F2017 Syllabus – Texas Wesleyan University

Instructor: Chris Ohan

HUM 2340-07 The Human Experience

Office: PUMC 244

Phone: 817-531-4913

Tuesday/Thursday 5:30-6:45

Office Hours: Mon/Wed 11-12; 1:30-3:30;

Tues 2:30-5; Thurs 9:30-1:00, or by appt.


Web: www.historymuse.net

E-mail: cohan@txwes.edu


Course description: An interdisciplinary synthesis of selected events, ideas, and expressions of the oral, visual, and literary arts, from the emergence of civilization through the mid-seventeenth century, emphasizing analysis of values and concerns inherited from the past and encountered by students in their personal experiences.  (Must have completed 45 hours to take this course.)


The course is designed to be a forum where students ought to be able to discuss openly and intelligently anything related to the themes and topics of the course.  While the goal is not to change your beliefs, an open attitude is essential.


Details and Objectives:


The Human Prospect satisfies a requirement in the Language Literacy group of the General Education Curriculum by providing a “summative experience regarding the total curriculum.  The graduate should reflect an ability to integrate the broad scope of her/his learning in a meaningful manner.”  The course fosters this competency by providing Texas Wesleyan students and faculty the opportunity to interact with their own values through analyzing relationships and perspectives of values derived from "primary" sources of the Mediterranean Cultural Matrix from its origins to the present. In so doing, students will be expected to demonstrate


Course Objectives                                                         GEC Learning Objectives



1. Students should be able to demonstrate written and oral communication skills as they apply the elements of their particular discipline in course work.

Language Literacy

1. Competency in a variety of communication skills

a. This competency includes the ability to speak and write conventional English both clearly and correctly. The development of individual communicative style should also be encouraged.

b. This competency also includes the ability to speak and write interactively. This includes elements of effective reading, listening, and analysis as well as the framing of appropriate and intelligible responses.

2. A summative experience regarding the total curriculum. The graduate should reflect an ability to integrate the broad scope of her/his learning in a meaningful manner.


2. The student should be able to employ standard argumentative reasoning and problem solving skills in their analyses of the Mediterranean world.

Analytic Literacy

4. Ability to formulate a precise, concise, logical argument concerning a wide variety of problems in politics, science, mathematics, psychology, sociology, etc. The graduate should be proficient in applying problem solving skills in her/his life.


3. Students should be able to critically examine textual and artistic (visual and auditory) sources, deriving values from each.



4. Students should be able to identify the major themes in Western cultural history from the ancient world through the Reformation. 


5. Students should be able to define the religious heritage and values of the Mediterranean world (especially Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious history) and explain and apply the moral and ethical values of each.

Cultural Literacy

5. An appreciation of and some direct experience with the creative arts as expressions of cultural and artistic values. This experience should include some combination of attendance at various art exhibits or performances, formal exposition of art works representative of various cultural periods, and personal participation.

6. An understanding of the history and defining character of Western culture and an appreciation of other cultures. Cultural differences may be expressed in terms of linguistic structures, the creative arts, religious traditions, political values, etc.

7. Knowledge of religious history and tradition from its written word, including an awareness of Judeo-Christian values and ethics and an understanding of questions of moral behavior as applied to home, professional, civic, and social life. The student should be encouraged to formulate a clearly thought-out philosophy of ethical and moral values.


6. Students should be able to explain the social influences of the Mediterranean world historically and to their own personal values.

Social Literacy

8. An understanding of the social forces that influence individual and collective behavior, including economic, political, psychological, and sociological forces.


Required Materials. There are no texts to purchase for this course.  Required readings are posted on line—see schedule below.


Instructional Methods.  Class meetings will be conducted primarily by means of discussion, both full-class and in small groups, with some short lectures by the instructor.  In-class writing assignments will also be given. Thus, it is imperative that you come to each section meeting prepared to discuss and to write about the assigned materials.  Do not hesitate to bring up questions and comments at any moment.  It is assumed that you will complete the assigned reading for each week.  It is also assumed that you will attend all classes. 


Class Schedule. See p. 5 below.






Notebook x3







Grades will be assigned according to the following percentages: 90-100=A; 80-89=B; 70-79=C; 60-69=D; 0-59=F


Exams.  There are no exams for this course. 




For each unit of the course, you are required to submit a portfolio.  This will not only demonstrate your understanding of the presentations and readings, but will also be an arena for your personal reflections and reactions to the topics of the course.


Portfolio due dates are listed on the course schedule.


Portfolio components:


I.  Unit Assignment.  This will be a two-page type-written assignment involving the analysis of primary sources (written, visual, or audio) and will be assigned for each unit.  (Note that although these are part of the Portfolio, they will be submitted in Blackboard by specific dates.) See schedule. 


II.  Values Analyses.  Two Value Analyses of about one page (typed) must be completed for each unit.  Do not write an analysis on a unit's integrating value.  Each value analysis should directly relate to the unit being studied and should consider the following:


1.       Name the value.  Define it briefly in your own words.

2.       Discuss the cultural/historical circumstances and how they support the value (i.e. how does it relate to the cultural matrix being studied?).

3.       Discuss the values that relate to it (remember that values do not exist in isolation).

4.       Does the value transcend time (i.e. can it exist in different cultures and times)?

5.       Conclusion


3.  Responses. Three Responses of about one page (typed) must be completed for each unit.  A response is your opinion on the relevance of a topic, issue, or value discussed during a particular unit.  While this is your opportunity to react to something read or discussed in class, it is not an arena to complain about the course or me.  You can, of course, do this but not in your responses.


Each Response should contain the following elements: The subject of your response (i.e. the topic, issue, or value your are responding to) and why you have chosen to respond to it. 


Guidelines for grading the Portfolio:




Unit Assignment


Values Analysis





Note: Some Portfolio components will be due in class before the final due date of the Notebook.  Failure to submit such assignments on time will result in a letter grade point deduction per day from the final grade for those assignments.   Also, in-class writing assignments may not be made up in the event of a student’s absence.


All written assignments will be graded for completeness and academic quality.  There will be point deductions for excessive misspellings, poor grammar, and lack of thought.  Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor—in person, or by phone or e-mail—early and often in the preparation of your Portfolios.


Please note: Failure to submit all assigned work will result in failure of the class.


Attendance is mandatory.  If you miss more than 3 classes consider the effect on your grade.  Should you miss more, please do not offer excuses, notes or request special consideration.  Keep in mind a) that “dropping a course” is perfectly legitimate when circumstances arise that prevent you from completion, and b) that I should not be expected to change class expectations based on your circumstances.  I make no distinction between types of absences; an absence is simply an absence.  You are responsible for all class assignments regardless of attendance.  Quizzes covering assigned readings may be given at any time and factored into the course grade at the discretion of the instructor.  If you are unable to complete this course, you must withdraw from it.  Please note that if you miss more than three classes, I reserve the right to drop you from the course.  The last date to drop is Tuesday, November 14.


Class Participation.  A large portion of class time will be devoted to discussion.  Discussions will draw primarily on the online readings.  Your class participation will consist of my evaluation of your preparedness and the level of your participation in these discussions.  Obviously, if you are absent on a discussion day you will be unable to participate very effectively. 


Internet/Blackboard:  Feel free to send email to the address above.  Please assume I have no idea who you are so include your name and course number in the message.  Keep in mind that I will not entertain discussion about grades, missed classes &etc over email—that’s why faculty have office hours.  In addition, this syllabus, the lecture/reading schedule, some of the course readings and any other class handouts will be accessed through Blackboard.  Announced changes to the lecture/reading schedule will be reflected in the schedule’s online version.  Some work will be turned in through Blackboard.


Academic Integrity:


Familiarize yourself with Texas Wesleyan’s Student Code of Conduct.  Academics are not only devoted to learning, research, and the advancement of knowledge, but also to the development of ethically sensitive and responsible persons. By accepting membership in this class, you are joining a community characterized by free expression, free inquiry, honesty, respect for others, and participation in constructive change.  All rights and responsibilities exercised within this academic environment shall be compatible with these principles. 


Academic Dishonesty is a breach of the Student Code of Conduct.  Dishonesty includes:

  1. Plagiarism, representing the work of another as one's own work;
  2. Preparing work for another that is to be used as that person's own work;
  3. Cheating by any method or means;
  4. Knowingly and willfully falsifying or manufacturing scientific or educational data and representing the same to be the result of scientific or scholarly experiment or research;
  5. Knowingly furnishing false information to a university official relative to academic matters;
  6. Soliciting, aiding, abetting, concealing, or attempting conduct in violation of this code.


Academic Dishonesty will not be tolerated in this course. Any offense will result in an F in the class (not simply on the assignment) and be referred to the appropriate academic officials for adjudication. If you have any questions regarding this subject please see me.  For a detailed description and further clarification, please see the link for “Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty” on my website, the Texas Wesleyan Catalog, or the Student Handbook.


Writing for this course should employ standard academic formatting—double spaced, typed in 12-point Times font, with 1 inch margins all around—with citations following either MLA or Chicago style.  If you need help with this see you English writing handbook, the Wesleyan library or the instructor.  Correct use of source information and citations is assumed on the college level.  Failure to cite or format according to one of the styles listed will result in a lower grade.  See Grading Guidelines on the class webpage for specific grading criteria regarding written work. 


Statement of Understanding:


As a professional, I follow the American or western model of higher education.  According to this model the instructor encourages the students to think critically.  This is not merely the expression of an opinion, but well-thought, structured and supported arguments.  Do not be surprised if I voice an unconventional argument—particularly as we get into more current events.  My purpose is not to express my own opinion but to challenge you to think critically about the topic being considered.  If you find yourself offended by something said in the classroom, consider than in the Humanities and Social Sciences “Truth” is at best illusive and tolerance essential. 


A valid method of instruction that has been used in the east and west for centuries, since 500 BCE, was founded in Greece; the Socratic method is based on rhetorical argumentation.  Rhetorical argument, in the classical sense, means the following: to inform, to convince, to explore, to make decisions, and even to meditate, as odd that may sound.  Although arguments may at times “pique” you emotionally, as an educated person you must learn to weigh ideas and use logic and not emotion to counter the argument.  Scholars of pedagogy agree that we learn best when we are confronted with a problem or, put another way, when we are humbled.  Therefore you should not consider a critique from me or anyone else in the class to be a negative attack or an occasion for anger and vengeance, but an opportunity for critical thought and reflection.  Moreover, and most importantly, education requires us to be tolerant of ideas that we may not understand and to consider values that we do not embrace.  Tolerance means that we allow others to believe a certain way even though we do not believe it; it does not mean that we have to embrace that belief.  If, however, we do not open our minds enough to understand ideas that we might disagree with, then we all will live in shallow, ignorant worlds of like minds and never come to agreement about anything except among people who thing just like us.  The latter is not characteristic of a university and as a member of Texas Wesleyan’s academic community, I assume that you agree. 


I respect students who respect learning, so please do not show disrespect to me or your fellow students by asking to submit papers late.  Also, if you turn in writing that does not meet the standards set for class, you will receive the grade you deserve.  That grade does not reflect anything personal; it is strictly a professional assessment of academic work.  I have many years of experience on the university level, so I am fully aware of how to score work.  Although I am always happy to explain why you earned a particular grade on an assignment, please think carefully before asking me to change a grade; to do so is tantamount to asking me to undermine the integrity and professional standards to which I try to adhere.  It is also an insult to the students who earned a higher grade.  I will protect the students who earned those grades. 



·         I grade the quality of your work rather than the amount of time and effort you spend on it.

·         I will strive to help you perform at your best.


My Goal in teaching this class is that you develop an understanding and appreciation of the values of the ancient, Greek and Roman, and Early Modern periods of the Mediterranean world from multiple perspectives.  I want you to understand the values of the period and be able to connect them to your own as you articulate them in written and spoken form. 

In our class, ideas will hold precedence over facts, dates, and the like.  It is important that you consider the classroom an open forum for discussion—of anything related to the themes and topics of the course.  (Of course, any argument—whether spoken or written—must be supported.)  While I (or other students) may challenge beliefs/perspectives, realize that the purpose is not to change them.  That said, an open/tolerant attitude is essential in this class.  Remember—this is a college course where you ought to be able to discuss things openly and intelligently.  If you choose to be intolerant and interrupt class discussion, I reserve the right to you to leave the classroom.


As a goal, historians strive to be objective.  Therefore, for the purposes of this class regarding the religious beliefs that are held by the various groups we will examine, all are equally valid.  That is, while faith and organized religion certainly affected the period, we will avoid arguments that suggest one group or religion has any more claim to absolute “Truth” than another.


Small Print:


Texas Wesleyan University Policies


·  Students should read the current Texas Wesleyan University Catalog and Student Handbook to become familiar with University policies.


·  Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person’s material as one’s own), or completing assignments for another person who will receive academic credit are impermissible. This includes the use of unauthorized books, notebooks, or other sources in order to secure or give help during an examination, the unauthorized copying of examinations, assignments, reports, or term papers, or the presentation of unacknowledged material as if it were the student’s own work.  Disciplinary action may be taken beyond the academic discipline administered by the course instructor. Course exams may not be printed out. Any person possessing a hardcopy of a course exam will be in breach of copyright and may be held liable.]


·  Texas Wesleyan University adheres to a disability policy which is in keeping with relevant federal law. The University will provide appropriate accommodation as determined by the Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Michael Ellison. Students must notify instructors of any permanent or temporary disabilities and must provide documentation regarding those disabilities prior to the granting of an accommodation. For assistance, students should consult with Dr. Ellison at mellison@txwes.edu or (817) 531-7565.


·  Course syllabi are intended to provide students with basic information concerning the course. The syllabus can be viewed as a 'blueprint' for the course; changes in the syllabus can be made and students will be informed of any substantive changes concerning examinations, the grading or attendance policies and changes in project assignments.


·  Any course taken at Texas Wesleyan University and repeated for a grade must be repeated at Texas Wesleyan University. Any course taken at another university may be repeated at Texas Wesleyan, and the most recent grade on the course will be counted. When a course is repeated, the grade point average will be computed using the most recent grade achieved.


·  As noted in the catalog under the Unified Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Texas Wesleyan University is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment.  If you have experienced any such discrimination or harassment, including gender- or sex-based forms, know that help and support are available from the following resources:

o Complete online incident report at https://txwes.edu/student-life/report-a-concern/

o Contact Campus Conduct Hotline (24 hours a day): (866) 943-5787

o Campus security (24 hours a day): (817) 531-4911

o Dean of Students: deanofstudents@txwes.edu OR (817) 531-4872

o Please be aware that all Texas Wesleyan University employees, other than designated confidential resources (i.e., Community Counseling Center) are required to report credible evidence of prohibited discrimination or harassment to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, or to one of the Title IX Assistant Coordinators.  If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the Community Counseling Center at (817) 531-4859 to schedule an appointment.



Fall 2017- Tentative Semester Schedule

                (Portfolios are due at the start of the day/class posted.)


Aug 22

Introduction to the course

Aug 24

Analyzing Values (bring Relationships and Perspectives worksheet)

Sources: Introduction to Humanities; Values Analysis Guide

Aug 29

Analyzing Primary Sources (read info on Primary Sources)

Sources: Exploring Values in Sources guide, Interacting with Music, Pictures, and Text, Benton, Speech to the Senate (1846)

Aug 31

Analyzing Primary Sources (cont)

Sources: Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture; David, Oath of the Horatii

Unit 1 Part 1 The Pre-Amarna Cultural Matrix

Sept 5

Introduction to the Pre-Amarna CM and the Value of “Order”

Sources: Overview; Values (first part on “Order”)

Sept 7

Values of Myth

Sources: Myth docs

Sept 12

Pre-Amarna Primary Sources

Sources: The Epic of Gilgamesh

Sept 14

Value of Order

Sources: Hammurabi selection

Unit 1 Part 2 The Post-Amarna Cultural Matrix



Sept 19

Introduction to the Post-Amarna CM and the Value of “Connections”

Readings: Values (second part on “Connections”)

Sept 21, 26

Connecting to Past Cultures (Unit 1 Assignment Due)

Sources: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Hebrew Social Justice, Isaiah, Jonah, Job

Sept 28

First Notebook Due

Unit 2 Part 1 The Greek Cultural Matrix



Oct 3

Introduction to the Greek CM and the Value of “Inquiry into Perfection

Sources, Plato, Allegory of the Cave

Oct 5

Value of Humanism

Sources: Pericles, Funeral Oration; Crito, Religion as a Human Invention; Sophocles, Lauding Human Talents

Oct 10

Discussion - Sophocles’ Antigone

Sources: Selections from Antigone

Oct 12

The Greek Legacy

Sources: Plato, Apology; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Thucydides, Method of Historical Inquiry

Unit 2 Part 2 The Roman Cultural Matrix



Oct 17

Introduction to the Roman CM and the Value of “Unity

Oct 19

Roman Values

Sources: Livy, Rape of the Sabine Women, Rape of Lucretia; Polybius, The Roman Army

Oct 24

Discussion of Roman Primary Sources

Sources: Cicero on Caesar’s Assassination; Dio Cassius on Caesar; Aurelius, Meditations

Oct 26

Second Notebook Due

Unit 3 Part 1 The Byzantine-Islamic-Feudal Cultural Matrixes



Oct 31

Introduction to the B-I-F CM and the Value of “Loyalty”

Nov 2

Theology, Universities and Economics

Sources: Augustine, City of God, Salisbury, On the Liberal Arts, Feudal Documents

Nov 7

Primary Sources: Qur'an; Innocent III, On the Misery of the Human Condition; The Hammer of Witches;Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica;  

Unit 3 Part 2 The Renaissance Cultural Matrix

Nov 9

Introduction to the Renaissance CM and the Value of “The Individual”

Nov 14

Loyalty and the Individual

Nov 16

Discussion of Renaissance Primary Sources: Machiavelli, The Prince; Pico, "Oration on the Dignity of Man";

Nov 28

Art and Music

Nov 30

Discussion and Readings: Erasmus, Praise of Folly (1509); Thomas More, Utopia (1516); Shakespeare, Selections on Human Nature and HUMAN CONDITION; Luther, On Papal Power, Justification by Faith, The Interpretation of the Bible, and the Nature of the Clergy, On Christian Liberty (1520)

Dec 5 Unit 3 Assignment Due by 5:30pm

Dec 12

Third Notebook Due


Values-Analysis Guide

1. Value. The concept of value is familiar to all of us. It appears whenever we ask the question: "What is something worth?" (Often, we raise this question as an economic concern!) A value is a standard people use to judge the worth of objects, experiences, ideas, and actions. Any standard that provides a basis for human action is a value. A value is something that is important enough to someone that s/he does something about it. Therefore, anything can be a value. A value might consist of an ethical trait, an idea, or an object. To summarize: a value is anything that leads to an action by some human being. People act the way they do because of their values, and actions always reveal values. Here are four principles for identifying values:

  1. First Principle. If anything can be a value, the way we discover values is to look at people's actions. VALUE IS A CONCEPT THAT REFERS TO ACTIONS MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE.
  2. Second Principle. We must distinguish between the ways in which values are shaped and the ways in which they are demonstrated. Values are shaped by people's needs (basic feelings and desires), the situations in which they find themselves, the projects they undertake, and the beliefs they hold. However, people demonstrate their values by what they do more than by what they say or think or believe or observe or hear. Since actions count more than beliefs, people may fool themselves by thinking their values are what they believe rather than what they do. For most people, there is a gap between actions (which demonstrate "real" values) and beliefs (which demonstrate "ideal" values).
  3. Third Principle. Applying the action principle to artifacts from the past is simple. Anything handed down to us from the past is itself an action. If a person writes something, that writing constitutes an action. We can read it and determine the values that brought it into being. The same thing applies to music and art. They are the products of actions. We loosely call these sorts of things "primary" sources. A primary source is something that comes to us from the past.
  4. Fourth Principle. The final principle of identifying values -- and this applies as well to giving examples of values -- is that values only occur in particular situations as a person does some action. You can't detect a value when there's nothing to detect. We can call this principle the situation principle. It reminds us to never talk about a value apart from some description of a specific action.

2. Value-System. Although values are often discussed in isolation, they never exist in isolation. Values exist in systems. A value-system is a cluster of values that are reasonably consistent with one another. The individual values in a system interact with each other through various relationships. The importance of a value always depends on its relationships to other values. The means that analysis of values must consider the interplay of at least two values. Discussing one value cannot reveal anything significant about the value. As values are enacted through value-systems, they reveal the perspectives, or basic attitudes, people hold toward others. Here are three characteristics of value-systems:


  1. First Characteristic: Consistency of the Values in the System. Values in a system are reasonably, not totally, consistent. Even an individual cannot (usually) live by a totally consistent value-system, and groups identified by value-systems show greater variances than individuals. However, the inconsistency occurs within a fairly narrow range.
  2. Second Characteristic: Relative Importance of the Values in the System. Values have relative, not absolute, importance. Their role in the actions generated by the value-system depends on their relationships to each other as acted out in specific situations. Such relationships are easily seen when a person makes an either-or choice. The value chosen becomes more important, and the value rejected becomes less important. But the rejected value may remain as part of the system because it will be chosen in different circumstances.
  3. Third Characteristic: Hierarchy of the Values in the System. The values in a particular value-system may be diagrammed as a pyramid. We usually think of hierarchy in terms of higher and lower. Frequent actions based on a value put the value higher in the system than values that are rarely acted on. Often, the difference between actions and beliefs plays a crucial role in determining the location of values in a system. Another issue of relevance to the question of hierarchy is the problem we frequently encounter in determining whether one value is higher than another. Here's where the model of a pyramid comes in handy. When you can't decide on the question of higher-lower, you can just put the values side by side.


We've said that values never exist in isolation. Life just isn't that simple. When people or groups act, they always act on the basis of more than one value at a time. We use the term relationship to refer to the way in which two or more values interact with each other. You need to focus on this use of the term, for "relationship" often means other things. For us, it always describes some connection between values. The one principle to keep in mind when identifying relationships is: Relationships between Values Only Occur in Particular Situations. Two values in themselves do not have a "relationship" with each other. They only relate when they are connected to each other by the actions of a person or group in some specific circumstance. The only way to explain or give an example of a relationship is to look at some action. Once you observe and describe an action, you can identify the values on which the action is based. Then (and only then) you can determine how they are connected as shown by the action. (Remember that a "primary" source is an action, so you can discuss the relationships of values in, or even between, "primary" sources.)

1.       Integrating Relationship. In this relationship, one of the values acted out in a situation is higher (worth more) than the other. The higher value "integrates" (holds together) the other value with itself. Or we could say it pulls the other to itself. An example could be a person who drinks a coke with ice. The value of the coke integrates the value of the ice, because the coke is more important than the ice. So the person who likes ice in the coke might settle for an "ice-cold" coke. But settling for the ice would be drinking ice-water, an entirely different action.

2.       Utilitarian Relationship. If an integrating relationship assesses the connection between two unequal but compatible values from the point-of-view of the higher value, a utilitarian relationship provides one way of assessing the connection from the point-of-view of the lower value. "Utilitarian" means "useful for some purpose." In a utilitarian relationship the lower value supports (or helps, or assists, or promotes) the higher value. Since the two values in the relationship do not have equal importance, we cannot say that they support each other. (This phrase might be used for a different relationship.) The supporting value has less importance, and the value which is supported has greater importance.

3.       Complementary Relationship. What if we consider an action in which the two values seem to be compatible and of about equal importance? In such a case, we can say that the values complement (or complete each other, or fill each other out). If we conclude that two values support each other in an action, we would say that their relationship is complementary. Say a person puts a shoe on each foot in order to go for a walk. Both feet are equally important, right? The value of having a shoe on the right foot doesn't assist or pull together the value of having a shoe on the left foot, does it? Then the two values are complementary. They fit together.

4.       Intrinsic Relationship. This may seem like a tough one, because "intrinsic" means "for its own sake," or "in and of itself." So how can two values have an intrinsic relationship if each value is an end in itself? Neither value helps the other. Nor does either hurt the other. The answer is that although the two values connected by an intrinsic relationship are independent of one another, a person acts on the basis of both in a given situation. The relationship is a matter of coincidence, and the coincidence is that both values lead to actions in the same circumstance. Often, we may describe habits by this relationship. Take chewing gum. Have you ever known a person who seemed to be chewing gum all the time? The person could chew gum and drive a car. The key phrase is "at the same time." Whatever values people act out in a particular situation have some relationship. If the only connection is that the person is doing two things at the same time, the relationship is intrinsic.

5.       Conflicting Relationship. Sometime we have to act on the basis of a choice between two values that oppose each other. Such choices often play a critical role in the development of our personal value-systems, because they tend to involve the notions of "right" and "wrong." Either-or choices, where questions of right and wrong are involved, reveal a conflicting relationship between values. Conflicting relationships tend to involve ethical values, which many people wrongly consider the only values. Situations that demonstrate conflicting relationships usually center around some decision made by the person acting on the basis of the conflicting values. Say a student notices another student cheating on an examination. The value of loyalty could suggest that one should not inform on a fellow student. A value such as self-interest (so the cheating student won't raise the "curve") suggests that one should inform. What to do? In this situation the values of loyalty and self-interest both play a role because they determine courses of action. But one can act on the basis of one value or the other, not both.

6.       Competing Relationship. If conflicting relationships involve a "right" value placed against a "wrong" value, competing relationships involve two "right" values about which a person has to make a decision for action. The decision involves two values of approximately equal worth to the individual who acts, yet the person must decide to act on only one of them in a particular situation. Why? The two values "interfere" with each other. There must be a factor in addition to the two values that prevents a person from acting on the basis of both values. The most common "outside factors" are time, energy, and money. A person may not have enough time, or enough energy, or enough money to act on both values in a particular situation.


1.       Ethnocentric Perspective. Ethnocentrism is the perspective that one's own values are true for everybody. It is grounded in the notion that one's own way of doing or looking at things is the only logical, rational way. A phrase that captures the essence of ethnocentrism is: "what is true for me must be true for you." Of course this is so -- the ethnocentric person has discovered the "logical" basis for action! Terms associated with ethnocentrism are: close-mindedness, prejudice, bigotry, and authoritarianism.

Ethnocentrism makes judgments about the "other." The other is wrong if it's different. Ethnocentric judgments make no critical appraisal of evidence or "facts." If "my" way of doing or looking at things is the only logical or correct way, there is no need or desire to examine alternatives. We act in an ethnocentric fashion whenever we try to get others to conform to our standards without seriously considering alternatives, or whenever we close our mind to other points-of-view, or whenever we think ill of (and then act ill toward) others without evidence sufficient to justify the thought or action.

2.       Relativistic Perspective. Relativism is the perspective that values are only true in certain cultural or social settings. For a relativist, nothing is true for everybody all the time. A phrase that captures the essence of relativism is: "what is true for me may or may not be true for you." Other phrases are: "live and let live"; "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil"; and "I'm ok, you're ok."

The term most closely associated with relativism is open-mindedness, usually understood in the sense of "non-judgmental." This association is so strong that a refusal to make judgments is often mistaken for freedom from prejudice.

3.       Tolerant Perspective. Tolerance is the perspective grounded in the belief that there are universal standards for human behavior. However, there is no way to describe the standards with precision or confidence. You really should pause and think about this for a moment! These are the twin pillars of the perspective of tolerance -- a) universal standards b) that are unknown.

Critical judgment plays a crucial role in considerations of tolerance. The starting-point of tolerance is to consider more than one point-of-view. To consider another point of view is to encounter the "other." Like ethnocentrism, tolerance makes judgments about the "other." The difference is that ethnocentrism makes judgments based solely on the point-of-view of the ethnocentric person. Tolerance, on the other hand, bases its judgments on a rational consideration of all available evidence. Tolerance knows that its judgments are provisional, because all the evidence is not in. Ethnocentrism knows that its judgments are right, because they represent the only "logical" way of thinking. Tolerance uses logic to question all judgments, especially its own.

From its starting-point assumption about standards that are unknown, the perspective of tolerance goes on to ask a question: what is the acceptable amount of variation from these standards? This question provides the key to linking the idea of tolerance (as a perspective) to the many definitions of "tolerance" in the dictionary. "Variation from a standard" is an important meaning for the word "tolerance." Now you might be thinking it's really crazy to ask about the amount of legitimate variation from standards that one can't even define. If you do entertain this thought, you have hit on both the appeal and the difficulty of the idea of tolerance.

Here are three (somewhat overlapping) "rules" for the practice of tolerance:

1.       Although tolerance may involve the analysis of other groups by comparing their values with the values of one's own group, practicing tolerance seems to function most fully when it involves meaningful communication between individuals. The failure to achieve meaningful communication generally rests on the inability of the persons involved to respect and trust each other. True dialog and honest encounter mean willingness to respect each other and to share deep and controversial ideas without an attempt to minimize disagreements.

2.       Accepting other beliefs and values as valid for the "other" simply because they belong to the "other" is relativism. Tolerance may accept, reject, or suspend judgment about the "other," but only after a rational analysis of the "other" and by a rational comparison with one's own viewpoint. Tolerance is trying to enlarge one's own view by examining alternative views and making critical judgments. To be tolerant, people have to be willing to change if they encounter data that shows them they need to change.

3.       We should refuse to make naive claims about "universal" values -- this would be ethnocentrism -- but we can practice tolerance by trying to enlarge our own views through honest, empathetic, and compassionate dialog with different views. This doesn't necessarily have to occur through personal conversations, though personal conversations are one way of achieving such dialog. We could engage in dialog with "primary" sources -- such as art, music, and writings -- from the past. Both tolerance and relativism imply respect for alternate viewpoints. The difference is that tolerance requires us to ask if the beliefs and values of others might be useful in our own lives.

The phrase that captures the essence of tolerance is: "what is true for everyone must be true for me." It's easy to misunderstand this phrase. It DOES NOT MEAN "going along with the crowd." In the phrase "everyone" means "everyone," not some particular group.

The term most closely associated with tolerance is inclusiveness, but again one must beware of misunderstanding the concept. Tolerance never means accepting other beliefs and values simply because they belong to someone else. And it is not a matter of "political correctness" (as the idea of inclusiveness has often come to imply). Tolerance is trying to enlarge one's own view by examining other beliefs and values, and making critical judgments about them.

We hear the word "tolerance" used all the time. Usually we hear it as a synonym for "relativism." In this we encounter a final, widespread misunderstanding. "I can tolerate that," or "I have a lot of tolerance," or "I am a very tolerant person." In all these phrases the term "tolerance" is used as a quasi-substitute for relativism, that is for a perspective that tries to avoid ethnocentrism by assuming a non-judgmental position.