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Let's deep dive into what it means to have inherent worth and why we must work towards accepting it ...

What is Inherent Worth?


To have inherent worth typically means to have inherent moral value that hasn’t been earned and allows us to do what is moral. It is commonly interchangeable with the definition of human dignity. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Human Dignity is, “the unearned worth or status that all humans share equally (either inherent or constructed).” The idea we are all equal in inherent worth comes from this concept. I believe that to do what is moral is synonymous with being able to feal with conflict. According to Merriam-Webster, one definition of conflict is "mental struggle resulting from needs, drives, wishes, or demands that are in opposition or are not compatible."


What is the History of Inherent Worth or Human Dignity?

 

This idea originated in ancient Greece by the Stoics. It was further popularized during the enlightenment by philosopher Immanuel Kant​. It also has origins in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. ​

Why Do We Have Inherent Worth?

 

The reasons are many, depending upon who you ask. Regardless, having inherent worth has to do with a corresponding inherent quality all humans possess, regardless of one’s actions and individual characteristics such as race, gender, status, disability, or religion. 

Here are some of the most common ideas, and their corresponding groups, as to why we have inherent worth as well as some of my thoughts about each group:

According to Christianity, God gave humans inherent value because we were made in his image and are his image-bearers. This seems to be a dichotomy since Christians also believe we are 100% sinful or completely corrupt without God, due to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. So, it seems Christians believe our inherent value is in our inherent ability, due to our corruption, to need to obey God to do good. In this belief system, we are not capable of knowing right from wrong, for ourselves, since we are fully corrupt. We must rely on external help.

 

According to Islam, Allah gave humans inherent dignity due to our innate moral sense to know right from wrong. However, humans cannot become good, alone, through this intuitive knowledge. We need clarifying instructions from Allah and the prophet Muhammad to gain clarity about right from wrong. In this belief system, we must only rely on external help because we cannot access our intuition to know right from wrong through leading ourselves.

According to Judaism, humans have inherent worth due to our inherent pure nature. However, we won't be able to act on this pure nature unless we obey God's instructions. Again, in this belief system, we cannot access our intuition to know right from wrong through leading ourselves. We must only rely on external help.

According to Immanuel Kant, the German Enlightenment philosopher who popularized the concept of inherent worth that influences our law system and government to this day, believed that human inherent worth comes from our inherent goodwill bestowed upon us by God, which gives all of us the inherent capability to do good. This capability is what gives us inherent value. He believed those who are the most rational, alone, are the ones able to act on their inherent, unearned good will to do what is right. He also believed feelings were roadblocks to logical thinking. In this philosophy, humans cannot access their unearned ability to act on their good will (which has to be an intuitive ability in my opinion). They need those who are more "rational" to guide them. I don't believe we can become more rational without our intuition. If feelings are deemed inferior to thought towards becoming more moral, then our intuition cannot be accessed. Those who adhere to this philosophy must rely on external help to know right from wrong, if they are not as "rational" as others. Those considered most rational in this philosophy are, of course, the most intellectual or educated. I would trust some kids, morally-speaking, over some adults to do what is right, even though children aren't as capable of rational thought. 

Then there is the idea, common in New Ageism, that humans are like God, the Tao or the universe, etc. and are inherently good. They believe our bad behaviors are caused by the disbelief in our true selves due to unfortunate circumstances (this may be called ‘the Matrix’). This means that when we act poorly, there is a higher self/authentic self that we need to learn to believe in and embody through mindset work, meditation, seminars, self-help books, gurus, etc. They believe we all deserve good things, and that we need to align with this fact before we can manifest, through the law of attraction, what we desire. The law of attraction teaches that we must have positive feelings and thoughts in order to align with our true self and attract our desires. There is currently a more conservative niche of New Ageism (the action mindset niche) that prioritizes taking committed action over listening to our thoughts and feelings as a way of developing more positive feelings and thoughts. Some of the followers believe motivation is a myth. Most prioritize becoming high performers. There is also an emphasis on creating the right external environment in order to positively shape the mind. There is another niche, which is more progressive, that does emphasize feelings and the goal is to create better feeling thoughts as to attract what we want. New Ageism mostly has its roots in Hinduism but is a blend of mostly eastern religious thought. In this belief system, when we give up our ability to make sense of things, especially what we don't know, in favor of creating positive feelings or if we give up our ability to feel and think in favor of committed action or creating a positive environment, we will have no choice but to rely on others to lead us as to what is right or wrong. This is because we need our ability to intuitively sense right from wrong as well as our ability to make sense of what we don't know in order to learn right from wrong and overcome inner and outer conflict.

Then there are the atheists. Nihilism and Existentialism (a branch of nihilism) are popular philosophies of atheists. Strict nihilists don’t believe humans have any sort of inherent value because they don’t believe there is any meaning to our existence or to life itself. Existentialists also believe there is no meaning to life or to the self, but that doesn’t mean they don’t believe we shouldn’t create it for ourselves in order to live a good life. They may believe in inherent worth, but they won’t see this concept as an objective truth. Any meaning someone attaches to something is considered subjective to nihilists and existentialists. Existentialists do believe in objective truth, unlike nihilists, so long as it has to do with scientific facts and not the meaning of anything. Because there is no meaning to life or the self, then circumstances are the cause of bad behaviors since genetics, science, etc. are the only objective facts to support the causes for bad behaviors. They may believe in the free will to find their authentic selves, unlike more strict nihilists. Some people hold a unique mix of views of the two as well as other forms of nihilism. Agnostics, who believe we cannot know of the existence of anything beyond the phenomena of their experience, may loosely fall into this category. Like in New Ageism, there is an emphasis on external circumstances being the cause for our behaviors. This idea motivates us to give up our abilities to listen to ourselves towards unifying the heart and mind, because why attempt to listen to ourselves towards making sense of what we don't know and unblocking our intuition when circumstances are the problem, and we didn't cause our bad behaviors? In this belief system, we must listen to others who are more deemed more morally "capable" of leading us, which is usually the most educated, richest, most successful or popular.

 

My Idea is that We Must Morally Lead Ourselves

This doesn't mean we won't need help in this area, it just means that we should LEAD all the help we are seeking!

There are plenty of truths we can glean from the above belief systems; however, I don't believe the premise for each of the belief systems above are helpful towards creating good intentions. There seem to be two extreme, main premises, considering the above examples, that aim to deal with our inabilities to do what is right. One is to not blame ourselves at all for bad things that happen to us because we are not responsible for doing wrong, since our genetics, mindset, feelings and/or environment is, and the other extreme premise is to only blame ourselves for all of the bad that happens to us, since we are not capable of accessing our intuition or in the case of Christianity, we are simply corrupt. Neither allow us to take charge of our moral destinies and find balance when it comes to dealing with our mistakes! Both the solution and the problem are equally important when resolving mental struggle or inner conflicts. If we give up any ownership in making mistakes, we will prioritize the solution. If we take on too much blame or we don't deserve, we will prioritize problems.

I don't believe rationality, without the guidance of our intuition, is the way to tap into our inherent capability to intend to do good. I believe our inherent value lies in the fact that we intuitively know right from wrong. However, I believe we need to earn the ability to believe in this fact, independent from others taking control of the process for us. Our intuitive knowledge is often blocked from us since we don't rationally believe in our intuitive ability. However, this doesn't mean we need to follow someone else deemed more "inherently superior" to be able to tap into our own intuition! This gives away our personal power to think for ourselves. We have the potential to trust our intuition independent from others! As I see it, we cannot possibly accept our inherent worth if we don't take full personal responsibility for earning our belief in our inherent worth by making sense of what we don't know. We can't take on this responsibility if we don't unify our intuition with our rational thinking. Again, we can't do this if we rely on others to tell us what to think and do. Further, we won't develop the important skillset of listening to ourselves and others if we deny our potential to unify our minds and hearts. No one can unify our hearts and minds for us. Listening to ourselves and others, during conflict resolution, is the art of unifying the heart and the mind. Why wouldn't we take on this responsibility to listen to ourselves and trust our intuition, if we have the inherent ability to do so! It makes no sense to give it up to someone else in this case. Furthermore, on the other extreme hand, is the idea that we don't have to earn our ability to trust our intuition at all. This idea also doesn't allow us to listen to ourselves by unifying the mind and heart since we are already perfect. In this case we just have to "find ourselves".​​

 

To learn more, click the link below:​

 

Introducing the 50-50 Model for Conflict Resolution

Written by Sommer Nielsen

Bringing balance to conflict resolution

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