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The Contemporary Conflict of Values

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The Contemporary Conflict of Values

The conflict between values is the source of many conflicts and problems today. In contrast to the traditional conflict of values, the contemporary conflict is distinguished by these features: (1) extensiveness; (2) complicatedness; (3) profoundness; and (4) continuousness. The plurality and relativity of values is the primary cause of contemporary conflicts. The origin of pluralism lies in an interrelated trio of aspects: commodity economy, democratic politics, and individualism. The contemporary conflict of values is a historical process. Such conflict does not necessarily result in confusion; on the contrary, it can possibly lead to new and higher levels of harmony and vitality. In adjudicating value conflicts, we must (1) permit different values to coexist and respect different choices and the pursuits of values by different individuals; (2) consider the whole and the individual, the entire and the part, the long-term and the short-term, and attempt to have regard for both sides of the conflict; and (3) pursue the best and most suitable.

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The conflict of values is not the unique phenomenon of our times but the common occurrence in both ancient and modern history. But the traditional conflict of values occurred largely in the moral realm, and its essence and focus lay in the conflict between individual and whole interests. In the premodern times there were also conflicts between various requirements of the same individual self, but this conflict was also moralized because personal life, either inner ideas or outeractions,were put into the scope of moral valuation. Furthermore, traditional morality was double-valued morality of good and evil, and only the requirements benefiting the whole or others was evaluated as moral. Therefore,the traditional conflict of values was in fact moral conflict between good and evil, and significance and function of morality just lay in adjusting and solving all those conflicts.

Since the end of the 19th century,however,the conflict of values has become a universal phenomenon. In contrast with the traditional conflict of values, the contemporary conflict of values has four distinguishing charateristics:

(1) Extensiveness. Contemporary society is a legalized society, whose greatest difference from moralized traditional society is that such society merely regulates the starting point, not all of people's action, and it does not regulate people's ideology. Thus in traditional society there was almost no possibility of choice in realms other than morality, while in contemporary society,in addition t law, there are many realms possible for people to choose, so that the conflict of values possibly may take place both in the legal realm and other realms.
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