I have found it illuminating, including about myself, to read lectures by G. A. Cohen (Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy, Princeton, 2014), a distinguished philosopher who died in 2009. He began as a Marxist - interestingly, he came from a Jewish Marxist family - but became more critical of that later on in his career.

It is remarkable how often thinking of this kind gets mixed up with the ancient Greeks. In the first lecture on the Sophists, Socrates, and Plato, Cohen focused on the Sophists' distinction (or contrast) between nature and convention. Traditionalists, both of 2,500 years ago and since, are apt to claim that conventional standards and valuations are natural (unavoidable), whereas the Sophists said no to that. I confess I had not come across this particular twist on the argument before, but when I think about it I find I have to be on the Sophists' side and not their critics.

Basically, I see no reason to imagine the universe out there having any values at all. Only living organisms develop systems of conduct. Maybe, only human beings are capable of making 'lifestyle choices' based on ethical or other considerations. For instance, how many other animal species can make dietary choices, say for religious or animal rights reasons?

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