The Definition of Value[1]

Ralph Barton Perry

I BELIEVE that I am in accord with the view of Professors Urban and Sheldon[2] as to the general spirit in which the discussion of this problem should be conducted. At any rate, I agree that we should not ride hobbies or prolong factional differences that have arisen in the past. We should treat our problem as a new problem, and approach it, so far as possible, with innocent minds. We should not regard it merely as a special case of an old problem; and we should not feel obliged to be consistent with our past selves, or loyal to our several parties. Beyond this, I can not follow the Urban-Sheldon duumvirate, not for lack of good will, but for lack of understanding. I can not promise, with them both, to eschew epistemology and address myself to "the structure of reality," because I find that when one examines values one not only finds them in the context of subjectivity and judgment, but is from the first puzzled to know how much of that context belongs to their structure. I agree that we should be inductive and seek to arrive at a definition of values by a study of instances, but at the outset an instance can in this case be no more than an approximation, a vaguely bounded region in or near which is that entity which we may agree subsequently to call value. One can not collect values as one can collect butterflies, and go off into one's laboratory with the assurance that one holds in one's net the whole and no more than the whole of that which one seeks. There is no perforation about the edges of values to mark the line at which they may be detached. The great task is to trace the boundaries and detach the entity by an act of discrimination. The Mona Lisa is good and its theft was evil. But in order to add these to my collection of values, what must I include? Is all that makes the Mona Lisa good included within its frame? There is. at least some ground for asserting that the Mona Lisa is a good only in so far as you include its enjoyment, or its popularity, or its history. Similarly there are those who say that its theft as evil must be taken to include the

( 142) conscience of the thief, or the collective judgment of the times, or the unhappiness of France. If, assuming that the Mona Lisa I had under my arm was a good, I should forthwith compare it with the money in my pocket with a view to discovering their common structure, I should too hastily have committed myself to a limited set of structural possibilities. On the other hand, if I were to inquire more carefully into the relation of the physical Mona Lisa with attitudes and judgments of sentient beings, or with the demands and opinions of communities, I should walk on the epistemological grass where Messrs. Urban and Sheldon have enjoined us not to trespass. Of these two evils, I shall choose the latter. I shall trespass because I am curious to see what is there, and suspect that Messrs. Urban and Sheldon will follow me if only to put me off. (I seem to see Professor Urban's footprints there already) !

In any case I am in agreement with Professor Sheldon as to the manner in which he and T can best do our parts as leaders in this discussion. We must seek to avoid a Babel of opinions by discovering, if possible, a common language. There are classicists who speak the purest Plato ; others who belong linguistically to the great family of Kant and learned at their mother's knees to lisp the flowing syllables of Windelband or Green ; and others who talk among them-selves exclusively in the strange new dialects known as Deweyan and Meinougese. There is as yet no cosmopolitan party that can speak all these languages and think consecutively and commutably in terms of το αγαθόν, ευδαιμονια, Beurtheilung, Normen., unmittelbare Gefühl des &liens, valuation-process, recognition coefficient, redisposition, marginal utility, axiology, over-individual will for identities, Wert, Werten, Bewerten, Wertung, Werthalten, Wertschätzen, Werturteil, Wertgeben, Werterlebniss, Wertbegriff, Werthaltung, and Nicht-gegebenheitswerte. It is scarcely to be expected that we should all engage profitably in a dispute between Rickert and Munsterberg, or Meinong and Ehrenfels, or Dewey and Stuart. But there is an undertaking for which one of us is as well qualified as another, and that is a review of the present state of the question--a classification of views from the standpoint of the outsider. A united attempt at such an Auseinandersetzung would, at any rate, tend in the direction of a universal language, or in the direction of an appeal from private or party symbols to common objects. To promote this end, I shall attempt a critical classification of definitions of value.[3] Of course I shall betray myself in many a provincialism and prejudice, but you will give me credit for my effort and I hope surpass me in attainment.

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The fundamental problem in theory of value, in so far as this is philosophical, is the problem of definition, If Socrates were here, he might say : "Now I want you to tell me whether value is one whole, of which virtue and beauty and wealth are parts ; or whether all these are only the names of one and the same thing. Are they parts in the same sense in which mouth, nose, and eyes, and ears, are parts of a face; or are they like the parts of gold, which differ from the whole and from one another only in being larger or smaller?" And we should thus be drawn into a consideration not of the several features of value, but of the physiognomy of value. What is it in principle to be a value? What is value generically?

1. In undertaking to answer this question, we are challenged at the outset by those who maintain the indefinability of value. This view, advocated by Sidgwick a generation ago, and recently restated and reargued by Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore,[4] Brentano, and Santayana, would seem to rest upon two independent grounds.

(1) In the first place, value is adjectival rather than substantive. It can not be identified with any of the things of which it is predicated. There is no thing such as pleasure of which one can say that it alone has value, for it is always possible that the addition of some-thing else such as knowledge may result in more value or in less value. We can define the valuable thing only as that which has value, in other words, we can not define it at all. But this argument rests upon a misconception. It is, of course, impossible to define a predicate in terms of that of which it is predicated, otherwise there would be no difference between subject and predicate. But it does not follow that the predicate is indefinable. The beach is level, and I can not define level in terms of beach. If I add more beach it may cease to be level. But it does not follow that "level" is indefinable. It would be indefinable were it unanalyzable, but that is evidently not the case. There is certainly nothing in the nature of a predicate as such that requires it to be simple. In the case of value, it becomes a question of fact.

Nor is there any logical connection between the simplicity of a quality and its restricted or unrestricted appearance in the role of predicate. Were Moore able to prove universally, as he certainly has not done, that any kind of thing whatsoever may be good, nothing would follow as respects the simplicity or complexity of goodness. Nor if it were proved that goodness was simple would anything follow concerning the number of things that could be good. It is quite possible to argue, as does Santayana in his criticism of Russell,[5] that

( 144) goodness is simple, but that a thing's being good means that goodness is emotionally attributed to it, so that a thing can not be good except in relation to desire. It becomes a question, in short, as to the precise nature and conditions of the copula in propositions concerning goodness. The question of the simplicity and indefinability of the predicate value is an independent question.

(2) Not only Moore and Russell, but Santayana, Brentano, and others as well, assert that the value character, whether it be termed rightness, goodness, or oughtness, is unanalyzable.

But in order to find that a character is indefinable one must at least have found it. In other words, it will not do to pronounce value an indefinable because one has not been able to define it. One must be prepared to point to a distinct Tulle which appears in that region which our value terms roughly indicate, and which is different from the object's shape and size, from the interrelation of its parts, from its relation to other objects, or to a subject, and from all the other factors belonging to the same context, but designated by words other than good, right, value, etc. I find no such residuum. Moore's comparison of good with the quality "yellow"[6] seems to me to be purely hypothetical. Good would be like yellow if it were a simple quality.

But then the empirical fact that it is not like yellow argues that it is not a simple quality. There is no difficulty over the meaning of terms connoting simple qualities, nor is there serious difference of opinion likely as to their distribution. Things wear them in public and any passer by may note them. But no one who has read either Sidgwick's or Moore's solemn observations concerning what things are or are not good[7] can for an instant be deceived into supposing that their moral perception has lit upon a quality whose presence they report for our benefit. They impute goodness in a miscellaneous way to things that are generally regarded as good, until in a fit of inspiration they are moved to say that it is "Desirable Consciousness which we must regard as ultimate Good, "[8] or that "all great goods and great evils involve both a cognition and an emotion directed towards its object";[9] which assertions are plausible because they sound so much like the view that goodness itself consists in desirable consciousness or in a cognitive-emotional attitude to an object. For our authors these purport to be inductions reached after prolonged observation of the resting-place of the simple indefinable quality good.

That it should have settled permanently upon desirable consciousness

( 145) or the cognitive-emotional attitude as its habitat must possess for our authors the novelty and wonder of sheer fact. For some of their readers, like myself, those conclusions will appear to be a laborious rediscovery of assumptions, or the splitting of an identity into a synthetic judgment through the hypostasization of a word.

There are other sound reasons for rejecting this doctrine of indefinability, but I can here do no more than barely mention them. In the first place, this doctrine is compelled to supplement an indefinable good with an indefinable evil; and in that case I suspect that the very peculiar and significant relation of polarity which exists between good and evil becomes not only indefinable, but unintelligible as well. At the same time the matter of degrees or comparative magnitudes of value is left in even greater darkness than. before. In the second place, these indefinables give so little account of themselves that the phenomenon of the appearance and disappearance, the waxing and waning of values, is left totally unexplained. Finally, the doctrine of indefinability is objectionable on purely methodological grounds. It is so easy and comfortable to mistake the simplicity of our own knowledge for a simplicity in the object, that I believe the hypothesis of simplicity should be a last resort with the presumption against it until every alternative has been tried and found wanting.


The definability of value has usually been assumed. There has doubtless been much confusion, as Moore has pointed out, between the notion of the thing having value, or a good, and the value itself, or goodness. But most, if not all, of the classic views can nevertheless be stated as definitions of the value predicate. The views to which I wish to call attention have rarely, if ever, been held in entire purity. But theoretically, at any rate, they are independent, and have figured prominently in both ancient and modern theories of value.

The first of these is the view that value consists in the relation of harmony or fitness.[10] It finds its point of contact with common sense in the popular expression "good for." To possess value means to be condition of. But this relation is too universal to distinguish those phenomena with which the value sciences have to do. And it is to be observed that the expression "good for" is almost invariably applied to cases of fitness for good, the value of the consequence being anticipated in the thought of the cause. That which is "good for nothing" is fit for no good; it does not lack fitness, but is fit only for the waste-basket or the rubbish heap. The same view in

( 146) an amended and more defensible form asserts that the nature of value lies in reciprocal fitness or in the "organic" relation of inter-dependence. But this view is usually supported by the aid of examples in which the interdependence is conducive to the existence of a whole which is good in some other sense, as in the case of the physical organism; or in which the interdependence is conducive to the existence of members which are good in some other senses, as in the case of the social community. The clearest instances of interdependence pure and simple are to be found among mechanisms, such, for example, as the gravitational system with its reciprocal masses, velocities, and paths of motion. But such examples are not ordinarily cited, or if cited, are really used to illustrate not interdependence, but unity. As such, they satisfy esthetic and intellectual demands and would not, I. think, be regarded as examples of value were they rigorously conceived as existing without relation to any contemplating or aspiring mind.


There is a second view which, like the harmony or fitness view, appeals to a familiar phrase and identifies goodness with a formal relationship. The phrase in this case is "good of its kind," and the relationship is that of the particular to its universal. The ordinary name for this view is the self-realization view. But this phrase is clearly ambiguous. It may mean the realization of a self; or it may mean the auto-realization of anything, i. e., its representativeness, or complete exemplification of those attributes or capacities that are peculiar to the kind of which it is a case. Self-realization in the first sense belongs to another type of theory, to be examined below, in which goodness is defined as relative to interest. It is self-realization in the second sense with which we have to do here. But when the distinction is made, doubt at once arises whether it would ever have been held were it not for confusion with the first. The relation of a case to its kind is too abstract and universal to serve the peculiar purposes of the sciences of value. Goodness in this sense can not be denied of anything. If A is a better m than B, it follows that B is a better n than A. Everything is the most shining example of something. The worst specimen of a man may be the most perfect specimen of inebriety or simple-mindedness. This example is suggestive of the confusions which give plausibility to the view. Whatever adequately exemplifies a type already conceived as good reflects that goodness. Man being good, the more manlike the better. Here the goodness lies not in the bare relation of particular to universal, but is borrowed from the nature of the universal itself. The typical

( 147) inebriate has no value in this sense. But whatever satisfies the cognitive or esthetic interest is good, and the representation of a universal in a particular does provide such satisfaction in proportion to the adequacy or lucidity of the representation. A good case of inebriety facilitates the understanding or demonstration of the generic defect. An adequate representation of man is interesting and agreeable to contemplate. Thus the goodness does not lie in the bare relation, but in the fact that the relation has a use or affords enjoyment. In short, the typical is good when what is typified is good in some other sense; or when some demand exists for the typical as such. Omit these qualifications, and typicality takes us too far afield, is too pervasive a feature of our world, to be identified with value.

But the above example contains another suggestion. It may be asserted that value is in proportion to the degree of universality realized; and that this accounts for the difference between the good man and the good inebriate. As manhood takes precedence of inebriety so the absolute universal must take precedence of manhood; and value would lie in the degree in which the particular reflected the totality of being. But here again I feel sure that it can not be the bare universality itself which constitutes the goodness. Were this the case, it would be proper to regard the mechanical aspect of human nature as better than its teleological aspect on the assumption of a materialistic metaphysics; or crime and unmerited suffering as better than justice and happiness on the assumption that they are more characteristic of the waywardness and caprice of a world of chance; or the abstract factor of being as the best feature of life on the pluralistic ground that there is no other universal feature. To avoid such paradoxes one must introduce some material assumption. One may assume that the universe is the fulfilment of a purpose in which all particular interests come to fruition. Or one may assume that the universe, as a whole, is good, so that in so far as the particular reflects the universal it reflects that goodness. Or one may assume an interest in the universal, the philosophical interest, and judge levels of intellectual attainment by that, adding perhaps the further claim that only by identifying himself with this interest can a man be assured of happiness. But in all such cases the definition of value is altered, and the bare relation of particular to universal becomes merely accidental or instrumental.


All of the views thus far discussed, value as indefinable, as fitness or harmony, and as the typical or universal, may be said to agree in

( 148) characterizing value or goodness without reference to the fact of bias or interest. The belief that this fact, or its characteristic relation, is value has most commonly found expression in the pleasure theory or hedonism. This doctrine is perhaps too ancient and too popular to be exact. Broadly and historically it expresses a number of different, more or less independent, and even conflicting motives, such, for example, as scepticism, egoism, prudentialism, psychologism, materialism, humanism, and humanitarianism. I shall interpret this doctrine strictly as that which identifies good and evil with the states of pleasure and pain respectively. A thing is good intrinsically in so far as it is the pleasure-state, or extrinsically in so far as it causes the pleasure-state. And yet, curiously enough, it is doubtful if the view has ever been held in this strict form. In disputes over hedonism it has commonly been assumed that value consists ultimately in being liked, hedonists asserting that only pleasure is liked for itself, and their critics insisting that a man likes other things as well and can not possibly be satisfied with mere pleasure. In this dispute the hedonist has not only been worsted; but as party to the dispute, he has virtually abandoned his view. One may say that the controversy over hedonism has had mainly to do not with the question "what is goodness?" but with the question "what is good?"; both parties agreeing that goodness consists in being liked, and the hedonist asserting that the state of pleasure is the only case of a thing liked.

If it were not characteristic of the state of pleasure that the agent tries to keep it when present or get it when absent, and of the state of pain that the agent tends to get rid of it when present and avoid it when absent, these states would probably never have recommended themselves to any one's judgment as definitions of good and evil. Now that it is clearly understood that one tries to keep and get other things than pleasure, sometimes even pain itself, and that one tries to stop and avoid other things than pain, even pleasure itself, the hedonist accepts this later view rather as a clarification and correction of his former view than as a disproof of it. The crux of the matter lies in the distinction between the motor-affective attitude or impulse, and pleasure and pain as specific qualitative contents of consciousness. The question lies in that portion of the field of psychology that is, unfortunately for the theory of value and for all the social sciences, least thoroughly explored. But it seems to be established that it is possible to like pain, or to "dislike a foul smell more strongly than a slight pain.''[11] Of course it is possible for hedonism to gain a nominal victory by identifying liking with "taking pleasure in," and disliking with "finding painful." But such terminology seems only to blur an empirical and important distinction. Lik-

( 149) -ing can certainly not be fully identified with a state or content of the type illustrated by the scratching of itching skin, or the quenching of thirst. It is characteristic of liking that it is directed towards an object, and that it is motor or impulsive; and the pleasure quale, even if it be invariably present, is certainly not proportional to what may be called the degree of the liking. Hedonism, then, is too narrow an interpretation of a view that fundamentally is not hedonism at all. To that view I shall now turn.


It is held at the present day with something approaching unanimity that value in the generic sense has to do with a certain constant that we may call bias or interest. We have found that efforts to define value in other terms, and even the argument for its indefinability, point unmistakably to this constant. The justification of this view lies in the fact that bias or interest, with its manifold varieties, conditions, and relations affords the best means of systematically describing that region of our world which the value sciences and the value vocabulary roughly denote. In any case it will doubtless appear that most of our differences of opinion will lie within this view. It is broad and elastic enough to contain views so different as the "self-realization" view of Green, Bradley, and their followers, Windelband's "Beurtheilung;" Rickert's " unmittelbare Gefuhl des Sollens," Westermark's "retributive emotions," Santayana's "objectified pleasure," Stuart's "valuation process," Meinong's "Urtheilsgefuhl," Royce's "loyalty" and countless other conceptions which instruct, edify, and divide us.

It is one thing to assert that the fulfilment of interest is essential to value and another thing to say that it constitutes a sufficient definition. In other words it is possible to maintain that satisfaction of interest as such is value, or to maintain that value is a qualified satisfaction of interest. I shall state the former view first, then the view which would deny it utterly, and finally the view or views which would propose to qualify it.

1. First, then, the view that value consists in the fulfilment of interest as such. I have selected the phraseology that I have thought to be least misleading; but it requires explanation. The central fact for this view is the polarity of affective-motor attitudes. Organisms and conscious beings behave towards certain objects or "objectives" in the manner common to love, hope, aspiration, desire, enjoyment, effort to keep or get; and towards other objects or objectives in the manner common to hate, fear, repugnance, aversion, effort to get rid of or avoid. I propose to generalize the terms liking and disliking, and use them to stand for these two modes of mind.

( 150) Liking and disliking are so related as to inhibit one another, and can not both be directed to the same object at the same time and in the same respect. They are often, but not always, directed to objects having opposite or contradictory predicates (as when one likes feminine women and dislikes masculine women). Furthermore, whatever appears to promote the object of one of these modes becomes the object of the same mode; but whatever appears to destroy the object of one of these modes becomes the object of the opposite mode. In other words a thing is liked for promoting an object of liking or injuring an object of dislike, and a thing is disliked for promoting an object of dislike or injuring an object of liking. It is evident, furthermore, that either liking or disliking may be dispositional and yet be effective in inhibiting its opposite or in deter-mining these derivative modes. Since it is desirable to have terms which signify this general type of reaction I shall use the term interest to mean a subject's liking or disliking, including also their derived or their dispositional forms.[12]

According to our present view, then, value would consist in the fulfilment of bias or interest. An object would be said to possess value in so far as it fulfilled interest, or assumed the relation of fulfilment to the term interest; where fulfilment is used in a generalized sense for the consummation of either liking or disliking. At this point numerous questions press upon us. They are perhaps the most significant and vexatious questions of the hour in this field of inquiry, and I could not pretend to answer them in this paper even if the answers were standing ready in my mind. But I must at least state three of these questions, and I can perhaps best stimulate discussion of them by dogmatizing a little on my own account.

(I) First there is the question of the relative priority of feeling and desire. In other words, does value consist at bottom in having what you like or dislike, or in getting what you like or dislike? It does not seem reasonable to associate values exclusively either with quiescent enjoyment or with progressive effort. On the other hand, one can not but seek to unify them. This appears to be possible if we recognize the motor factor in feeling, and the factor of prospective possession in desire.[13] To like a present object is to seek to prolong it; and is thus not a merely static phenomenon after all. To consummate desire is to achieve the object by the expenditure of effort, and is thus not merely a matter of non-possession. Thus the difference is softened, though it remains as one of the fundamental principles

( 151) of classification. There are present values and prospective values, according as action is directed to the prolongation or to the achievement of the object. What is enjoyed in the having may not be missed and sought in its absence; and what is sought and achieved may have no value after possession. It is even possible that what is dreaded should be clung to and enjoyed when possessed, and that what is desired should be disrelished and rejected.

(2) A second question is already raised. Must a thing be in order to possess value? One thing seems clear: there must be a term towards which the interest or bias is directed. There can be no liking or disliking unless there be something liked or disliked. But this statement must be guarded and qualified. What is liked must be able to serve as a motive; one likes to own or spend money, or one likes one's friend to live or flourish, where the verbal form signifies potential action or a state contingent upon will. And only when this state is, can the value be said to be. But the state may be and usually is presented or represented. And it is important to observe that it may be sufficient that the presentation or representation should exist.[14] I may like to see my friend looking well, or think that my possessions are safe. Then my liking would not be affected by the actual illness of my friend or the destruction of my property, were my impressions and convictions to remain unaltered. Or the state liked may be one of supposal or imagination merely. I may like to suppose that God loves me or to imagine that I am rich. And in those cases it is not necessary that things should be as I suppose or imagine them. Desire furnishes an interesting example. If I seek wealth, then in that relation, only my actual attainment of it is good, But I may be actually poor and yet be satisfied in that I am convinced that I am to become wealthy or in that I enjoy the imagined prospect. So the course of achievement prior to its culmination is attended with the compensating values of faith and fancy.[15]

Since Meinong has contributed so largely to the exploitation of this question and since what I have said is so largely in agreement with what I take to be his meaning, it may be well to point out that he has overemphasized a specific rôle which the category of existence plays in value. That which is stipulated in desire, the contingent state expressed in the verbal form, is only sometimes existence. It is not existence or non-existence only which I like or dislike, or which is the object of the belief or the objective of the supposal or imagination which I like or dislike. I may like two and two to equal four, or to suppose that identity is a relation, or to know that my

( 152) friend has married, where what I like must be consummated, but where the consummation itself is not a mere possession of the character of existence.

(3) My third question runs as follows: Are liking and disliking themselves cognitions of value, or are they the immediacies to which judgments of value must ultimately be referred? We seem already to be committed to a certain answer. If value consists in an object's consummating interest, then to know that an object has value is to know that in it an interest is consummated. And it seems clear that to take or have an interest in an object is not the same as to know that one does. It does not follow that the two things are in the least incompatible; and it may well be that in the last analysis interest can be found or immediately observed only by the interested subject himself. We seem to meet here with a special case of the general question of introspection. But conceding everything to the advocates of introspection there remains the difference between the attitude of interest and the awareness of it. To say that "values are felt"[16] seems to be equivalent to saying that visual sensations are seen, or auditory sensations heard, the fact being as Aristotle long ago pointed out, that all sensations are objects of a common sense. Certainly it is not the liking itself which is liked; or the dislike which is disliked; nor can it be value which is liked or disliked since liking and disliking are its essential components. In other words, that value which a liking or disliking constitutes can not be the object of that same liking or disliking.

Here is indeed a fundamental issue, and I hope that their aversion to epistemology will not deter Professors Sheldon and Urban from lending us their aid. It appears to me to be clear that interest can not be at the same time constitutive and cognitive of value. And a failure to observe this fact is, I believe, the principal defect in the existing literature on the subject. It even largely vitiates the work of the Meinong school, which is otherwise sound and fruitful. Such current conceptions as "appreciation," "valuation," "moral sentiment," and "funded meaning" perpetuate and compound an ambiguity. We face, I believe, a genuine dilemma. The attitude of interest either constitutes values or it cognizes them. If it constitutes them, then the cognition of value lies in the observation, comparison, recording, and systematic description of interests in their relations to their objects and to one another. The judgment of value is the judgment about interests, and is otherwise like any other judgment. If, on the other hand, the interest cognizes values, then values themselves are not matters of interest at all, but qualities of objects for which interest furnishes simply the requisite sensibility. If we

( 153) accept this alternative we are thrown back upon Moore's contention that value is indefinable.

The question is, as Dewey and others have suggested,[17] similar to that concerning the status of the secondary qualities. But the same method will, I believe, lead to opposite conclusions in the two cases. We may attribute to objects qualities which upon reflection we discover to be qualifications of ourselves. A "coveted book" is evidently qualified by a relation to subjects. A "dull day," a "boresome meeting," a "tiresome place," a "hopeful situation" are less evidently so, but the clarification of the experience brings us in each case to the identification of the quality with a specific relation to the subject. When, on the other hand, we endeavor to localize the blue of blue sky in the subject we fail. To call blue a mode of the activity or process of seeing or of the sentient organism is meaningless unless, as in the case of Professor Holt's theory,[18] blue is reduced to quantitative modes that are localizable both in the object and in the sentient. How is it with the alleged "tertiary qualities" of value? So far as I ascertain such qualities at all they appear to me to be either modes of attitude or impulse, and thus motor, or sensory qualia which are localizable in the body. In so far as I find traces of what some regard as irreducible feeling-qualities, they localize themselves either in my body or not at all; in proportion as I distinguish and examine them they lose all semblance of that presence to the object which becomes increasingly clear and unmistakable in the case of color and sound. In short, the attentive effort at localization, whereas it unites the secondary qualities with the object, dissociates the alleged "tertiary qualities," and tends to unite them with the sentient. It becomes less and less tolerable to speak of a yellow or melodious organism, as it becomes more and more plausible to speak of one that is covetous, bored, tired, or hopeful. Similarly I conclude that interest is not an immediate cognition of value qualities in its object, but is a mode of the organism, enacted, sensed, or possibly felt, and qualifying the object through being a response to it. To like or dislike an object is to create that object's value. To be aware that one likes or dislikes an object is to cognize that object's value. But this awareness is no more or no less an interest than any other awareness whatsoever; and even if it be an interest it is not that interest which is its value-object.[19]

If interests be constitutive of values then the further analysis and classification of values will be based upon a study of varieties of  interest. Interests may be dispositional or actual, momentary or

( 154) permanent, personal, sub-personal, or super-personal, individual or collective, mutually consistent or inconsistent, original or acquired. The words good and evil now become blanket names for a thousand different attitudes of liking and disliking. The importance of the school of Meinong lies in exploitation of this rich empirical field, in its substitution of this systematic, but elastic polytheism for the conventional trinitarianism of the worshipers of the true, the beautiful, and the good. Perhaps the most fruitful conception of the new school is that of the presuppositional or "founded" interest, or what might he called the "constructive" interest. By this is meant the liking or dislike that rests upon an implied judgment, either concerning the object or concerning the interest itself. Thus I may like a man on the ground that he has assisted my friend, or is of my own party, or on the ground that others like him; so that were the ground removed my liking would cease. Whether in such a case the value itself may be said to depend on the truth of the implied judgment is a question for further consideration. It would evidently involve an abandonment of the present view that any interest whatsoever in an object is constitutive of value, and the acceptance of one of those limited or qualified views that I propose to examine only after having met the arguments that may be raised against this whole type of theory.

2. I have spoken of the very general agreement that value is a function of interest. The notable exception is Mr. G. E. Moore, with Mr. Russell, whom in this particular he has, I suppose, inspired. Indeed it is almost a case of Mr. Moore against the field. His arguments therefore assume a special importance.[20]

(1) He argues, and it seems to me quite soundly, that the term "good" can not signify simply a judgment that something is good. This is to the same effect as the argument which I have employed above against the supposition that one and the same mode of mind can be both cognitive of value and constitutive of the very value which it cognizes. As Mr. Moore puts it, we should in that case have no object for our cognition. The judgment can not be its own object. If there is really to be a judgment that A is good, then "good" must signify something other than the judgment itself.

(2) Second, he argues that the term "good" can not signify merely the interest of the subject who uses the term. Here again his argument seems unanswerable, unless we are prepared to abandon discussion of the question altogether. For, as Moore points out, if each party to the discussion is referring to his own interest, no two can ever be referring to the same thing. This is the genuinely vicious sort of relativism which puts an end to discourse, and is contradicted in the very act of generalizing it. To the force of this

( 155) argument Santayana has not, I think, done justice. The objectivity or commutability of judgments of value in some sense must be saved, not for the benefit of those "debating societies" for which he has so poor an opinion, but in order that we may read and enjoy essays like his own, and understand him even when he says "that good is not an intrinsic or primary quality, but relative and adventitious."[21] There is an evident solution of the difficulty. Let good be defined as relative to interest, where it is understood that interest signifies any interest, and not exclusively that of the judge who defines. Interests and their relations then become common objects. Against this modified and innocuous relativism Moore urges two objections.

(3) He appeals to the fact that we may use the word "good" without consciously meaning object of interest. Judging by what the speaker has in mind, to say that the object is good is not the same as to say that some one is interested in it.[22] This type of argument would prove altogether too much if it proved anything. No definition has ever been given of anything that is perfectly in keeping either with verbal usage or conscious meanings. For words may be mere echoes, and conscious meanings careless and obscure. The absurdity of the argument is especially evident in the case of complex entities, such as the exponents of the interest-view hold value to be. A complex entity is only roughly or superficially denoted in common discourse, and definitive analysis will invariably reveal a structure which is not present to a mind which reflects the stereo-typed familiarity.

(4) A much more interesting argument is based upon the notion of intrinsic goodness.[23] If a thing derives value from its relation to an interest taken in it, it would seem impossible that anything whatsoever should possess value within itself. It is natural to reply that value is possessed intrinsically by the total complex object-in-relation-to-interest. But the question has brought to light a fact that might otherwise have escaped notice, the fact, namely, that value, like other-relational attributes, may be predicated in two ways. The subject of the judgment may stand in the relation, or contain the relation. Thus the predicate parallel may be predicated of one line in the sense of being parallel to another, or of both lines in the sense of possessing parallelism. When this peculiarity of relational predicates is observed the difficulty concerning intrinsic values is, I think, removed. Intrinsic value is possessed by the object-interest complex; extrinsic value is possessed by the object itself or by any other factor or con-

( 156) -dition of the complex. Value may be predicated in either sense, as possessed internally by the complex or relationship, and externally by the object-term of the relationship.

Such are the arguments which Mr. Moore has urged against the whole type of theory which I am now defending. A more numerous army of critics would propose not to reject it, but to amend it. These critics would propose in divers ways to define value as a limited class of interest-fulfilments.

3. The type of theory to which we now turn asserts that what is liked has value only in certain cases ; so that the bare psychological fact of a particular liking is not in itself a guarantee of value. There are several motives which lead to such a view. It is felt that the view which I have been defending degrades value, or renders it too promiscuous. Or the motive may be the demand for some standard by which particular likings and dislikes may themselves be judged, by which a good will may be distinguished from a bad, or a higher interest from a lower. Or one may be moved by the fact that in certain notable cases, such as the moral consciousness, one's liking is attended by a sense of some ulterior ground or sanction, by a recognition that one's liking requires some support beyond itself in order to give its object value. Or the view may result simply from a transference to the realm of values of a general distinction between appearance and reality. But there is perhaps one fundamental motive after all: the desire, namely, to discover a criterion by which superiority or inferiority shall be assigned to values themselves-the desire to justify a criticism of the natural or empirical values. It seems to be necessary to provide for a scale or hierarchy in which inclination shall be subordinated to duty, impulse to a "norm," or enjoyment to an ideal. There is but one way in which this can be accomplished without abandoning our present definition of value, and that is by employing a quantitative scale. In such procedure no new conception of value is introduced; interest-fulfilments are merely compounded and measured. If, on the other hand, interest fulfilments are judged higher or lower by some other standard, then that ulterior standard is really definitive of value. Fulfilment of interest becomes a general, but not sufficient characterization of interest. Goodness will be that fulfilment of interest which conforms also to the principle which defines the scale. In what follows I shall contend that the superior interest fulfilments to which many writers would confine value, are superior only in so far as greater, so that there is in fact no resort to another principle.

We can not roll away this stone without uncovering a nest of wriggling perplexities and ambiguities that may well terrify us. But I shall hope to introduce a few clarifying distinctions. The most

( 157) fundamental distinction is between those views which would propose to define some specific complex type of interest as alone capable of endowing its objects with value, and those views which would look to the presupposition of interest and confine value to the cases in which these presuppositions are true. The first class of views might be termed ontological, the second epistemological or "axiological" in method.

(1) To the first class would belong, for example, the view that value is confined to objects of self-conscious desire or will, in which the agent desires the object as an extension or expression of himself. Desire of this sort does exist. It is possible for me to try on the various alternatives of choice before the mirror of my imagination, and to select that in which I like myself best. But Green and others have, I believe, attached too much importance to self-conscious desire.[24] They seem to me to be seriously mistaken in thinking that this is the distinguishing feature of volition. Choice is not, it is true, a mere survival from a scramble of impulses ; the dominant factor in choice is undoubtedly something which may properly be called the self. The system of the individual's interests comes for-ward in the interval of deliberative suspense and assumes command. But the extent to which the factor of self-objectification is present is accidental and idiosyncratic. It may signify a habit of self-examination, a peculiarly developed visual or social imagination, or even a mere awkwardness and vanity.

It is certainly more plausible to argue that value is restricted to the satisfaction of one's whole self, whether objectified or not, but in any case distinguished from the momentary impulse. Good would then be that which satisfies a person thoroughly or fundamentally or permanently, after every interest has had an opportunity through reflection of making its claims count. But if one asks why this sort of interest-fulfilment deserves precedence of the fulfilment of isolated or momentary impulses, for my part I can find only one answer. It is because it is a more conserving and fruitful fulfilment of an aggregate of interests than is possible when these interests are unorganized. The organized fulfilment of a self is better than the disorderly indulgence of its several impulses, on the ground that the fulfilment of interest as such is good, and therefore the more the better, In other words this view virtually assumes and applies the view which we have been defending, and extends it quantitatively.

This assumption is even clearer when it is proposed to limit the good to that which satisfies the peculiar human interest or preroga-

( 158) -tive. This may mean that since good is interest-fulfilment it is possible to name kinds of good after the interest affected. There is the animal good and the human good, the male and the female, the intellectual and the esthetic, yours and mine, and as many others as there are types or groups of interests that anyone has occasion to enumerate. Surely it would be arbitrary to select any one of these and name it the good to the exclusion of the rest. But one may have in mind as the peculiar interest of man the endeavor to systematize and maximize all interests. Man 's end is the good because man conceives and aspires to the total or superlative good. In this case it is not man's interest as such that is the determinant of the good, but man's interest as the vehicle or representation of all interests. Here again, however, the good is interest-fulfilment as such, and goods are ac-credited or disparaged in respect of the degree or measure of such fulfilment, rather than by appeal to an independent principle.

Similarly the good may be defined in terms of collective interest, as the fulfilment of the demand of a community rather than of an individual. Here again I see no ground on which such a "higher" interest can be regarded as more legitimate, more properly significant of value, save that it signifies a greater measure of fulfilment than does a private interest. Similarly an interest may be cooperative with collateral and ulterior interests, either within the personal life or within society. On the assumption that interest-fulfilment as such is goad, the value of consistent or harmonious fulfilment is enhanced by its indirect fruitfulness or innocence.. Otherwise I see no reason why it should be selected as peculiarly significant of value.

And finally a universal will or absolute will, or will of God, would possess no peculiar claims were it not either a collective will or a co-operative will. The universal will may be taken to mean the formal identity of all wills-the will-character as such. But one must be careful not to speak of this as though it were itself a special case of will. It can not itself define a type of will-fulfilment, for there is, strictly speaking, no such will. There is a will for this and a will for that, but no will in general save as the abstraction common to the two. To define value in terms of the fulfilment of this would be equivalent to attributing value to the fulfilment of any will. In other words, all wills equally exemplify the general nature will, and all fulfilments equally exemplify the generic fulfilment. On the other hand, if the universal will were taken to mean a common will, then, even were there such a thing, it could have no claim to precedence except on quantitative grounds. Indeed it is quite conceivable that a. common will, such as the will for property, might prove inconsistent with the most harmonious and beneficent system of life. There is certainly a sense in which progress tends away from sameness of interests in

( 159) the direction of differentiation and adjustment. Nor again is there any peculiar magic in the will that there shall be a universe.[25] It has been thought that such a will must underlie every will, and its fulfilment be the primitive value from which all others are derived. But to any unsophisticated mind it must appear that such a will is peculiarly rare and exotic. The will to know is a more important and substantial interest. But neither of these interests, assuming both to exist, is in any sense original or prior to all other interests. It is in-correct to argue that he who wills that there be a universe, or who wills to know, wills all that is implied in the concepts "universe" or "knowledge." So that even if it were possible to deduce all values from these concepts they would not have been deduced from the interest itself. But so far as I know, no such deduction has been successfully completed.

A universal will that would be entitled to preeminence in determining values would be a will that took up into itself or facilitated all interests. But then its preeminence would be based on the assumption of the value of all interest-fulfilment, and would signify simply the comparative value of more and the superlative value of most. In short, there is no specific kind of interest-personal, social, or metaphysical-that can be said to determine value exclusively; or even preeminently, save in so far as it sums or enhances the fulfilment of more limited interests.

I have reserved for the last a type of interest that will serve us as a means of transition to our second class of views. It may be said that only those interests determine values which contain expressly or implicitly a reference to some ground beyond themselves. The real significance of interests of this class lies in the fact that they may be in some sense tested by an appeal to their grounds, and I shall therefore discuss them in that connection.

(2) To my mind the most important discoveries of such writers as Meinong, Ehrenfels, Urban, and others have to do with the so-called "presuppositions" underlying interests of a certain type. These presuppositions or constructions fall into two classes. First, there are certain presuppositions concerning the state of the object or its relation to other objects. Thus I may be happy in the thought of my friend, on the presupposition that he exists. I may admire the painting on the supposition that Titian painted it, the statue on the ground that it is made of marble, or the lace on the ground that it was made by hand. Or I may desire the medicine on the supposition that it will cure my cold. In all of these cases I construe my object, and my liking or dislike of it is contingent on this construction. Second, there are certain presuppositions concerning the relation of

( 160) the object, or the interest itself, to other interests. Thus I may desire an education on the supposition that it is consistent with my general purpose of efficiency, or condemn the act of theft on the assumption that God condemns it, or admire the poem on the supposition that it must rejoice all persons of taste, or approve my act with the conviction that any judge must confirm my judgment. Assumption or "postulates" of this second class afford the best definition of that troublesome word "norm."[26] My interest is normative in so far as it is determined or controlled by the acknowledgment of a confirming interest in some sense superior to my own.

Now it is evident that a value may be tested by determining the truth or falsity of the assumptions which mediate it. If I call a mediated or constructive liking or disliking a valuation, I may validate or invalidate a valuation according as I find it to be well-grounded or based upon a misconception of the situation. If it turns out that the statue was of plaster and the lace machine made, I shall cease to like them. And, similarly, if I am convinced that God wills otherwise, I shall cease to condemn the theft; or if I discover that education is inconsistent with efficiency I shall cease to value it. On the other hand, when the grounds of any valuation are translated into conscious judgments and proved true, the valuation is verified and confirmed. A valuation that is undisturbed and fortified by increased light is in a special sense ,a true valuation or a genuine value. We must be on our guard against a natural confusion. There are two entirely distinct senses in which a liking may be true, or a value genuine. On the one hand, it may be true that I like the Mona Lisa; and in this case, on the hypothesis that a thing liked has value, the Mona Lisa is a genuine value. On the other hand, I may like it because it was painted by Leonardo, and since it is true that it was painted by Leonardo the value is founded on a correct belief. In other words, a value may be the object of a true judgment or founded on a true judgment.

I recognize the importance of distinguishing as a class of values those which are well grounded. And it is even evident that they are superior. But this superiority turns out to mean, I think, that they are greater. For example, they are more durable. It is evident also that in many cases they are multiple. If I desire the medicine on the ground that it will cure my cold, in getting it I get two things that I want, the medicine and the cure. A value founded on truth is both hardier and more prolific. And there is the truth value itself to be added besides. Or the presupposition may assert a fact or relation that is itself constitutive of value, so that if the presupposition is true, that value is added. But these merits can not be defined with-

( 161) -out assuming that the value founded on ignorance or error possesses the same in smaller measure. And the same holds of the so-called normative attitudes. If I approve of honesty with a sense of the backing of the community, or the confirming opinion of the disinterested spectator, I may be well- or ill-advised. If I be ill-advised, then honesty has value in my eyes only; if I be well-advised it has a greater value for fulfiling more than my individual interest. But if it be good that an act should be generally approved, it is only less good that it should be privately approved. Furthermore, in so far as my liking is conditioned by the coincidence of social opinion or a Divine Will, then if these truly agree my liking is more durable, is guaranteed against the menace of disillusionment. In either case the superiority of a value founded on true presuppositions is quantitative; it signifies more of interest fulfilment and not value of a different and more fundamental order.

Now that I have penetrated so far into this forbidden land of epistemology, let me add one further point. I find this whole aspect of values confused through a careless use of the term "judgment." An act of liking, especially when it is reflective and mediated, when, in other words, it is conscious of itself and of its grounds, is often spoken of as the "judgment of value." And it is commonly believed that we have to do here with a unique sort of judgment. But this belief is due to a lack of analysis. It is unique only in that it is complex. If I consciously like the Mona Lisa on the conscious supposition that it is the work of Leonardo I may be said to judge twice. First, I judge that I like the picture. There is nothing peculiar about this judgment. It is like the judgment that I see stars. And it differs from your judgment that I like the picture, only in that it may be said to reflect a more immediate or certain experience of the fact. I can see good reasons for regarding this as a judgment of value, but none for regarding it as unique. Second, I judge that Leonardo painted the picture. There is nothing peculiar about this judgment. You might have made it; and it is in all formal respects like my judgment that heat causes water to boil. I see no reasons for regarding this as in any sense a judgment of value. It simply happens to condition the existence of a value. In addition to these two judgments my complex state of mind contains my liking of the picture. This is the central fact, but it is no more a judgment than my entering the Louvre to see the picture. It constitutes the value, but does not judge it, and determines the truth or falsity of a judgment that I like it, but is not itself true or false. Mix these three things thoroughly and you have your normative or appreciative consciousness, possessing at once the infallibility of fact, the truth-

( 162) claim of a judgment, and the virtuality and vague ulterior reference of a presupposition !



  1. Read before the American Philosophical Association, December 29, 1914, in opening the discussion of "Value."
  2. Cf, letters contributed to this JOURNAL, Vol. X., pages 587 and 643.
  3. I recognize the existence of important problems that I do not here even touch upon, such as the measurement of value, the distinguishing features of species of value, such as moral value, beauty, truth, etc., the genesis, development, and transposition of values, teleology, value and existence, etc..
  4. Cf. his "Principia Ethica," §§ 5-14.
  5. " Winds of Doctrine," pages 135 ff.
  6. "Principia Ethica,'' page 10.
  7. Cf. Sidgwick, "Methods of Ethics," Bk. I., Ch. IX.; Bk. III., Ch. XIV. Moore, "Principia Ethics," Ch. VI.; "Ethics," Ch. VII.
  8. Sidgwick, op. cit., page 397.
  9. With the possible exception of "the consciousness of pain." Moore, "Principia Ethics," page 225.
  10. The best exposition of this view of which I know is to be found in Professor Palmer's "Nature of Goodness."
  11. Munsterberg, "Eternal Values," page 68.
  12. Meinong uses the term in a similar sense. Cf. his "Für die Psychologie und gegen den Psychologismus in der allgemeinen Werttheorie," Logos, Vol. III.(1912), page 7.
  13. This is perhaps the same as Dr. Anderson’s view that "the test of a value is its influence upon activity." Cf. his "Social Value," page 104.
  14. Unless one abandons the present view and confines value to interest-fulfilment founded on truth. Cf. below.
  15. There is also, of course, the value of partial achievement.
  16. Cf. Urban, "Valuation," page 22.
  17. Cf. Dewey, "The Problem of Values," this JOURNAL, Vol. X., page 269; Meinong, op. cit., page 12; Urban, op. cit., page 21.
  18. Cf. "The New Realism," pages 308-355.
  19. Cf. also below, pages 161, 162.
  20. Cf. his "Ethics," Chs. III., IV.
  21. “Winds of Doctrine," page 147.
  22. The argument is elaborated against a definition of "right," but is applied also to "good." Cf. "Ethics," pages 111 ff., 164 ff.
  23. Moore, ibid., pages 167 ff.
  24. Cf. Green, "Prolegomena," pages 118, 154, 171; Mackenzie, "Notes on the Theory of Value," Mind, N. S., Vol. IV., and "Introduction to Social Philosophy," second edition, pages 266 ff.
  25. Munsterberg, "Philosophie der Werte," page 74.
  26. Cf. Urban, "Valuation," page 18.

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