Value (ethics)

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Value, in ethics, is a property of objects, including physical objects as well as abstract objects (e.g. actions), representing their degree of importance.


  • That ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written.
    • I Corinthians, IV. 6. Quoted, "not to be wise above that which is written," by Prof. Scholefield, Hints for an Improved Translation of the New Testament.
  • It is not our affluence, or our plumbing, or our clogged freeways that grip the imagination of others. Rather, it is the values upon which our system is built. These values imply our adherence not only to liberty and individual freedom, but also to international peace, law and order, and constructive social purpose. When we depart from these values, we do so at our peril.
    • J. William Fulbright, remarks in the Senate (June 29, 1961), Congressional Record, vol. 107, p. 11703.
  • Values are ideals that give significance to our lives, that are reflected through the priorities we choose, and that we act on consistently and repeatedly.
    • Brian P. Hall, Values Shift: A guide to personal & organizational transformation (2006).
  • I'm convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.
  • We ought not to treat living creatures like shoes or household belongings, which when worn with use we throw away.
    • Plutarch, Life of Cato the Censor (1st century).
  • The consequence of human values will be manifested in virtually all phenomena that social scientists might consider worth investigating and understanding.
  • Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.
    • Nikola Tesla as quoted in "A Visit to Nikola Tesla" by Dragislav L. Petković in Politika (April 1927); also in Tesla, Master of Lightning (1999) by Margaret Cheney, Robert Uth, and Jim Glenn, p. 82
  • A cynic, a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • No art can be judged by purely aesthetic standards, although a painting or a piece of music may appear to give a purely aesthetic pleasure. Aesthetic enjoyment is an intensification of the vital response, and this response forms the basis of all value judgements. The existentialist contends that all values are connected with the problems of human existence, the stature of man, the purpose of life. These values are inherent in all works of art, in addition to their aesthetic values, and are closely connected with them.
    • Colin Wilson in The Chicago Review (Volume 13, no. 2, 1959, p. 152-181)
  • The characteristic of the really great writer is the ability of his mind to to suddenly leap beyond his ordinary human values, into sudden perception of universal values.

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