Today’s post is a reflection on the Hildebrand Project’s annual summer seminar on “The Philosophy of Value.” Value was discussed in various forms: its relation to being, the significance of value, and value in relation to morality.
With your eyes tightly closed, you dip your entire face into the soft caressing waves of loosely layered and velvety petals. Ignoring the slight tickle on your nose, you inhale the sweet fragrance filling your lungs to capacity. After a final moment of delight you exhale into the petals sighing. You finally are able to release your face from its captivating power. Stepping back, you acknowledge the vibrant red bouquet of roses placed before you. Glancing around to the right and left, you notice that the other buckets each having their own bouquet of flowers. Many of which have an unquestionable equal quality of beauty. Ones with sunshine-yellow daisies, royal purple lavender, pure white lilies and baby pink tulips. There are even other roses whose petals displayed various colors. But the red ones are irresistible, their fragrance potent. Bundled together, they paint a lavishing portrait. They are the ones that draw you. They are they ones that call for your response.
When one is struck by the majesty of a snow-capped mountain or the reflection of light glistening on the water of a trickling stream, there seems to be a moment of reverence and awe. The moment between you and that object transcends reason and mutes words; you are dumb-founded. There is something unique, there is something individual, there is something particular to that object. Its value is unexplainable.
The objects that are most valuable to us cannot be understood as valuable by another in the same way. “Values in the world are not universal. Everything as it is, is incommunicable” as Dr. Sanford says explaining the individuality of value. (1) It is not a ‘thing,’ but part of a thing “values are in the world as part and parcel in their beings.” (2) We see that the roses are beautiful, but what makes us respond to these roses and not to any others is the value that we behold in them. We see the rose and recognize that it is a rose, but how do we know how to respond to its beauty if we do not understand its importance? How can we describe or categorize the beauty of a rose or of a glistening stream? Without perceiving its value, its intrinsic importance, how are we to respond to beauty, truth, and goodness as we find it in the world? We need to open ourselves to the full brilliance of values, rising to the occasion of responding to the sublimity value in the objects we encounter.
These truths can be considered in the light of the moral life too. Dr. Crosby said that, “a person can be so blinded by pride and concupiscence that he is incapable of knowing value and can only turn to the subjectively satisfying.” (3) The man is blinded. He is incapable of seeing the objects as clearly as they were created. When we are blinded by vice, we are insensitive to the value of justice, courage, temperance, and the other virtues. The capability to see what is valuable in the good, in virtue-is lost. Without transcending the seductive call of the subjectively satisfying, how are we to attain to full knowledge of the truth? “Knowledge of value is not only a task for the intellect, but for our whole moral character.” (4) Our understanding of the importance of the object and its value is tainted. We are enabled to cultivate true virtue when our hearts and minds are open to being transformed by the value before us, to that which truly matters.
In the same way that we discover the importance of the beauty of the red roses through the call of its aesthetic value, so do we uncover whole constellations of value in the world around us when we open our eyes to their shimmering splendor. We need to have “...an inner-readiness to respond to the world of values.”(5) Many of us will not be aware of the value of an object until we are interiorly prepared to encounter it.Therefore, let us walk freely in the rich garden of the world. Let us behold and glory in the beauty of the manifold flowers before us. When we approach the world with wonder, the hierarchy of value will begin to disclose itself to us. We will see that value, that inner radiance of the good, which shines forth throughout the world. We will see the world as it was created to be.*
Image 1. Elegant Lady Smelling Rose link
Image 2. Stopping to Smell the Roses link
 Dr. Jonathan Sanford
 Dr. John Crosby
*Thank you to Chase for his constructive edits