Values File

By ignoring these epistemological considerations one

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Unformatted text preview: more than the [arbitrary] decisions of particular wills" (Hayek 1976, 32). Thus, for Hayek, the issue of an abstract versus a concrete common good is also a moral one: whether persons have a moral obligation to submit to political decisions concerning the pursuit of substantive ends that can never be more than arbitrary commands of the politically powerful. All we can truly have in common with our fellows in a great society, and thus the only basis for a genuine agreement regarding the common good, are certain shared abstract values and opinions regarding the "kind of society" in which we would like to live, as opposed to opinions about the particular manifestations it should assume. Commitment to such shared general values, not the pursuit of common concrete purposes, constitutes social cohesion in a great society. No one can possess the concrete knowledge required to justify a rational pursuit of common concrete ends. The common knowledge we do possess is confined to certain abstract features of our social and physical environment (we share knowledge of the kind of clothing we wear, the kind of food we eat, the kind of literature we enjoy, and so on). Most of the innumerable and ever-changing facts and circumstances that determine the concrete shape of our fellows' lives in the spatially extensive contemporary liberal order are and must forever remain unknown to us. Regardless of how disinterested, just, intelligent, and altruistic we may be, we can never rationally design a nonarbitrary hierarchy of concrete ends that all persons should pursue, for those ends depend on concrete facts and circumstances that no human mind or group of minds can grasp. Should I buy a Bible or a loaf of bread? It depends on my needs, values, and desires, on the decisions of all the other persons in society (reflected in relative prices), and on prevailing concrete circumstances (relative scarcities). The most appropriate concrete pattern can only be continually rediscovered as persons employ their knowledge to adapt to the concrete circum...
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