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Encyclopedia > Value theory

Value theories investigate how people positively and negatively value things and concepts, the reasons they use in making their evaluations, and the scope of applications of legitimate evaluations across the social world. When put into practice, these views are meant to explain our views of the good.

At the general level, there is a difference between moral and natural goods. Moral goods are those that have to do with the conduct of persons, usually leading to praise or blame. Natural goods, on the other hand, have to do with objects, not persons. For example, to say that "Mary is a morally good person" might involve a different sense of "good" than that in the sentence "A banana split is good."

Ethics tend to be more interested in moral goods than natural goods, while economics tends to be more interested in the reverse. However, both moral and natural goods are equally interesting to goodness and value theory, which is more general in scope.



In psychology, value theory refers to the study of the manner in which human beings develop, assert and believe in certain values, and act or fail to act on them. Psychology is an academic and applied field involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. ...

Attempts are made to explain experimentally why human beings prefer or choose some things over others, how personal behavior may be guided (or fail to be guided) by certain values and judgments, and how values emerge at different stages of human development (see e.g. the work by Lawrence Kohlberg and Kohlberg's stages of moral development.) Lawrence Kohlberg (October 25, 1927 – January 19, 1987) was born in Bronxville, New York. ... Kohlbergs stages of moral development are planes of moral adequacy conceived by Lawrence Kohlberg to explain the development of moral reasoning. ...

In psychotherapy and counseling, eliciting and clarifying the values of the client can play an important role to help the client orient or reorient himself or herself in social life. // Psychotherapy is a range of techniques which use only dialogue and communication and which are designed to improve the mental health of a client or patient, or to improve group relationships (such as in a family). ...


Main article: Value theory (sociology)

In sociology, value theory is concerned with personal values which are popularly held by a community, and how those values might change under particular conditions. Different groups of people may hold or prioritize different kinds of values influencing social behavior. Major Western theorists include Max Weber, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and J├╝rgen Habermas, and methods of study range from questionnaire surveys to participant observation. Social interactions and their consequences are the subject of sociology. ... Maximilian Weber (IPA: ) (April 21, 1864 – June 14, 1920) was a German political economist and sociologist who is considered one of the founders of the modern study of sociology and public administration. ... Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818, Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883, London) was an immensely influential philosopher, political economist, and socialist revolutionary. ... David Émile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 - November 15, 1917) is known as the founder of modern sociology. ... Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929 in Düsseldorf) is a German philosopher, political scientist and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory, best known for his concept of the public sphere. ...


Those who are interested in describing the values people have may often take up an economist's standpoint. Economic analysis emphasizes that what is sought in the marketplace are goods, and tends to use the consumer's choices as evidence that various products are of value. In this view, religious or political struggle over what "goods" are available in the marketplace is inevitable, and consensus on some core questions about body and society and ecosystems affected by the transaction, are outside the market's goods so long as they are unowned. Paul Samuelson, Nobel Prize in Economics winner. ... Consensus has two common meanings. ...

However, some natural goods seem to also be moral goods. For example, those things that are owned by a person may be said to be natural goods, but over which particular individual(s) may have moral claims. So it is necessary to make another distinction: between moral and non-moral goods. A non-moral good is something that is desirable for someone or other; despite the name to the contrary, it may include moral goods. A moral good is anything which an actor is considered to be morally obligated to strive toward.

When discussing non-moral goods, one may make a useful distinction between inherently serviced and material goods in the marketplace (or its exchange value), versus perceived intrinsic and experiential goods to the buyer. A strict service economy model takes pains to distinguish between the goods and service guarantees to the market, and that of the service and experience to the consumer. In Marxian political economy, exchange value refers to one of three major aspects of a commodity, i. ... Service economy can refer to one or both of two recent economic developments. ...

Sometimes, moral and natural goods can conflict. The value of natural "goods" is challenged by such issues as addiction. The issue of addiction also brings up the distinction between economic and moral goods, where an economic good is whatever stimulates economic growth. For instance, some claim that cigarettes are a "good" in the economic sense, as their production can employ tobacco growers and doctors who treat lung cancer. Many people would agree that cigarette smoking is not morally "good", nor naturally "good," but still recognize that it is economically good, which means, it has exchange value, even though it have a negative public good or even be bad for a person's body (not the same as "bad for the person" necessarily - consider the issue of suicide.) Addiction is a chronic disorder proposed to be precipitated by a combination of genetic, biological/pharmacological and social factors. ... Accumulated GDP growth for various countries. ... A lit cigarette will burn to ash from one end. ... Species Nicotiana acuminata Nicotiana alata Nicotiana attenuata Nicotiana benthamiana Nicotiana clevelandii Nicotiana excelsior Nicotiana forgetiana Nicotiana glauca Nicotiana glutinosa Nicotiana langsdorffii Nicotiana longiflora Nicotiana obtusifolia Nicotiana paniculata Nicotiana plumbagifolia Nicotiana quadrivalvis Nicotiana repanda Nicotiana rustica Nicotianasuaveolens Nicotiana sylvestris Nicotiana tabacum Nicotiana tomentosa Ref: ITIS 30562 as of August 26, 2005... Lung cancer is a cancer of the lungs characterized by the presence of malignant tumours. ... In Marxian political economy, exchange value refers to one of three major aspects of a commodity, i. ... In economics, a public good is a good that is hard or even impossible to produce for private profit, because the market fails to account for its large beneficial externalities. ... Suicide (from Latin sui caedere, to kill oneself) is the act of willfully ending ones own life. ...

In Ecological Economics value theory is separated into two types: Donor-type value and receiver-type value. Ecological economists tend to believe that 'real wealth' needs a donor-determined value as a measure of what things were needed to make an item or generate a service. (H.T. Odum 1996). An example of receiver-type value is 'market value', or 'willingness to pay', the principle method of accounting used in neo-classical economics. In contrast both, Marx's labour theory of value and the 'Emergy' concept are conceived as donor-type value. Emergy theorists believe that this conception of value has relevance to all of philosophy, economics, sociology and psychology as well as Environmental Science. Ecological economics is a branch of economics that addresses the interdependence and co-evolution between human economies and natural ecosystems. ... The neutrality of this article is disputed. ...

Ethics and Axiology

See also Goodness

Intuitively, theories of value must be important to ethics. A number of useful distinctions have been made by philosophers in the treatment of value. For the philosophical concept of goodness see Goodness and value theory. ... Ethics (from the Ancient Greek ethikos, meaning arising from habit), a major branch of philosophy, is the study of value or quality. ...

Intrinsic and instrumental goods

Many people find it useful to distinguish instrumental and intrinsic goods, first discussed by Plato in the "Republic". An instrumental good is worth having as a means towards getting something else that is good (e.g., a radio is instrumentally good in order to hear music.) And an intrinsically good thing is worth having for itself, even if it doesn't help one get anything else that's good (e.g., the sound of beautiful music). An intrinsic property is a property that an object or a thing has of itself, independently of other things, including its context. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ...

But these are not mutually exclusive categories. Some things are both good in themselves, and also good for getting other things that are good. "Understanding science" may be such a good, being both worthwhile in and of itself, and as a means of achieving other goods, such as producing technology.

Since instrumental goods are always tied to other goods, it may be said (for instance, in deontological ethics) that the values by which one lives must ultimately be intrinsic. For example, most people pursue the goal of making money so that they can afford what they call "the finer things in life," and since people dedicate their lives to achieving these things, it might be said they hold some kind of intrinsic value. However, some, including hedonists, claim that there is only one thing that is an "intrinsic good:" pleasure. And others, like skeptics and ethical nihilists, doubt whether there are any intrinsic goods at all. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Gadabout redirects here. ...

Pragmatism and contributory goodness

For more on this subject, see Pragmatism. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

John Dewey (1859-1952) in his book Theory of Valuation saw goodness as the outcome of "valuation", a continuous balancing of "ends in view." An end in view was said to be an objective potentially adopted, which may be refined or rejected based on its consistency with other objectives or as a means to objectives already held. John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, whose thoughts and ideas have been greatly influential in the United States and around the world. ... 1859 (MDCCCLIX) is a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar). ... 1952 (MCMLII) was a Leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

His empirical approach did not accept intrinsic value as an inherent or enduring property of things. He saw it as an illusory product of our continuous valuing activity as purposive beings. When held across only some contexts, Dewey held that goods are only intrinsic relative to a situation. When across all contexts, goodness is best understood as instrumental, with no contrasting intrinsic goodness. In other words, Dewey claimed that anything can only be of intrinsic value if it is a contributory good.

Another improvement is to distinguish contributory goods. These have the same qualities as the good thing, but need some emergent property of a whole state-of-affairs in order to be good. For example, salt is food on its own, and good as such, but is far better as part of a prepared meal. Providing a good outside this context is not delivery of what is expected. In other words, such goods are only good when certain conditions are met. This is in contrast to other goods, which may be considered "good" in a wider variety of situations.

Those philosophers that think goods have to create desirable mental states also say that goods are experiences of self-aware beings. These philosophers often distinguish the desirable experience, which they call an "intrinsic" good, from the things in the world that seem to cause the experience, which they call "inherent" goods.

Kant: hypothetical and categorical goods

For more information


  • Odum, H.T. (1996), Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making, Wiley.

See also

  Results from FactBites:
value theory: Definition and Much More from Answers.com (1610 words)
Value theories investigate how people positively and negatively value things and concepts, the reasons they use in making their evaluations, and the scope of applications of legitimate evaluations across the social world.
In psychology, value theory refers to the study of the manner in which human beings develop, assert and believe in certain values, and act or fail to act on them.
In contrast both, Marx's labour theory of value and the 'Emergy' concept are conceived as donor-type value.
  More results at FactBites »



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