[NOTE: This chapter does not address any particular kind of value, such, "moral values," "economic values," "aesthetic values," or "personal values." Only the nature of values themselves is addressed.]
Before any specific values can be identified or explained, what values are, what their purpose is, and some wrong views of values must be addressed.
Values, like "good," "bad," "right," and "wrong," are concepts of relationship. Things only have values relative to some objective (purpose, end, or goal). The purpose of values is to guide human choice and action in the pursuit of their objectives.
Values Are Relationships
Before there can be a value there must be an objective (purpose, end, or goal) relative to which a thing has some value; a positive value like, "good," or, "right," if it achieves or advances the objective, or a negative value like, "bad," or, "wrong," if it prevents or hinders the objective.
Values Are Qualities
Qualities (attributes, characteristics, and properties) do not exist or have meaning independent to the existents they are the qualities of. Red only exists as an attribute of things that are red, and hard only exists as an attribute of things that are hard. There is no wild red or hard in nature.
Qualities like red and hard are intrinsic qualities. Qualities like big or fast are relative qualities.
Size is intrinsic, but big is only a quality relative to some standard size. Motion is intrinsic, but fast is only a quality relative to some standard size.
Good and bad are relative qualities which identify the relationship between an existent and some specified objective.
Values Pertain Only To Human Beings
Only human beings have objectives, purposes, ends, or goals. At least they are the only beings who must choose their objectives and then must choose how to pursue them. Values are the principles that identify which things and which kinds of actions will achieve one's objectives, and which will not.
Values Are Absolute
Since values are relationships it might seem that values being absolute contradicts that fact. This dual aspect of values is very much the same as the dual aspect of most of the physical world. In one sense how the physical world is used is entirely arbitrary. Nothing in the sciences determines whether one uses chemicals to make explosives or fertilizer, for example, but how the chemicals must be used to make either is absolutely determined by the nature of the chemicals and what one needs the chemicals to do.
What individual human beings choose as their real life goals and purposes will determine what will or will not be of value to them, but while they can choose their objectives, they cannot choose which things or actions will succeed or fail to achieve those objectives, because it is reality itself that determines what will work and what will not, and therefore what will be valuable in achieving those ends, and what will not.
Kinds Of Values
Some values, such as, "good," "bad," "right," and "wrong," are examples of common value terms, but there are many others, including, "important," "vital," "necessary," "essential," "easy," "benevolent," "benign," "great," "grand," "effective," "efficient," "just," "fair," "helpful," "useful," and their converse negative values, such as, "unimportant," "unnecessary," "non-essential," "difficult," "malevolent," "malignant," "modest," "ineffective," "inefficient," "unjust," "unfair," "unhelpful," and "useless." All values are always relative to some objective, purpose, end, or goal. Where there is no objective, purpose, end, or goal, there are no values.
How is the value of anything determined?
Since a thing's value is determined by it's relationship to some objective (end, goal, or purpose), it's value is determined by its relationship to that objective. If it achieves or advances the objective, it is a positive value, or, if it prevents or hinders the objective, it is a negative value.
To determine the value of anything, it must be determined what kind of relationship it has relative to some objective or purpose. Is a particular new drug good or bad? If the drug was developed to treat a specific malady, testing the drug's effectiveness in curing the malady will determine the drugs value, which will be good if it cures the disease, but bad if it exacerbates the disease or cause other health issues. If it has no apparent affect it has no value, either positive or negative.
Values like, "good," and, "bad," can have degrees of value when more than one thing has the same kind of value. Two different things may be good, both achieving or advancing the same objective, but one might be more affective or preferable in some other way to the other. In that case, both things are, "good," relative to the objective, but one is, "more good," (better) if more affective or preferable.
Values Are Not Intrinsic
Nothing is just good, bad, right, or wrong. Before a thing can have a value, the objective of the value must be specified—what it is good for or why it is right. Since only human beings have objectives, anything (an entity, a substance, an event, an attribute, a relationship, an organism, a man, or an idea) can only be good, bad, right, or wrong relative to some objective of some human being.
Nothing is, "just good," or, "good in itself." It is exactly like saying something is "just left" or, "left in itself," without specifying what it is left of, or saying something is just, "inside," without specifying what it is inside of. Nothing can be just, "inside," it must be inside something. Nothing can be just, "good," it must be good for something.
Many things are regarded as good or bad without specifying what they are good or bad for, because the objective, purpose, end, or goal is implied. Water is good. Poison is bad. Water is good to drink, for washing, and for watering one's lawn because drinking, washing and watering the lawn are human objectives. Water is not good for watering one's library, or if one drowns in it, or it causes a flood. Poison is bad if ingested, because it makes one sick or kills them. Poison is good for eliminating rats and malaria mosquitoes. But nothing is good or bad in itself.
There are a number of concepts that include in their definition an implied object which is tacitly assumed. It is sometimes suggested that things like murder, rape, assault, theft, and vandalism are intrinsically bad. Each of those words assumes an objective (the welfare of a human being) in their definition. Murder is taking the life of a human being. Theft and vandalism deprives another human being of their property. Rape and assault harm another human being's body. Each of these concepts means, "doing something bad to someone. Of course doing something bad someone is bad. If there were no victims with their own objectives and purposes, none of those words would identify anything bad or wrong.
Once the fact that all such concepts implying values, both positive and negative, tacitly assume human goals and purposes as the objective of the values it is obvious they are not examples of intrinsic values. Nothing can be.
Intrincism Is Mysticism
Though it finds its way into popular culture, the concept of intrinsic values, that things are just good or bad, "in themselves," without being good for anything to anyone is a concept derived entirely from religion and superstition. It is necessary to almost all mystic beliefs. If a mystic or theist admits that values only exist as relationships to specific objectives, purposes, goals, or ends, then it is not possible for them to say their deities, spiritual laws, mystical imperatives, holy duties or heavenly obligations are either good or right. Why is it good? What is it good for? What does it even mean to say it is good? Intrincism cannot answer any of these questions
Intrincism is a very dangerous concept. If a value were possible without an objective or purpose, just anything could be put over as, "good," which makes it difficult to question or challenge. Who wants to be the one who is against what is, "good."
The Danger Of Intrincism
Endless wrong ideologies are justified and promoted using the false concept of intrinsic values. Some of the following do have real value relative to some purpose or objective, but are promoted as though they were values in themselves: environment, life, humanity or mankind, society, multiculturalism, political correctness, patriotism, duty, religion, friendship, art, love, and sentimentality (compassion, sympathy, empathy).
There Are No Collective Values
Values have no other purpose than to be used by human beings to guide their choices in the pursuit of their objective. Values tell them which actions will succeed (are good and right) and which will fail or worse (are bad or wrong).
The ability to choose is a faculty unique to individual human beings. Only individual human beings can use values because only individual human beings have the faculty of choice. Two or more human beings can certainly make the same choices, and the sum of those choices may be regarded as a so-called collective decision, but that decision is only the sum of the choices of each individual in the collective.
In the same way, the ability to have and use values is only possible to individual human beings. Two or more human beings may have the same or similar values and the sum of those values may be regarded as a so-called collective value, but that value is only the sum of the values of each individual in the collective. The collective itself has no value other than the sum value of the individuals.
Values For Living Human Life
This is a summary and introduction to life principles, which are those values pertaining to living a successful human life, as introduced in the chapter, "Moral Nature."
Most so-called value judgements are expressed as floating abstractions which reflect an individual's subjective views. By floating abstraction I mean things are described as, "right, " "wrong," "good," "bad," "important," "unimportant," "necessary," and, "unnecessary" as though such attributes were inherent in whatever thing or action is being described. All these terms, however, are value terms and all value terms identify relationships, and have no meaning if the exact relationship is not identified. They are floating abstractions because, they are like saying something is "inside" or "left" which means nothing unless what a thing is inside of or what a thing is left of is specified. Saying that a thing is good, important, or necessary means nothing without specifying what a thing is good for, important to, or necessary for.
Since only human beings have ends, purposes, goals, or objectives, values only pertain to human choices and actions. While there is no metaphysical predetermined life goal any individual must choose, and historically human beings have chosen almost every possible objective to live for, one's own values will be determined by their own personal objectives.
Whatever an individual chooses as their objective is relative and subjective only in the sense that one's goals must be individually chosen and one's values will be related to one's own objectives. With regard to anyone's personal objectives, however, what will be a positive value and what will be a negative value is absolutely determined by the nature of reality, the nature of the physical world and one's own nature as a human being. One may choose anything as their personal objective or purpose, but cannot do just anything to achieve that objective or purpose. If one chooses to be a musician, only learning music and developing the skill necessary to play an instrument will achieve that goal. If one chooses to be a doctor, it cannot be achieved by studying racing cars. Only by studying medicine and developing the skills necessary to use that medical knowledge can achieve that objective.
While no one must choose to live successfully and happily in this world, one's personnel success and happiness is the objective to which life principles pertain. Life principles are those by which individuals make choices that will achieve one's own success and happiness. Those principles are absolute and determined by the nature of reality and one's own nature as a human being, and determine what things will achieve one's goals and which will result in disaster and failure.