Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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Project summary

The importance of values is frequently cited in relation to the global problematique, whether it be in debates in international assemblies, in studies criticizing "value-free" approaches to research, or in discussion of quality of life and individual fulfilment. Values are deemed especially important in questions of cultural development and are central to concern for the preservation of cultural heritage.
The purpose of this project is to register a comprehensive range of values with which people identify, to which they are attracted or which they reject as abhorrent. Whilst it had been hoped to develop such lists from documents of international bodies, no adequate lists of values were located, even within the intergovernmental agencies (such as UNESCO) specifically concerned with human values, and despite numerous reports and meetings on "values" in recent years. The values referred to are very seldom named, although the commonest may be cited as examples. The list presented here has therefore been elaborated by the editors as an experiment based on the selection and interrelationship of constructive and destructive value words.
The appreciation of the subtlest values, and especially value dilemmas, is intimately related to "wisdom", however it is to be understood. There is therefore a concern to explore the possibility of a framework in which explicit links between "values" and "wisdom" could be established.
The section contains 3,254 entries linked by 23,237 cross-references as follows (figures for 4th edition, 1994-95) . It is divided into four parts:
  • Section VC contains 987 constructive value words (eg peace, harmony, beauty).
  • Section VD contains 1,992 destructive value words (eg conflict, depravity, ugliness).
  • Section VP contains 230 entries on value-polarities (eg agreement-disagreement, freedom- restraint, pleasure-displeasure) derived from the organization of Roget's Thesaurus. These group and link the entries of Sections VC and VD.
  • Section VT consists of 45 "value types" or "value complexes" which are used to group the value-polarities of Section VP.
The procedures used in preparing this section are discussed in detail in a commentary. They are based on use of the standard reference work Roget's Thesaurus as representing a much-used example of the way one international language is used.
Detailed comments are provided elsewhere. None of the entries contain "descriptions" of the value(s) implied. In most cases this would be superfluous. The words in Section VC reflect values which tend to be accepted without questioning.
Those in Section VD reflect values which tend to be rejected without questioning. The emphasis is placed on using the cross-references to indicate the range of connotations of particular value words. The entries on value polarities, Section VP, do however list proverbs, aphorisms or quotations selected to illustrate the dynamic counter-intuitive relationship between constructive and destructive values. They endeavour to draw on popular wisdom or insight to demonstrate the negative consequences and limitations of blind adherence to constructive values or to demonstrate the positive consequences and creative opportunity of judicious action in the light of destructive values. They point to the existence of a more fundamental and challenging dynamic than that implied, for example, by peace-at-all-costs and total rejection of conflict.
This exploration of values is of special interest in relation to the world problems in Section P. Many problems are named in international debate using a destructive value word (eg insufficient, unrealistic, unjust, inappropriate). Problems defined in this way imply the existence of some corresponding value whose expression is infringed by the problem. Such values may or may not be noted in defining the purposes underlying remedial action in response to the problem, although often they form part of the wording of any rallying slogan in support of some international strategy. An attempt has been made to cross-reference problems from Section VD.
The set of constructive and destructive value words does indicate a way of coming to grips with the range of problems which the existing language renders perceivable and nameable. Such values also indicate possible dimensions of human development. This section is of course limited at this stage by the biases inherent in Roget's Thesaurus and the English language. It does however create a framework which could enable these limitations to be transcended.
The contents of this section may be considered as complementing the other sections in ways such as the following:
  • Human development: By the manner in which values acquire their significance through the pursuit of different modes of human development and through the association of many specific modes of awareness with the experience of particular values (see cross-references to Section H in value entries).
  • Integrative knowledge: By the challenge of providing integrative frameworks to interrelate seemingly unrelated values and by the inherently integrative nature of value perspectives.
  • World problems: By the direct correspondence between disvalues and problems (see Section VD), and by the manner in which problems only become perceptible in the light of the values upon which they infringe.
  • Metaphors and patterns: By the manner in which human values are communicated, and through the intrinsic value of communication in maintaining the fabric of global society.
  • Transformative approaches: By the values expressed or enhanced by innovative techniques.