Let’s say someone diverts my water supply to their house. The higher level of usage raises the rate, unfairly upping my bill. If I fail to pay it, is “paying bills” still an objective, immutable, absolute value for me? Yes!
What are values? They are objective truths. Values are not relative.
Paying bills is one example of a value. Jewish law contains a great many values.
People tend to view values as imposing. They loom large. They take away fun. Most of all, they are in conflict with what I want to do. Values are objective. What I want is subjective. Objective and subjective conflict. The solution: Adopt the perspective that values are relative. Now there is no longer a conflict. I can choose the values I want.
Wrong! In his concept of conscience Frankl puts a lie to this perspective.
With my conscience I am aware of the objective value and with my conscience I can detect the particular manifestation or form this value takes in my unique situation.
In the unique situation described above conscience tells me “Don’t pay that bill!” This does not change the absolute truth of the value “paying bills” one iota.
If I were to decide that all I will ever care about is the objective value and no matter what happens I will pay my bill, I would not be following my conscience. Why not?
Because values divorced from real life are meaningless!
Now consider a different possibility. Instead of only caring about objective values, all I ever care about is my subjective perspective. Since I don’t feel like paying bills, I don’t. I get a water bill and throw it in the trash. An electric bill comes in the mail. I toss that in the trash too. Every single bill goes straight into the trash. Am I following my conscience? Of course not! Why not?
Because with conscience I evaluate objective values.
a) Values are objective and not relative.
b) The objective value always has to be adjusted to the unique situation. That is the meaning a person has to hear.
Values can only come to light in the presence of conscience detecting an absolutely unique subjective application of an absolutely true, objective value.
Conscience detects the singularity of the situation but conscience upholds the value. Otherwise it would be a superego struggle between value and conscience. But values and conscience are not on opposing sides of the fence. They are both on the side of the human spiritual essence. It’s the job of conscience to discern the uniqueness of the individual and the situation.
If there is importance to the value, conscience will not exclusively be a compromising factor. A situation might arise where the bill should not be paid as in the case of an error in the bill or perhaps because of a higher value that overrides another value in importance right now A different situation might arise where the bill should be paid and the family has to scrimp and save and forget about extra treats this month in order to pay it because conscience demands self-sacrifice. In all of these cases, the value is not relative. The value is simply subject to the subjective meaning of the moment.
Therefore conscience is not an “alternative” to objective values but is part and parcel of the equation. Conscience is embedded in values and in the law. An opportunity for fulfilling a value is available to the individual only when objective values and personal meanings exist side by side.
Objective values are only called values when you take them seriously. And their value only shows when you take yourself seriously.