The Hierarchy of Value
The most basic moral obligation that we have is to pursue what is good and avoid what is evil. But what counts as “good” and “evil”? How do we rank the various things that are good or evil? Friendship is a good thing, but is more important than (say) honesty? Cheating is generally a bad thing, but is it worse than (say) hypocrisy?
This assignment will require a bit of thinking. You will attempt to rank moral values and vices on a hierarchy.
· Begin by listing the top five moral values or obligations that you think are definitive of a life well-lived.
· For each value or obligation, give a (minimum) one-paragraph description of what it is and why you have ranked it that way.
· You should not simply give a list – you should explain and justify the hierarchy you have put together. Make sure you organize them by order of importance. If you’re not quite confident in your ranking, give it your best attempt.
You will then do the same thing for moral vices.
· In order of heinousness, list five vices that you consider to be among the worst.
· Make sure that you include at least a one-paragraph description of each vice along with an explanation of why you have ranked that vice in the way you did.
· Make sure that you are specific. Do not simply say “be good” or “avoid harming people” – you should be referencing specific virtues or vices.
The goal of this assignment is to organize your thoughts on morality. Not all good things are equally good, and not all bad things are equally bad. We often prioritize certain things when making moral decisions, so it is good to develop a framework for a hierarchy of virtues and vices.
As a tip, you might look at some of the lists of virtues and vices that have been assembled by philosophers and theologians throughout history. Two examples are the four cardinal virtues and Dante’s seven deadly vices. But avoid copying them – this assignment should be your own work and reflect your own thinking.
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