Having mentioned the future in a previous post, I suppose it is only fair to acknowledge the past by admitting that there is nothing new in what I am saying about values and there will be nothing new in all that will follow. I am updating the language a little, but the principles, philosophic, scientific, theological or otherwise, are not a great new revelation. People have been speaking about universal, human values since history began, and I have no doubt they will continue to speak about them long after I am gone.
You see, when I am speaking about universal values and say they are “self-evident” to all people, as simple common sense will tell you, and especially when I suggest that they are precisely what make us human, you might want to conclude that what I am really talking about is human nature, and you would not be entirely wrong. When once you realize that all of our thoughts and behaviors are motivated and inspired by what we find valuable (worthwhile), and when you note that all of our values are shared in common with all people in all times, making them the most natural things in the world, and when you further realize that these values alone distinguish us human beings from all other life and indeed from the whole universe, or more simply we might say what I have said: that values are precisely what make us human, then it cannot be wrong to describe these writings as a primer of sorts on human nature. I would rather say it is a basic textbook on being human, though with the admission that nothing I am saying is new. Consider the following:
If you are so inclined, I would recommend the Bible as the most comprehensive and thorough discussion of human nature and human values ever recorded. For those for whom the Judeo-Christian tradition might have a bad taste (for whatever reason) you might find an alternative in a study of the way (the Tao) or Plato perhaps, or some other such works. I would not recommend some of the philosophical or religious traditions which seem more agenda oriented, like those that might tell us a great deal about God and our obligations, but not much about us as human creatures, or those that suggest the first step on the path to perfection is for normal, ordinary human beings to abandon normal, ordinary human life.
Closer to home, you might examine the better works that came out of the enlightenment. Again, I would not recommend agenda oriented works for this sort of study such as religious bashing books or religious defending books or those that deify or demonize the scientific method. Also, as I have already said, you are not likely to get much from the nihilists and existentialists except agenda. Mills might be an interesting choice, or Blaise Pascal. Voltaire would probably leave a bitter taste. Boswell’s Johnson would make brilliant reading. Hardly anyone has ever had a better grasp on the human species than Doctor Johnson; but then again, since you have already started with this writing, you might just begin with the reading you have got. On the other hand, I would not be offended if you move immediately to one of these other works or authors, and in fact, I would recommend that you don’t take my word alone for these things. Read these other authors and works. But then I have also said that this is not intended as a scholarly work so I suppose you will have to build your own bibliography.