A value system
is a set of consistent ethic values (more specifically the personal and cultural values) and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity
Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions...
. A well defined value system
is a moral code.
Personal and communal
One or more people can hold a value system. Likewise, a value system can apply to either one person or many.
- A personal value system is held by and applied to one individual only.
- A communal or cultural value system is held by and applied to a community/group/society. Some communal value systems are reflected in the form of legal codes or law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...
Corporate value systems
Fred Wenstøp and Arild Myrmel have proposed a structure for corporate value systems that consists of three value categories. These are considered complementary and juxtaposed on the same level if illustrated graphically on for instance an organization’s web page. The first value category is Core Values, which prescribe the attitude and character of an organization, and are often found in sections on Code of conduct
A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the responsibilities of or proper practices for an individual, party or organization. Related concepts include ethical codes and honor codes....
on its web page. The philosophical antecedents of these values are Virtue ethics
Virtue ethics describes the character of a moral agent as a driving force for ethical behavior, rather than rules , consequentialism , or social context .The difference between these four approaches to morality tends to lie more in the way moral dilemmas are...
, which is often attributed to Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...
. Protected Values
Protected values are values that people are unwilling to trade off no matter what the benefits of doing so may be. For example, some people may be unwilling to kill any one person, even if it means saving many others...
are protected through rules, standards and certifications. They are often concerned with areas such as health, environment and safety. The third category, Created Values, is the values that stakeholders, including the shareholders expect in return for their contributions to the firm. These values are subject to trade-off by decision-makers or bargaining processes. This process is explained further in Stakeholder theory
The stakeholder theory is a theory of organizational management and business ethics that addresses morals and values in managing an organization. It was originally detailed by R...
As a member of a society, group or community, an individual can hold both a personal value system and a communal value system at the same time. In this case, the two value systems (one personal and one communal) are externally consistent
provided they bear no contradictions or situational exceptions between them.
A value system in its own right is internally consistent
- its values do not contradict each other and
- its exceptions are
- abstract enough to be used in all situations and
- consistently applied.
Conversely, a value system by itself is internally inconsistent
- its values contradict each other and
- its exceptions are
- highly situational and
- inconsistently applied.
One of the conditions required for consistency in any (?) logical (i.e. value-conserving) system of statements is their transitivity
-In grammar:* Intransitive verb* Transitive verb, when a verb takes an object* Transitivity -In logic and mathematics:* Arc-transitive graph* Edge-transitive graph* Ergodic theory, a group action that is metrically transitive* Vertex-transitive graph...
. (See: Intransitivity. Occurrences.
) Without it, it might eventually happen that A
is of greater value than B,
is of greater value than A
—which is a case of mutual contradiction in certain statements that determine values of A
in the system.
Value system consistency can be a value in and of itself
Intrinsic value is an ethical and philosophic property. It is the ethical or philosophic value that an object has "in itself" or "for its own sake", as an intrinsic property...
exceptions serve to reinforce the ranking of values. Their definitions are generalized enough to be relevant to any and all situations. Situational
exceptions, on the other hand, are ad hoc and pertain only to specific situations. The presence of a type of exception determines one of two more kinds of value systems:
- An idealized value system is a listing of values that lacks exceptions. It is, therefore, absolute and can be codified as a strict set of proscriptions on behavior. Those who hold to their idealized value system and claim no exceptions (other than the default) are called absolutists.
- A realized value system contains exceptions to resolve contradictions between values in practical circumstances. This type is what people tend to use in daily life.
The difference between these two types of systems can be seen when people state that they hold one value system yet in practice deviate from it, thus holding a different value system. For example, a religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...
lists an absolute set of values while the practice of that religion may include exceptions.
Implicit exceptions bring about a third type of value system called a formal
value system. Whether idealized or realized, this type contains an implicit exception associated with each value: "as long as no higher-priority value is violated". For instance, a person might feel that lying is wrong. Since preserving a life is probably more highly valued than adhering to the principle that lying is wrong, lying to save someone’s life is acceptable. Perhaps too simplistic in practice, such a hierarchical structure may warrant explicit exceptions.
A model system
"Runaround" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, featuring his recurring characters Powell and Donovan. It was written in October 1941 and first published in the March 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction...
, part of a science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...
novel by Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...
, this value system exemplifies a realized
value system that is internally consistent
and has abstract
Three Laws of Robotics
The Three Laws of Robotics are a set of rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov and later added to. The rules are introduced in his 1942 short story "Runaround", although they were foreshadowed in a few earlier stories...
- A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Although sharing a set of common values, like hockey is better than baseball or ice cream is better than fruit, two different parties might not rank those values equally. Also, two parties might disagree as to certain actions are right or wrong
A wrong or being wrong is a concept in law, ethics, epistemology, and science. In a colloquial sense, wrongness usually refers to a state of incorrectness, inaccuracy, error, or miscalculation in any number of contexts...
, both in theory and in practice, and find themselves in an ideological or physical conflict. Ethonomics
Ethonomics is the provisional name for the discipline of formally mapping and defining the prioritization of values within value systems, with the intent of understanding differences between seemingly disparate value systems, the people who hold those value systems, and the decisions they make...
, the discipline of rigorously examining and comparing value systems, enables us to understand politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...
and motivations more fully in order to resolve conflicts.
An example conflict would be a value system based on individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...
pitted against a value system based on collectivism
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic, mystical or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation...
. A rational value system organized to resolve the conflict between two such value systems might take the form below. Note that added exceptions can become recursive
Recursion is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. For instance, when the surfaces of two mirrors are exactly parallel with each other the nested images that occur are a form of infinite recursion. The term has a variety of meanings specific to a variety of disciplines ranging from...
and often convoluted.
- Individuals may act freely unless their actions harm others or interfere with others' freedom or with functions of society that individuals need, provided those functions do not themselves interfere with these proscribed individual rights and were agreed to by a majority of the individuals.
- A society (or more specifically the system of order that enables the workings of a society) exists for the purpose of benefiting the lives of the individuals who are members of that society. The functions of a society in providing such benefits would be those agreed to by the majority of individuals in the society.
- A society may require contributions from its members in order for them to benefit from the services provided by the society. The failure of individuals to make such required contributions could be considered a reason to deny those benefits to them, although a society could elect to consider hardship situations in determining how much should be contributed.
- A society may restrict behavior of individuals who are members of the society only for the purpose of performing its designated functions agreed to by the majority of individuals in the society, only insofar as they violate the aforementioned values. This means that a society may abrogate the rights of any of its members who fails to uphold the aforementioned values.
- Actor analysis
Actor analysis can be seen as an approach to environmental management. Environmenal issues are often very complex, because many parties are involved. All parties have their own interests, goals and strategies...
- Applied ethics
Applied ethics is, in the words of Brenda Almond, co-founder of the Society for Applied Philosophy, "the philosophical examination, from a moral standpoint, of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment"...
- Intrinsic value
Intrinsic value can refer to:*Intrinsic value , of an option or stock.*Intrinsic value , of a coin.*Intrinsic value , in ethics and philosophy.*Intrinsic value , in philosophy....
- Moral code
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...
- Moral values
Anthropocentrism describes the tendency for human beings to regard themselves as the central and most significant entities in the universe, or the assessment of reality through an exclusively human perspective....
Speciesism is the assigning of different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership. The term was created by British psychologist Richard D...
- Value judgment
A value judgment is a judgment of the rightness or wrongness of something, or of the usefulness of something, based on a comparison or other relativity. As a generalization, a value judgment can refer to a judgment based upon a particular set of values or on a particular value system...