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See the procedure shown in Section 8.1.3. Table 8.4 shows the successive

comparisons made in following that procedure, and Tables 8.5 and 8.6 show

the result. It’s the kind of process to expect when you do Exercise 8.3. The

interviewER’s and interviewEE’s utterances are labelled ‘ER’ and ‘EE’,


ER: So now we know some of your personal values: the ones which you draw

on in construing this topic. Let’s see how you prioritise them. Yes, they’re all

personal beliefs, important to you . . . but some are more strongly held than

others. I’d like to explore with you which ones are bedrock, and which are,

you know, important but less fundamental. Let’s start with your first pair of


Life and hope – Hopelessness and despair


Personal moral responsibility – Criminal irresponsibility

Now, I want you to imagine that I’m taking you away to a beautiful tropical

island, somewhere in the south Pacific: somewhere where you’ll spend the rest

of your days. Actually, there are two possible islands. On the first one, you’ll

live as part of a society where there is ‘life and hope’, but at the cost of

‘criminal irresponsibility’. Shall I leave you to live there? Or shall we sail on to

the second island, where you can live a life of complete ‘personal moral

responsibility’, but you will certainly encounter great ‘hopelessness and

despair’. Which will you choose?

EE: No, sorry! I want life and hope and personal moral responsibility. Not the

other stuff!

ER: I’m sure you do! But this choice is a tough one, and you have to take it!

Either ‘life and hope’, but having to put up with ‘criminal irresponsibility’, or

you can have the ‘personal responsibility’ you want, but there’s a price:

‘hopelessness and despair’. Which is it to be?

EE: Aww. Well, I have to have hope. I couldn’t bear to live out my days in

utter despair.

ER: And you agree to put up with a level of irresponsibility you see as


EE: Yes, if I must, I must. If I have hope, I can always trust that things might

change . . .

ER: Okay: that’s a preference for life and hope [places a ‘yes’ against personal

value A]. Now here’s another possibility. Suppose the choice was a different

one, involving your two values

Life and hope – Hopelessness and despair


Progress – Stagnation

You can live out your days with a feeling of ‘life and hope’, but in a society in

which there is stagnation; or you can choose ‘progress’, but at the cost of

‘hopelessness and despair’. Which would you prefer?

EE: Oh. The first one sounds impossibly frustrating: what’s the point of living

a life in which all your hopes result in nothing but stagnation? If I can make

progress I can’t be hopeless and despairing all of the time! Yes, I’ll take the

second option.

ER: Right: that’s your third personal value, progress, preferred over your first,

life and hope, despite the costs attached [places a ‘yes’ against personal

value B]. Now we compare the first and the fourth. This time your choice is as

follows. On your first island, you would have all the ‘life and hope’ you

wanted, but at the cost of ‘pain and suffering’. Alternatively, you could live a

life lacking all suffering: a life of ‘pleasure and enjoyment’, but there would be

‘hopelessness and despair’ to put up with. Which would you choose?

EE: Well, I guess I would put up with pain and suffering. It’s possible to take

your mind off your troubles if you have a sense of hope.

ER: Ah, hold on . . . that’s a choice of ‘life and hope’ rather than ‘pleasure and


EE: That’s right.

ER: [places a ‘yes’ against personal value A]. Now, what about the following?

You can have ‘life and hope’, but the cost is a disordered society: you live in

‘chaos’, and are a part of it. Alternatively, you have all the ‘order’ that you

might crave, but at the cost of ‘hopelessness and despair’. Which is it to be?

Remember, for the rest of your days . . .

EE: Order is important to me . . . There again, it would be a rather sterile

existence, order amidst hopelessness and despair. No, I think I prefer ‘life and

hope’ at the cost of ‘chaos’. While there’s hope, there’s some sort of life!

ER: [Another ‘yes’ is placed against personal value A, ‘life and hope’. So far,

this value has been preferred three times, with just one occasion on which

another value was preferred to it.] And finally, with this personal value. Your

choice is ‘life and hope’, but the cost you have to pay is that you’re ‘alienated

from other people’. Or, you can have all the ‘sensibility and affiliation’ with

other people that your heart might desire, but you experience ‘hopelessness

and despair’.

EE: That’s awful. Can I skip this one?

ER: No, I’m afraid you can’t! It has to be one or the other.

EE: But it’s a contradiction! How can I have any sort of hope if I’m alienated

from other people? It’s an impossible combination! Sorry, but I can’t.

ER: My heart goes out to you! Look on it this way, though. Can you imagine

hope with alienation, at all?

EE: No. People matter to me. There would be no hope whatsoever if we were


ER: And can you imagine any circumstances in which sensibility and

affiliation could be combined with hopelessness and despair?

EE: Well, yes, I suppose I could. I would cling on to other people as a way of

handling the despair.

ER: So you have to have sensibility and affiliation . . . you’re resigned to giving

up hope?

EE: I suppose so.

ER: [places a tick against personal value F, ‘sensibility and affiliation’]. Now,

the choice changes slightly. We’re going to examine your second personal

value, and see how it compares against the others.

Personal moral responsibility – Criminal irresponsibility

compared, firstly, with

Progress – Stagnation

That gives us this sort of choice. Option one. You live out a life of ‘personal

moral responsibility’ but at a cost of ‘stagnation’. Alternatively, option two:

you live in circumstances in which ‘progress’ is possible and, indeed, occurs,

but where people are ‘criminally irresponsible’, and you get sucked into it too.

Which will you choose?

EE: Well, no, personal moral responsibility matters. ‘Progress’ is a problematic

notion sometimes. There are times when one can live with a bit of stagnation if

one can avoid irresponsibility. Yes: it has to be the first option.

ER: [places a ‘yes’ against personal value B, ‘personal moral responsibility’].

And the second comparison with this personal value, ‘personal moral

responsibility’ at the cost of ‘pain and suffering’, or ‘criminal irresponsibility’

but you live a life of ‘pleasure and enjoyment’.

EE: I must sound very puritan to you . . . but this one’s easy. Irresponsible

pleasure is tempting . . . but no, the choice is personal moral responsibility even

though there may be some pain attached.

ER: [marks personal value B, ‘personal moral responsibility’, with a tick, and

continues]. Okay. Though we’re still working with your second personal

value, we’ve made a lot of comparisons already, and when we’ve finished this

one, we’ll be halfway done. This time it’s ‘personal moral responsibility’ at the

cost of ‘chaos’, or ‘stability and order’ but you have to put up with ‘criminal

irresponsibility’ . . .

And so it continues. Notice how, having completed the first five comparisons

(‘life and hope’ against all the rest), you don’t have to make any further

comparison that includes ‘life and hope’ when you’re focusing on any of the

other personal values. All of them have already been compared with ‘life and


When you’ve finished all the comparisons, add up the ‘yes’ responses against

each personal value as in Table 8.5, and write them down in order, as in

Table 8.6.

You’ll find that, as your interviewees get used to the task, and find ways of

thinking about the circumstances in which they are asked to make a choice,

they can adjust . . . trim . . . alter the ways they think about the personal values,

compromising them to a greater or smaller degree. And that is the point of this

procedure, of course. There are some personal values which are very resistant

to change. Your interviewee will not budge! And there are others which

are . . .more malleable. Notice, though, that this is a relative issue. All of the

values you’re working with have been identified as personal values in the

laddering exercise which precedes the present forced-choice procedure.