A Field Guide

This page may always be a work in progress.

I described the idea of putting together A Field Guide to Basic Values in an early post, which is built around this analogy:

There are no doubt some people who can walk outside on a morning in spring and simply not notice that birds are singing. Others might notice, but it might seem to them an undifferentiated sound to be filed under the general heading, “bird song.” A few, if they have any practice at all in birding – observing and identifying birds – will pick out the songs of individual birds, identify them by species, or even by variant, and note the ones they can’t identify just now. When I hear the call or the song of an unfamiliar bird, I immediately long for my binoculars and field guide.

I continue:

In any given situation, some might perceive nothing of any ethical interest, some might have a sense that there’s something important about the situation, that a decision involving some kinds of values may be called for, and some who might be able to give names to this or that particular ethical value that is in play.

What I would like my students to aspire to is a more finely tuned awareness, and a curiosity about basic values that might have them reaching for their equivalent of binoculars and field guide, whatever frameworks of meaning and value they have available for making sense of complex situations.

And so, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to actually produce a field guide for my students’ use, and perhaps for use by others as well. It would be, above all, a practical guide to ethical awareness, with a focus on identifying and differentiating the various kinds of basic values.

On the following pages, I will collect links, notes, comments and other materials relevant to developing the guide:


Taxonomy of Basic Values


The Good

The Right


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