A Call to Virtues
on the Promiscuous Use of the Word "Values"
Many political prognosticators now pondering the health of our republic pronounce its moribundity. If its lifeblood is reasoned debate, then its health can be judged by the lively precision, intelligence, and civility of its public discourse. On these grounds, the pessimists may have the better diagnosis.
The lack of precision in our use of language is a primary source of toxins. One malignancy is the ubiquitous and promiscuous use of the word values. In order to resuscitate reasoned discourse, we need to limit this word's use to its proper range of meanings for at least three reasons: first, its misuse obscures its legitimate meanings; second, illegitimate meanings obscure the need for other words, like doctrines, principles, precepts, and virtues; and third, the obscuring of important words makes us more susceptible to propaganda.
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Stephen Paul Kennedy is Adjunct Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Human Rights, Trinity Law School, in Santa Ana, California. He and his wife Michele have four children and eight grandchildren. He is a member of St. Matthew's Parish, an Anglican Catholic Church in Newport Beach, California.
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