Value, Value Theory (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
A value theory indicates the characteristics common to values of all kinds, classifies them, and clarifies the meaning of value-propositions. The kinds or "realms" of value are always said to include moral and aesthetic values, but other kinds are usually mentioned also. For instance, Paul Taylor (1925 lists six others: intellectual, religious, economic, political, legal, and customary realms of value. All value theorists claim that even though there are striking or important differences among kinds of value, their similarities are more fundamental. As Ralph Barton Perry (1876957) puts it, value theory pulls concerns "dispersed among the several philosophical and social sciences" into a single "comprehensive inquiry" in which these various pursuits are "unified and distinguished," so as "to bring to light the underlying principles common to these sciences, and then to employ this principle for the purpose of arbitrating between them" (p. 9).
Value theory is a nineteenth-century development in Western philosophy. Its initiator is usually said to be the German philosopher Rudolf Hermann Lotze (1817881) who sharply distinguished fact and value, arguing that fact was the province of the natural sciences, whereas the humanities concerned themselves with value. Value theorists after Lotze can be grouped into two strands: those who claim that values are discovered or created solely by minds, and those who claim that values are empirical features of things or actions. Contemporary analytic philosophers belong to both strands, differing from their predecessors by limiting their investigations to the language used in asserting or recommending a value. Some metaphysicians reject this limitation and offer grounds for thinking that values are ontologically fundamental.
Strand one: conceptual
Franz Brentano (1838917) argues that values are rooted in human emotions, in the contrast between favorable (love) and unfavorable (hate) intentional attitudes toward objects and events. His student Alexius Meinong (1853920) elaborates this notion by identifying four aspects of any value experience: a value subject who experiences, a value feeling or emotion, a value object toward which this feeling is directed, and an existence judgment that ascribes the feeling's cause to the object. For example, a person watching a sunset has a positive emotional feeling, which the person claims is because of the sunset. Meinong argues that a value emotion is neither independent of publicly verifiable (scientific) fact, as Lotze claims, nor reducible to fact: It is a subjective feeling that can be judged to be reasonable or not by reference to the relevant facts.
J. N. Findlay (1903987) offers a mid-twentieth century version of the Brentano-Meinong view. Consciousness, he argues, has an "intentional" structure: It is always of an object. Belief is unconditional assent to the reality of the object of an intention; action is an endeavor to bring an intended object into existence. For an action to be sustained over the time needed to achieve this goal, the feelings of assent and endeavor that accompany it need to persist. A person's values are those feelings that function as "the relatively fixed points of the compass" by means of which one's "choices are guided" (p. 204). The "firmament" of the values by which a person is guided is "rationalized" by abstracting from the particularities of the several values and framing general integrative guiding principles that are detached from the urgency of particular pragmatic interests. The apotheosis of this generalization process is the formulation of "absolute values," norms governing both individual and collective endeavors.
Religious values, Findlay argues, are absolute values extended beyond those associated with human beliefs and efforts, having to do with intentional structures that are holyn the sense of strange and numinousecause radically inclusive. They are radically impersonal, however, expressing "the pattern of a detached, suprapersonal, norm-setting mind" (p. 399). The genius of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that they recognize the need people have for this impersonal absolute to be embodied in a supreme religious object that has some direct connection with common everyday realities; the absolute value must be incarnate in history, in specific acts or persons.
Strand two: empirical
Feelings or intentions are unobservable mental states. Those who want value theory to be a scientific enterprise therefore turn from feelings to "interests," from intentions to "behaviors," from introspection to "motor-affective responses." C. I. Lewis (1883964), for instance, insists that evaluations are a form of empirical knowledge. Their truth or falsity, is determined in exactly the same way as the truth or falsity of nay other kind of empirical knowledge is justified. Directly experienced satisfactions have "intrinsic" value, but no object can have intrinsic value because its value consists not in what it is in itself but rather in the possibility of its leading to some realization of directly experienced value. The object need not in fact lead to such experiences, but only have the potentiality for doing so: A Paleozoic sunset had objective value even if no human being was actually there to enjoy it. Where an intrinsic value experience is afforded by the presentation of an object, that object has inherent extrinsic value. Where one object is a means by which to come into the presence of another object that has inherent value, the first object has "instrumental" and possibly "contributory" extrinsic value.
Ralph Barton Perry makes this notion of intrinsic value central. Any object acquires value by becoming the target of some interest: "that which is an object of an interest is eo ipso invested with value" (p. 115)x is valuable = interest is taken in x" (p. 116). Perry distinguishes between a "value preference" (a subject has more interest in x than in y) from a "judgment of comparative value" (a subject asserts that x is better than y). The latter involves standards of measurement and so, unlike a value preference, is open to correction. Love is a favorable interest in the satisfaction of a second interest, that of another person. So the highest possible value is that of an all-loving will. Such love could not be the interest of a single person, however. Perry's alternative to Lewis's religious absolute is a "federation," a multiplicity of independent equally valued persons, united by their devotion to the same value ideal, expressed through reciprocal acts of love.
John Dewey (1859952) rejects the distinction between value judgments and factual judgments. Valuation takes place whenever a problematic situation exists, whenever an expected enjoyment is blocked. Some inquiry needs to be undertaken in order to resolve the problem, to reshape things in the light of an ideal about how things might be such that the desired enjoyment might be experienced. A value is not an enjoyment but an interest in attaining one, and hence involves a proposal for how to do so. Values can therefore be appraisedritiqued, ranked, and revisedith respect both to how effective they are as guides for attaining the enjoyment sought and to how satisfying that result is. Values are an important aspect of the natural sciences, since hypothesis formation in scientific inquiry is an instance of valuation and its critique. Dewey argues that progress in the improvement of the human condition is impeded by the traditional insistence that actions guided by aesthetic, moral, political, and religious values are timeless absolutes grasped emotionally, matters of tradition or feeling or faithalues isolated from scientific values, and hence from "intelligent" meliorative rational control.
The language of valuation
Twentieth-century Western philosophy has been dominated by linguistic concerns, and so value theory for many thinkers has been limited to a consideration of value-propositions: What the nature of assertions of value is and whether or how values are justified. These approaches can be grouped into the same two strands as earlier value theories: those primarily conceptual and those primarily empirical.
One kind of mind-centered approach claims that value-propositions make no reference to facts and so are neither true nor false. Charles Stevenson (1908979) calls such propositions "emotive." A person who asserts that "this is a beautiful sculpture" says nothing about the sculpture. He only expresses his positive feelings toward it: "this sculpture, wow!" A quite different approach, with G. H. von Wright (1916 as a key figure, is to explicate a "logic of preference," to assess value-assertions in terms of a logical system governed by syntactic and semantic rules. For instance, "possible worlds" might be ranked by means of an "index of merit." Next a proposition could be assigned a "generic value," understood as the average of the merit rankings of the worlds in which its value is meaningful. Then proposition x would be "rationally preferable" to proposition y if its generic value is higher than y's. Game theory and decision theory are two related developments of this logicomathematical approach to valuation.
Those analysts of the language of values who stand in an empiricist tradition draw from informal rather than formal logic, with the later writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889951) often key. Paul Taylor's work is illustrative. He distinguishes normative discourse from scientific discourse, arguing that they are governed by differing "canons of reasoning." Taylor is particularly concerned with the way in which value judgments, the "first-order" content of normative discourse, can be justified. To "verify" a value judgment is to appeal to established standards or rules of evaluation. If these are questioned, one must "validate" them by appealing to higher-order standards or rules, and ultimately by appealing to those principles that determine a "value system." To take a "point of view" is to commit oneself to following a certain set of rules of relevance in deciding which value system to accept as governing one's value judgments. There are as many points of view as there are kinds of value systems: for instance, a moral point of view and an aesthetic point of view. A "way of life" is the set of value systems expressing all one's points of view, arranged in some integrative hierarchical manner. If a person's value system is questioned, it is "vindicated" by appeal to one's way of life. When a way of life is questioned, the only justifying appeal is to "rational choice": showing that one's value commitment has been arrived at by a deliberative process that is free, enlightened, and impartial.
Metaphysical value theories
Dewey argues that value theory is a response to the expulsion of teleology from nature: the claim of modern science that facts are adequately explicated in terms of efficient causes, without recourse to final causes or purposes. Value theories of almost any sort can be challenged by attacking the metaphysical presuppositions of modern science, arguing that the natural order is in some sense purposive, that ends and ideals are features of all natural processes, and that to exist is to have and to be making value.
A contemporary example of such a value-based metaphysics is found is the work of Frederick Ferré (1933. He argues that "the process of an entity's coming to be something definite" involves "the generation of intrinsic value for the entity concerned" (1996, p. 357). The basic factual entities of the universe are self-fashioning processes involving the integration of diverse elements into a definite unity, a harmony. To achieve any sort of harmony is to generate beauty, so for Ferré a cosmos composed of beauty-fashioning entities is "inherently kalogenic." Given such a universe, an ethic obviously follows in which not only persons but other organisms, indeed entities of every sort, should be treasured for the value achieved in their existing and for their relevance to possibilities for future value realization.
William Desmond (1951 takes a different approach, recognizing the diversity of value-creators but insisting that their power to create value and their aspiration to do so depends on recognizing the origin of what-is in a transcendent power. Humans live in the metaxu, between Being and nothing at allstonished that they exist, affirming that it is good they and others exist, dwelling together. Insofar as humans are "mindful" of these wondrous facts, they will be aware that there is an origin of their existing, that their lives are a gift, a good that need not have been but nonetheless has been freely given them. Desmond calls this overflowing good of the originative power "agapeic" good given for the other's good, a freedom that frees others rather than subordinating them, a power that empowers others to express their powers in a giving such that the good of others and the common good are enhanced. Desmond therefore argues that the ideal of human moral development is "agapeic service"racticing a self-surpassing ethics of generosity in response to God's freely given infinitely valuable gift of life.
See also AESTHETICS; BEAUTY; VALUE; VALUE, RELIGIOUS; VALUE, SCIENTIFIC
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