Values and Conflicts of Values in the Pragmatist Tradition

This paper proceeds from an analysis (Callaway 1992, pp. 239-240) of a role of conflict in the origin of value commitments, a pervasive sociological pattern in the development of unifying group values which transforms personal conflicts, or differences, into large-scale collective conflicts. I have urged that these forces are capable of distorting even the cognitive processes of science and that they are a chief reason why value claims are regarded as incapable of objective evaluation. The thesis of the present paper is that romantic collectivism (uncritical attachment to an identification group) renders members passive with respect to the ideals or content embodied in collective identity and that this is often exploited to convert groups into instruments of personal power. The issue is examined by reference to Reinhold Niebuhr's 1932 thesis of the inevitability of group egoism and inter-group conflicts and an opposing pragmatist conception of moral development, self-identity, and the individual's relationship to reference communities.
Keywords Values and conflict  John Dewey  Reinhold Niebuhr
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