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The following is a work in progress. Stay tuned for updates.

Let's deep dive into what it means to have equal inherent worth and why we must earn our respect for it . . .

What is Inherent Worth?


I believe that to have inherent worth means to have inherent moral worth. This definition derives from the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant. From his perspective, to have inherent worth typically means to have equal, inherent moral value. Our inherent worth is commonly interchangeable with the term 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).”


What is Conflict?


​The type of conflict I am referring to is defined, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, as a "mental struggle resulting from needs, drives, wishes, or demands that are in opposition or are not compatible." I believe that when we intuitively know that we have all have equal inherent worth and desire to believe in this fact but choose to deny it due to opposing desires derived from shameful, false beliefs about our inherent worth, we create inner and outer conflict, which tends to become unresolved. Conflict itself isn't bad. Unresolved or ongoing conflict is what becomes destructive.

What is Conflict Resolution?

According to Harvard, "Conflict resolution can be defined as the informal or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute". I don't believe that ongoing conflict can be resolved interpersonally (in our external communications) unless we resolve it intrapersonally (in our internal communications). 


What Does Our Inherent Moral Worth Have to Do with Resolving Conflict?


I believe that to do what is moral is synonymous with being able to resolve conflict because when we have good intentions, we are able to meet our profound need to unconditionally love and respect ourselves and others. Unresolved conflict, unconditional love, and respect cannot coexist. This idea that we must respect human dignity in order to resolve conflict comes from Conflict Resolution expert Donna Hicks, Ph.D.


How Does Our Intuition Help Us Resolve Conflict?


I believe our intuition provides for us what we need to know in order to do what is right (create good intentions) and resolve conflict. Of all of the theories in moral philosophy, I seem to fit into the category of Ethical Intuitionism, which posits that there are objective moral facts known through our intuition. I also believe that we can’t rely on some of our beliefs, at times, to respect our intuitive knowledge. We need to be willing to put in the work it takes to make sense of what we don’t know concerning our inherent worth, using our reasoning abilities, so that we may effectively tear down false beliefs, trust our intuition and create good intentions.


What Causes Immoral Behavior?


Bad intentions, which are caused by false beliefs that go against what our intuition knows to be true about our inherent worth.


How Do We Have Inherent Worth?


Having inherent worth should point to an unearned, inherent ability to do what is moral. The only inherent ability that we could possibly fully possess that would qualify as unearned would be our intuitive ability to know right from wrong. This is because to use our reasoning skills requires effort (earned), while Intuition is instant and effortless (unearned). I believe we need both our intuition and our reasoning skills, working together, to know right from wrong and resolve conflict. Our intuitive ability, combined with our reasoning ability, is what gives all of us our moral potential to do what is right.

Our human value consists of: 

  • WHY we are, which is only definable. Meaning, alone, cannot be measured. Meaning is intuitive. I believe why we are is to morally evolve. 

  • HOW we are, which is our measurable functionality. How we are consists of earned (reasoning ability) and unearned functions (intuitive ability) that work together to create our moral intentions. Part of how we are (intuitive ability) has inherent worth, the other part (reasoning ability) doesn't.

  • WHO we are, which is proven by the repeated results of our measured functionality or how we are. As Aristotle said, "we are what we repeatedly do". Who we are is changeable.

What is the History of Inherent Worth or Human Dignity?


​The 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. ​


What Are Common Beliefs About Why We Have Inherent Worth?​


Many religious doctrines state that humans have inherent worth or dignity because we were created in God’s image. We also have the common idea from famous 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant, who believed we have inherent worth due to our rational nature, alone. Then, there is the nihilistic idea, common in academia, that we don’t have inherent worth at all, objectively speaking, since there is no objective meaning to life or the self. Finally, there is the common belief in New Ageism that we are 100% inherently good at all times and just need to align with the fact.

What is the Goal of Conflict Resolution?

The goal of conflict resolution should be to respect our equal inherent worth and this doesn't always mean working to get others to agree with each other or create peace. Sometimes, the best way to resolve conflict is to give up on trying to agree or make peace with others who are unwilling to do their part to make things right. Not everyone deserves conflict resolution.

Why is it Important to See Others as Equal in Inherent Worth, When Resolving Conflict​?


​If we don't share the belief that we all have the inherent, intuitive ability to do what is right, then we won't be able to discern right from wrong and protect ourselves and others from bad intentions. We won't be able to protect ourselves from our unwillingness to manage our moral lives and discern right from wrong, so we will implement alternative ways to protect ourselves from bad intentions, including our own, and our perceived inherent worthlessness. These alternative, harmful ways or core beliefs, which deny our equal inherent worth, are as follows:

Core Belief #1 (BELOW): Some People Have Less Inherent Worth Than Another Person and/or Group (Self-Deprecation). 


If we believe we have less inherent worth or less of an intuitive ability to know right from wrong than another person or group, then we will not become fully capable of creating good intentions and resolving conflict because we won’t rely on ourselves to do so, we will unnecessarily and repeatedly rely on another, in obedience, instead. In this way we won’t earn respect for our inherent worth, we will only attempt to earn respect for someone else's. This is disempowering towards leading our moral lives. The reason we act like we are below another in inherent worth is so that we may temporarily protect ourselves from OUR bad intentions. We don't believe we have the potential, equal to others, to create good intentions and we are afraid to prove to ourselves otherwise. What if we find out we are permanently unredeemable?

Core Belief #2 (ABOVE): We Have More Inherent Worth Than Others (Narcissistic). 


​If we believe we have more inherent worth than others, we will unjustly and repeatedly manipulate others to get them to obey us. This leads to an inability to fully discern our moral intentions or the moral intentions of others since we aren’t building the skillset to be able to look at the “speck in our own eye’, so to speak. We can’t discern the moral intentions of others if we can’t do the same for ourselves. We will tend to blame others, unfairly, for not doing what we are forcing them to do. We will unjustly act like we are above another in inherent worth so that we may temporarily protect ourselves from other people's bad intentions. We won't believe others have the equal, moral potential to create good intentions like we do. We will be afraid to allow others to prove themselves to have equal inherent worth, because what if we find out they are permanently unredeemable? What would this mirror back to us about ourselves? Is it really possible for everyone else to be unredeemable but us? It's lonely at the top. Deep down we know that this wouldn't be a good thing because we need each other in order to survive, and we simply couldn't exist with each other in harmony unless we were ALL equal in inherent worth. 


Core Belief #3 (NON-EXISTENT): We Don’t Have Any Objective Inherent Worth (Self-Denial).


In this case, we won’t see any objective meaning in our ability to reason or our ability to feel, so we will believe we are free to unjustly manipulate both towards whatever fantasy we want to create and not care about the repercussions because there is no literal meaning to the self or to life outside of make-believe. We will act like everyone is morally worthless, objectively, so that we may temporarily protect ourselves from the risky idea that we might possibly have inherent worth. We don't want to prove we have inherent worth, because if we did, we are afraid of what we might find out. What if we find out we are permanently unredeemable? It is better to pretend we are all worthless as a way to "protect" ourselves from this possibility and try to stay one step ahead of it. 


The Solution for Conflict Resolution: We are All EQUAL in Inherent Worth


The idea that we must respect our human dignity as a way to resolve conflict isn’t new, but HOW we go about respecting our inherent worth, as a way to resolve conflict, is what I present as new. I believe that to respect our equal inherent worth, we must take on the full responsibility for creating our moral intentions, so long as we have the ability to reason. To fully lead our moral lives doesn't mean we won't ever need help knowing right from wrong, it just means that we should always put in the effort to create our moral intentions, without partaking in obedience-driven "morality", or shunning objective morality altogether.


Considering obedience, I don't believe we should obey others or get others to obey us, so long as we or others aren't in danger. We must always, understandably, get others to obey us if they are a danger to ourselves or others. There are times when we must also obey people as a way to protect ourselves and others from danger. 

​In closing, we all have equal inherent value due to our equal, inherent ability to intuitively know right from wrong; however, I don't believe we can fully trust our intuition to know right from wrong unless we EARN our ability to believe in it. We cannot earn this ability unless we take on the full responsibility for creating our moral intentions. Here's how I believe we do just that:

​​Introducing the 7 Principles for Conflict Resolution

Written by Sommer Nielsen, 2024

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