Questionable Motives

October 26, 2018

What are ‘Western’ values?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 10:22 am

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There is much confusion between what constitutes ‘Western’ values versus ‘Western’ culture. I see these ideas conflated all the time, which indicates to me that there is widespread confusion. And this confusion matters. Greatly.

So let’s take a moment and check out what the Oxford English dictionary tells us about these two terms.

What is a value? A value is the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something; principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.

What is culture? The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively; the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society; the attitudes and behaviour characteristic of a particular social group.

To assign descriptive values to a civilization like ‘The West’ means these assigned values must be of central importance to defining the civilization itself. In our borrowed definition, which parts do this job? The regard, importance, worth, and usefulness of the values have to be fundamental to the principles of that civilization itself (without which the civilization is no longer defined). That is what we’re trying to define here: what are these values that define Western civilization?

My answer is that they are Enlightenment values.

Enlightenment values are concerned primarily with cultivating the conditions for human freedom. That freedom to be realized has to be demonstrated on the individual level. That’s very much a Western principle about placing authority with the individual and not authority derived from some other source. This source of authority – the individual – was the revolutionary aspect of Enlightenment thinkers (which is why implementing this revolutionary value required revolutions…) and one not shared by other civilizations built on communal principles and exterior authority. So governments that legitimize this individual authority in law are considered ‘Western’ no matter where on the globe they may be found. Respect for individual autonomy in law is the cornerstone value of all secular liberal democracies meaning that without this central legal position demonstrated in law, a country cannot be said to be Western.

Enlightenment thinkers expanded other values from this central one, values like rationalism, human rights shared by all, the search for truth using disinterested methods, the separation of church and state, trade, freedom of conscience and expression and assembly, the rule of law, equality before the law; these are the hallmarks established in law of a ‘Western’ liberal democracy. The exercise of law upholding this idea of trying to maximize human freedom for the individual is an ongoing attempt to try to achieve these common values in common behaviour, which necessarily involves tension between the core value of individual autonomy and the public authority to impose it! That’s why liberal democracies are always a work in progress, always require diligence of its citizens to constrain authority whether it comes from an individual over the State or from the State over the individual. The measurement to adjudicate relies on the fundamental core value, which is cultivating human freedom for the individual to whatever maximum extent it can achieve without mitigating the same cultivation for every individual.  That’s the ongoing work. And it involves all citizens who wish to improve rather than subvert ‘Western’ liberal democracies.

This core value of cultivating human freedom for the individual within nation states whose populace identifies as ‘Western’ is what we use to evaluate the effects of any and all cultural expressions as a ‘Western’ value. Does the cultural expression, the ideas, customs, attitudes, and social behaviour of a particular people or self-defined society, improve or subvert the central value of ‘Western’ civilization? This is the question that every individual who values individual autonomy in law must ask of him- or herself when it comes to evaluating one’s individual behaviour under the banner of ‘culture’ because we can’t have it both ways: we can’t rely on widespread respect for our individual legal autonomy while advocating and acting for its destruction in the name of some other core ‘Western’ value. That’s lying. That’s what we call hypocrisy in action and this the element – hypocrisy – that is fast becoming the core value – an anti-‘Western’ value – infecting those who claim to be ‘correcting’ ‘Western’ liberal democracies towards antithetical communal values in the name of Identity Politics, in the name of Post Modernism, in the name of Social Justice. When measured against the core ‘Western’ value of individual autonomy in law, it becomes obvious that these social movements demanding our submission to them – just like authoritarian religions that demand submission of the individual to their communal authority – are deeply anti-Western and a direct threat to maintaining our defining core values.



  1. That freedom to be realized has to be demonstrated on the individual level. That’s very much a Western principle about placing authority with the individual and not authority derived from some other source.

    I love that tildeb. That is the essence, the marrow of protection, a HEDGING from authoritarian regimes, oligarchies, mobs/mafia, and plutarchies, everything that most all atrocities in human history originate. It may not always be precise, and quick to fight/respond to injustice, but eventually it steps forward and demonstrates what it means to be truly human, truly empathetic, and truly selfless for a greater good.

    Enjoying this series. 🙂

    Comment by Professor Taboo — October 26, 2018 @ 11:41 pm | Reply

  2. He’s back! I was wondering if I’d ever read one of your posts again. Good to see you.

    Comment by Ashley — November 1, 2018 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

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