3. Modern conceptions of human liberty require that all values be viewed as subjective. The subjective nature of value gives the private striving of each individual person — even when vacuous or image-inspired or greed-inspired — the same weight. Attempts to put value on an objective footing are to be viewed with suspicion.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, European and American imperialism created a view of the world in which many people on earth were considered ignorant, and in which it was taken for granted that the views of white Victorian gentlemen were correct. At the end of the 19th century the new discipline of anthropology was gradually able to attack this Victorian point of view, by establishing the idea that each culture is coherent in its own terms. This crucial idea helped to dissolve racist and imperialist mentality, and helped to forge a mental platform on which one could assert that each culture had its own dignity, its own rightness in its own terms.
In the last decades of the 20th century this movement was extended to protect the rights of many groups in society. Many distinguishable groups are now able to assert the dignity of their values — whether it be handicapped people, people with various sexual preferences, subcultures of ethnic or religious particularity, groups of particular age, and so on. But the importance of these movements, and the increase in human dignity they have created, make it almost more difficult to assert general truths in the realm of value. So, by the end of the 20th century, the liberality and freedom of the century’s early years had helped to create an atmosphere of pluralism in which nearly “anything goes”, and in which it had become intellectually almost impossible to assert the rightness of any value — since to do so, would challenge, and possibly undermine again, the political freedoms which had been so hard won.
Thus the idiosyncratic and private view of value, which began with the scientific revolution of the 17th century, has led to the assumption that value, valuation, and judgement and taste, are so deeply embedded in the realm of individual rights that they almost cannot be seen as based on an objective reality.
Perhaps because of this tacit assumption #3, efforts to identify the living character of buildings are too often met with skepticism, even anger.