Front Page Titles (by Subject) Natural Values and Individual Decisions - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2
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Natural Values and Individual Decisions - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Natural Values and Individual Decisions
“Values and Personal Decisions.” Chapter 15 in The Biological Origin of Human Values. New York: Basic Books, 1977.
The individual is constantly caught in a conflict between his need for social approval and his personal preferences. What he needs is a prescriptive theory to guide him. Philosophers have traditionally developed criteria for decisions along three broad categories: authoritarian, absolutist, and naturalistic. The authoritarian has been based upon the supernatural, the absolutist on reason, while the naturalistic has sought for values that were innate in human nature.
“In the present theory, we postulate that the evolutionary development of human values can be explained by a chain of primary-secondary valuative deductions.” Any practical system of ethics must be compatible with the innate human motivational system. In practice, a “natural” ethics is almost indistinguishable from hedonism, except that in application there is an altruistic or social component of innate values.
Antisocial behavior and violation of social norms is a problem of motivation as the social environment has failed to provide a system of psychological rewards and penalties to which the innate system can respond. Punishment for violators of the norms thus has an important role in society.
The natural ethics has a close relationship to the ethics of the great religions of the world. These include such ideas as “Know Thyself,” “To Thine Own Self Be True,” “Be Moderate in All Things,” “Love Thy Neighbor,” and “Honor Thy Father and Mother.” At the same time it is compatible both with a religious and a scientific world view. Widespread cruel behavior within a given social order is a result of superstition and a distorted world view.
There is rather strong evidence that cultural evolution accelerated with the advent of modern man about 40,000 years ago, and was very closely related to an improved linguistic capability. The natural theory of values offers some means to reconcile certain important differences between the humanist and existential philosophers. There are some similarities since the natural view also emphasizes that a person must discover who he is, decide what he is going to be, and learn by doing. The failure of the existentialist view is its inability to provide practical criteria for social change. This stems from an “excessive emphasis on personal individuality” and “insufficient emphasis on the role of reason.”
We are now in a period of crisis resembling the axial period of several millenia ago. The natural value system offers a way to reconcile the religious, philosophical, and scientific points of view and to help us out of the present impasse. Rational analyses that do not take into account man's genetically inherited value system will not work.