C. Thi Nguyen (University of Utah) presents to the GoodAttention group on "Value Collapse".
Attempts to clearly make our values entirely explicit and clear often turn out badly. Mission statements, education learning outcomes, attempts to quantify well-being — such accountings always seem to leave out something crucial. Perhaps this is a contingent matter of bad metrics. Or: perhaps there is something inherently wrong with clearly explicating our values. I explore one possibility: that hyper-explication enshrines a bad epistemic attitude towards value. Values drive attention: what we look at, and how carefully and intensely we look. Values control what we investigate. So highly explicated values set firm boundaries on what we are willing to investigate. Explicit values narrow our attention, and make us less willing to pay attention to things outside those bounds. Explicitness represents a value as finalized, and thus represents the world as if there were nothing else to learn from it, about what really matters. Hyper-clear values encourage closed-mindedness. What alternatives do we have? There are other attitudes — aesthetic attitudes, playful attitudes — that involve avoid being crisp and clear about values. Such expressions enshrine an open-ended attitude toward values — one which represents us as still involved an ongoing process of discovery about what really matters.
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