On the Meaning of Codification

The relationship between value systems people hold and their actual values is often complex. When people accept a value system inculturated to them, they may find that their actual values don't fit it exactly, and the cognitive dissonance involved leads some people towards an interest in value philosophy. In "accepted value systems" (those normally passed along in a style whereby the conclusions act as tradition and their relationship to values is irrelvant or obscured), the potential difference between one's values and one's value system may grow fairly large. Value philosophers have less of a gap of this sort - when a system is reconciled with or derived from its origins, by that process it tends to have fewer internal inconsistencies and complications than a similarly powerful system that is "accepted". The nature of these reconciliations or derivations - the codification of values into value-conclusions and value-systems, is of great importance in value-philosophy.

The first function of codification is concretion - ensuring that values and the system from which they derived are constructed are strongly tied. In an unexamined state, one's value system is a collection of habits paired with vague intuition - instead of a healthy tension between values that can attempt to serve their combination, the habits may have very little connection to the value intuitions. This is particularly likely in modern societies where one's habits and one's value-intuitions are acquired at different stages of reaching personal maturity. The process of concretion enables a greater consistency between ones values and ones acts.

The second function of codification is precomputation - the process by which one can do enough initial reasoning beforehand to allow reasoning based on deduction and analogy to replace deep philosophy or unconsidered action in situations of value-significance. Given value-intuitions but not a value system, one finds situations in life where one must make a decision and ideally would make decisions coherent with decisions in similar situations. Value systems are derived from sets of values to provide stronger intuitions on how relevant values interact in these situations and what facts represent borders towards other situations with potentially different judgements. The benefit of precomputation then is both to save time/effort in particular situations and to enable a greater coherency.

The third function of codification is to ease people in their task to limit instinct and value weakness - in particular situations, it is easy to fall prey to the allure of certain values that stand at odds to decisions one would make distant from the situation. This is most often encountered with values that are "primal" or antisocial - these values grow much stronger when their bearer is close to the situation of their desire, threatening to overwhelm their long-term value-consensus. Assuming the metavalue of consideration by which one's value-behaviour should be roughly conformant to things acceptable given distance and reflection, codification helps avoid impulsive behaviour in that one's strongest codified values can be ingrained into one's instincts enough to attach guilt and other internal behaviour modifiers to theoretical situations so as to allow them to act when theory is instantiated in practice. Practicing this with moderation and wisdom is essential - a rigid application could lead to ascetic behaviour (which might or might not be desired by the individual), while without any of this a person would find it difficult to fulfill any of their longer-term/societal-good values.

The fourth function of codification is to allow for a value-memetic atmosphere in society, allowing for vehicles of persuasion and inculturation in the sphere of values in society. Values in an individual have weight and specifics, but these characteristics are very difficult to discuss with others, either in a philosophical or practical context. As value-matters often have societal ramifications (particularly those classified as morals and ethics), enabling discussion and debate over value conclusions is essential to the health of a system of governance. Likewise, codifying one's meta-value-philosophy helps establish the style and means of discourse/codification of these matters.

Pat Gunn (aka Improv) <pgunn@dachte.org>