nothing that will happen if someone chooses not to respect his elders. He will probably be scorned upon by the other members of his society, but beyond that there are likely to be no other repercussions. Despite this, people have deep rooted values that prompt them to respect their elders.
Values that are integral to a particular society may not be of any consequence to another society. Does this mean that the people who form part of the second society have a reason for not following the same set of values? The values of most societies are patriarchal when it comes to matrimony. What about the matriarchal societies? Is there a valid reason for them to decide that the name of the mother, and not the father, will be carried forward? The societies themselves will be able to cite several reasons in favor of a matriarchal society, but does that mean that the patriarchal society is inconsistent?
There is no rationale behind the religious beliefs followed by most people. Numerous societies have associated superstition and fear of the unknown with naturally occurring events like solar and lunar eclipses. There are customs like not stepping out of homes on the day of an eclipse. People blindly follow the rituals that are recommended to be done whenever there is an eclipse without bothering to look for a reason behind carrying out those particular actions. Atheists lead perfectly normal lives despite the fact that they do not believe in any of the values propagated either by their societies or their religions.
Therefore, we can see that there is actually no reason behind the values upheld by a society, which is further substantiated by the fact that not adhering to these values will not affect your lives in any way, apart from a possible ostracism from society. Even if you consistently question the system that has instilled these sets of values, it is unlikely that you will be able to unearth any valid reasons behind the implementation of these values. This is because the values that are deeply held by most people rarely have any reasoning behind them.