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Value Judgment


Contemporary discussions on value theory place great emphasis on the value judgment. The questions these discussions raise can basically be reduced to two:(1) Do values exist in some way apart from the person who makes the judgment? (2) If values exist in the thing itself, or in the situation, what faculty is used in forming value judgments, and how does it function?

Scholastic and realist philosophers, taking the position that good, values, ideals, and norms reside in objects, hold that judgments of value, good, etc., are based on objective data. The judgment "charity is worthwhile" expresses an aspect of extramental reality; the value of charity is there to be known. Such value judgments are either true or false, complete or incomplete, insofar as they correspond to the way things are or ought to be. Such an approach to value judgment is based on the metaphysical conviction that an objective order of values exists independently of mind.

Some realists, such as Max scheler and W. M. Urban, think that the objective order of values is grasped by intuition. Others say that value judgments are made after an investigation and inquiry similar to that preceding judgments of other types. Scholastics see the cogitative power as the internal faculty that apprehends the basic values of usefulness, convenience, or danger and furnishes the substratum of knowledge from which higher values, both moral and aesthetic, can be disengaged. An important functon of this internal sense is to make man aware of values as realized actually or potentially in individual situations. The values thus apprehended usually arouse desire, interest, or emotional reaction on the part of the subject; it should be noted, however, that the value judgment may be made apart from any subjective feeling.

Value judgment is conceived quite differently by those who deny any objective status to values themselves. Divergent viewpoints are found among such subjectivists. Very often they see value judgments as expressions of the mental attitude a person takes toward an object or situation, such as expressions of interest (R. B. Perry), preference (D. hume), desire (D. Parker), or pleasantness (G. santayana).

An extreme position toward value judgments is that taken by logical positivists, of whom M. Schlick and A.J. Ayer are representative. They hold that these are meaningless since they cannot be verified or justified by the empirical sciences. At best such judgments are expressions of emotion or attempts at persuasion; they are basically irrational. Such a stand makes any real theory of values an impossibility.

See Also: axiology.

[r. r. kline]

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