What is the philosophical value of asking

Values ​​and their authority

On the last discussion evening of the “Love and Community” series of events, 12 people came together to discuss the question of where the authority of values ​​is based.

Dr. Micha Gläser, assistant at the Chair of Political Philosophy at the University of Zurich, was delighted to be able to discuss the topic of his doctorate “Authority” in connection with social values. He opened the discussion evening with two fundamental questions: Which values ​​have authority in our society and what does this authority consist of? Against this background, the participants read the controversially discussed ten theses on a German dominant culture by the German Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière, which were published on April 30, 2017 in Bild am Sonntag.

Glasses pointed out that the topics come from a German context, but can be transferred to a Swiss one. It is therefore worth asking to what extent the Swiss would agree with the statements, insofar as there are any differences. Reflecting on the status of values, whether they are true, false, desirable, problematic or even dangerous for a community of values, thinks glasses as useful, as this reflection can tell us a lot about the idea of ​​the authority of values.

De Maizière's theses deal with the following main topics:

1. certain attitude of "showing face"
2. Education and upbringing
3. Performance concept
4. Legacy of German history
5. Cultural nation
6. Religion
7. Civil culture
8. Patriotism
9th part of the west
10. common collective memory

Almost all of the points found their way into the subsequent discussion, which, however, did not revolve exclusively around these topics, but which provided the discussion with a frame of reference. Some theses met with approval from the audience, others were rejected. It was criticized, for example, that the concept of freedom was not treated in more detail as a value in itself and that the concept of property did not even emerge.

In connection with Haberma's concept of constitutional patriotism, Gläser asked whether constitutional content is sufficient as the basic values ​​of a society and whether a society is even conceivable without sanctions. The law demands and sanctions certain actions, but not special motives for action. Because it makes no difference to the law whether a person adheres to it for fear of punishment or ethical convictions motivate the person to act within the framework of the law. For example, there is general consensus that killing must be sanctioned, but this is less evident in other acts. Laws can provide us with certain behavioral norms, but they do not bind us socially to one another, but create a legal community that cannot be freely chosen.

In the past, the "pillory" was used as a tool to punish convicts, today we use this phrase when someone is publicly exposed. Someone experiences social ostracism by morally condemning their wrongdoing. This enforcement of values ​​can take place politically in both a democratic and totalitarian form, or it can be economically distorted, for example through interest-based financing of decision-makers. According to Gläser, there is a dynamic connection between the process of value development and its content, whereby one cannot imagine that the whole of society stands behind a canon of values, regardless of its content.

We like to exclude negative values ​​in our self-image and only emphasize the positive values ​​in order to put ourselves in a good light. We consider certain values, such as those in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as a step towards the natural state of struggle of all against all. Some values ​​are taught to us as children in the upbringing of our parents. There are religious, national, cultural and other values, some of which are persistent, others have changed over time, and which can be very different from one another.

In summary, one could venture the thesis that neither the reference to absolute, unchangeable values, nor a value relativism represent defensible positions. Values ​​have a historically evolved character, but must be questioned and defined anew by every generation.