Value (philosophy)

Value (philosophy)

Philosophic or ethic value is a property of objects, including physical objects as well as abstract objects (e.g. actions), representing their degree of importance. The study of it is included in value theory.

An object with "ethic or philosophic value" may be termed an "ethic or philosophic good".

Similar concepts

"Philosophic or ethic value" is sometimes used synonymously with goodness. However, goodness has many other meanings as well, and may be regarded as more ambiguous.

Absolute and relative

There is a distinction between "relative" (or personal or cultural value) and "absolute" (or noumenal) value (not to be mixed with mathematical absolute value). Relative value is subjective, depending on individual and cultural views, and is therefore synonymous with personal and cultural value. Absolute value, on the other hand, is philosophically absolute and independent of individual and cultural views, as well as independent on whether it discovered or not what object has it.

Relative value may be regarded as an experience by subjects of the absolute value. Relative value varies with individual and culture while absolute value, on the other hand, is the same, regardless of the experience of individuals.

Relative value may be explained as an assumption upon which implementation can be extrapolated. Absolute value, on the other hand, cannot be assumed, but is what it is.

Intrinsic and extrinsic

Philosophic value may be split into "instrumental value" and "intrinsic values". An instrumental value 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). An intrinsically valuable thing is worth for itself, not as a means to something else. It is giving value intrinsic and extrinsic properties.

An "ethic good" with "instrumental value" may be termed an ethic mean, and an "ethic good" with "intrinsic value" may be termed an end-in-itself. An object may be both a mean and end-in-itself.

Whole value

Intrinsic and instrumental goods are not mutually exclusive categories. [ Inherent and Instrumental Values in Ethics] by Stanley Riukas] Some objects are both good in themselves, and also good for getting other objects 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. In these cases, the sum of instrumental (specifically the all instrumental value) and instrinsic value of an object may be regarded as the "whole value" of the object.


The "intensity" of philosophic value is the degree it is generated or carried out, and may be regarded as the prevalence of the good, the object having the value.

It should not be confused with the amount of value per object, although the latter may vary too, e.g. because of instrumental value conditionality. For instance, for a Waffleist, accepting waffle eating as of end-in-itself, the intensity may be the speed that waffles are eaten, and is zero when no waffles are eaten, e.g. if no waffles are present. Still, each waffle that had been present would still have value, no matter if it was being eaten or not, independent on intensity.

"Instrumental value conditionality" in this case could be exampled by every waffle not present, making them less valued by being far away rather than easily accessible.

In many life stances it is the product of value and intensity that is ultimately desirable, i.e. not only to generate value, but to generate it in large degree. Maximizing lifestances have the highest possible intensity as an imperative.

Homology in physics

When comparing to the homologous measure in physics, then intensity in physics may not be the best example, but may better be described as its area. In this sense, power in physics may be compared to the amount of value per object, and physical intensity the product of value per object and ethic intensity. If there is no physical area, then no energy is generated, regardless of physical power. In the same way, if there is no ethic intensity, then no total value is generated, regardless of value per object.


"Philosophic or ethic value duration" is the time that an object exists, or more specifically, has any intensity.

It is contrasted with chain of events duration, which is the time it takes for a chain of events to reach its terminal event, in this case the object with intrinsic value.

The "chain of events duration" may be significantly longer than the "value duration", especially for objects with long term instrumental value. In the intervening time, the value of the object is converted into the value of the intervening objects in the "chain of events".

Average and instantaneous value

With time in mind, there is a distinction between "average ethic or philosophic value" and "instantaneous ethic or philosophic value".

*The "average ethic or philosophic value" is the average of the ethic or philosophic value of an object during a certain amount of time. If not else specified it is assumed to be the value duration of the object in mind. It can, however, also be the chain of events duration or other specified amount of time.
*The "instantaneous ethic or philosophic value" is the ethic or philosophic value value of an object at a certain point of time. If may be a "present", "past" or "future" point of time.

Total value

The total ethic or philosophic value of an object is the product of its average value, average intensity and "value duration". It may be either absolute or relative or both.

Any decrease in the whole value, intensity or duration of an object decreases its total value and vice versa. For instance, for a Waffleist, regarding waffles as of ends-in-themselves, it still doesn't generate any total value if there are no waffles, no intensity, no matter how much average value a waffle has.

Total whole value

The "total value" of the "whole value" of an object is its "total whole value".

Alternatively described, it is the sum of the total intrinsic value and total instrumental value.

It may be either "relative" or "absolute", or both.

Economic and philosophic value

Philosophical value is distinguished from economic value, since it is independent on some other desired condition or commodity. The economic value of an object may rise when the exchangeable desired condition or commodity, e.g. money, become high in supply, and vice versa when supply of money becomes low.

Nevertheless, economic value may be regarded as a result of philosophical value. In the subjective theory of value, the personal philosophic value a person puts in possessing something is reflected in what economic value this person puts on it. The limit where a person considers to purchase something may be regarded as the point where the "personal philosophic value" of possessing something exceeds the personal philosophic value of what is given up in exchange for it, e.g. money.


Philosophic or ethic value equality is the concept of two objects having the same philosophic value. It can be of different types, depending of the value:

*Philosophic or ethic "intrinsic value equality", where the objects have the same "intrinsic value"
*Philosophic or ethic "instrumental value equality", where the objects have the same "instrumental value"
*Philosophic or ethic "whole value equality", where the objects have the same "whole value"
*Philosophic or ethic "total value equality", where the objects have the same "total value"

Value system

A "value system" is a set of consistent ethic values and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well defined "value system" is a moral code.

Positive and negative value

There may be a distinction between positive and negative philosophic or ethic value. While positive ethic value generally is something that is purposed to pursue as much as possible, the negative value, on the other hand, is something that is pursued to avoid or minimize.

Negative value may be both intrinsic negative value and/or instrumental negative value.

Human negative value

Some regard humans as having negative value. For instance, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement holds that the world would be better without humankind and the values it brings. On a smaller scale, it may be thought of as a reason of suicide.

ee also

*Meaning of life
*Purpose in life
*Intrinsic value (ethics)
*Instrumental value


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