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KRONOS Vol V, No. 1

FACTS AND VALUES: An Interdisciplinary Perspective



"Man is the measure of all things." Protagoras

It is frequently but mistakenly assumed that so-called facts and so called values are completely disparate entities. Actually, the world is not divisible into two such isolated halves as the realm of purely rational and objective facts, and the realm of purely emotional and subjective values. In other words, so-called facts and so-called values do not belong to ontologically and logically distinct regions of reality.

Instead, they are the same natural and cultural phenomena found everywhere but viewed from different perspectives by groups and individuals occupying shifting existential positions, experiencing and manifesting changing adaptive interests and pursuing more or less enduring, but always transitory, goals in the great Heraclitean flux of things.

Logico-ontological and axiological aspects of all concepts and phenomena, facts and values are but two sides of the same coin of human experience.

In the words of Professor Ethel Albert, "Research is much and adversely affected by a simple dichotomy of facts and values. Facts, it is often assumed, are in the province of reason, objectivity, verifiability, and universality. Values are often, though by no means always, associated with the emotive, subjective, relative and arbitrary. It then seems that factual judgments are trustworthy, value judgments not to be taken too seriously, that facts are universally agreed upon but values relative and subjective. It is desirable to preserve a distinction between facts and values, but it is misleading to divide their empire between reason and emotion or to try to classify all statements as necessarily one or the other."(1)

In a similar vein, Professor David Bidney maintains that "the dichotomy of scientific facts and cultural values is not valid. Socalled facts are really truth values, human evaluations as to the truth of one's ideas concerning the order of nature and cultural experience. 'Facts' are judgments as to what is the case and may change with one's beliefs and interpretations".(2)

Moreover, as dramatically emphasized by Professor Albert: "We cannot so much as say that a table is five feet long or that it rained yesterday without taking for granted, consciously or not, a host of definitions, substantive assumptions, principles and rules of logic, language and method, and a goal of inquiry. These determine in important ways how facts will be reported and what facts will be observed."(3)

It is therefore "not feasible to insist upon the relativity of values but to ignore the relativity of facts . . . between them, logical and social scientific analyses of ideational phenomena have put an end to the age of innocence of facts . . . To their logical, linguistic and methodological relativity must be added their relativity to personality, society, language and culture".(4)


The immediate stimulus to this paper was "A Picture Technique for the Study of Values" a provocative article by Professors Walter Goldschmidt and Robert Edgerton. After emphasizing the need for an objective, scientific approach to the phenomenon of value, the authors state that "Though most of us now accept values as something amenable to study, we have not reached any agreement as to what that something is, nor arrived at any very clear means for its objective analysis. The subject has been much written about; in its pure and hyphenated forms it has been dissected, delineated, differentiated, and combined. We are all acquainted with the differentiation between the desired and the desirable, the existential and the ideal, reality-choice and construct, the is versus the ought".(5)

In an effort to move beyond this clearly unsatisfactory situation, these scholars propose that "Values, then, may be defined primarily as those individual personal qualities which are considered to be desirable by people in a given culture . . . But values are more than vague, abstract attributes; they are also the patterns of behavior which are the manifestations of these values . . . Furthermore, the concept of values includes also the public and external expression of these attributes . . . In every culture there are material things, titles, required expressions of deference, and the like, which are public and concrete manifestations of value attributes".(6)

It may not be amiss to stress (although this is perhaps implicit in the preceding definition) that the value-side of concepts and phenomena can be collective as well as individual, impersonal as well as personal, quantitative as well as qualitative, positive as well as negative, rational as well as emotional, undesirable as well as desirable.

In his monumental Anthropology, A. L. Kroeber writes that "Whatever 'values' are, it is clear that they have some relation to culture" and that they "might be informally defined as those things cultural products, standards, or ideas which men living in societies prize and hold as having a high importance for them, for their group and descendants, and in themselves, over and beyond their practical utility".(7)

It is not clear from the context why Kroeber says "high importance", rather than some importance, but the latter locution would have avoided the unfortunate impression of inappropriate specificity.

In another instance, the Patriarch of Anthropology rightly adds that "Whenever a cultural fact has significance or historical reference, it also contains a value". In general, he refers to values as they exist in all human societies at given times and places or as they appear in the history of our species as "natural phenomena". This view of value is not only correct but, in its apparent simplicity, quite profound.

It is one of Kroeber's great contributions to anthropology to have pointed out decades ago that "culture, including its values," is to be viewed "as a part of nature," and that, "if we refuse to deal with values, we are refusing to deal with what has most meaning in particular cultures as well as in human culture seen as a whole".(8)

In his Cultural Anthropology, Felix Keesing points out that "Since about 1941, special emphasis has been shown in social anthropology in the study of the 'value dimensions' of cultural behavior", but the definition of value he offers is, in my opinion, though useful, still one-sided and incomplete. According to him, "Values are affectively (emotionally) charged tendencies to action which involve preferences, and often conscious choices among alternatives".(9) While many a value-side of concepts and phenomena is indeed emotionally charged, this is not necessarily true of all instances always and everywhere.

John Honigmann defines the term value as "an explicit or implicit socially standardized conception of what is desirable or undesirable. Values, in turn, influence selection from available means or ends of action".(10) Though, in my opinion, not sufficiently comprehensive, this description is intellectually defensible and true of many values in all societies.

Writing in 1940, Ogburn and Nimkoff satisfied themselves with the observation that ". . . standards are eminently subjective. For value, like taste, there is no measuring stick. De gustibus non disputandum est".(11) I do not think the situation is so hopeless. These eminent sociologists of another generation chose to rely on the not always self-evident wisdom of antiquity.

A. M. Rose identifies value with "an attitude held by an individual or group toward an object material or non-material, 'real' or 'imaginary' such that the object is esteemed, as something worthy of choice, so that in relation to the behavior of those who hold it the value has a 'should' or 'ought' quality". This thorough scholar adds quite properly that "there are also negative values".(12)

K. Young and R. W. Mack refer to value as "the quality of desirability (or undesirability) believed to inhere in an idea, object or action. Values are accepted, in time, by the group in certain orders of priority . . . Values are assumptions, largely unconscious, of what is right and important. Some set of values forms the core of every culture".(13) Despite certain minor shortcomings and aspects that are open to discussion, this well articulated and rather comprehensive definition has the special merit of emphasizing that the value-side of things and ideas often operates through largely unconscious assumptions.

According to Arnold W. Green, "a value is simply a relatively enduring awareness plus emotion regarding an object, idea or person".(14) Although less than ideally focused, this statement has the advantage of making explicit that the value-side of concepts and phenomena may involve not only "emotion" but also "awareness".

In Dressler's opinion, "a value is an individual's socially acquired judgment of the degree to which a particular stimulus is desirable or undesirable. . . Values and attitudes are not concrete entities but refer to an idea or concept. Although we cannot see a value or an attitude, we can infer it by observing its influence".(15) Whatever its limitations, this statement clearly implies the motivational function of the value side of matters in the structure of observed behavior.

Finally, to Talcott Parsons, a value is "an element of a shared symbolic system which serves as a criterion or standard for selection among the alternatives of orientation which are intrinsically open in a situation".(16) Very fittingly, this applies just as much to points of simple spatial orientation as to any ethical, aesthetic, religious, political or other preference and choice.

Although each of these representative definitions contains valid and provable points and shares important elements with other definitions mentioned above, not even all of them put together come close to exhausting everything that could legitimately be listed as important and true about the nature of "value". This is certainly not a reflection on the obvious ability of reputable and learned scholars, but a consequence of the practically inexhaustible facets of the phenomenon of value which cannot all be adequately embraced by a reasonably concise definition.

The problem of value definition, however, is not a problem of anthropology and sociology alone.


According to the well known economist-philosopher, Professor von Mises, "Value is the importance that acting man attaches to ultimate ends". Why ultimate ends only? He further insists that "Value is not intrinsic", that "it is not in things. It is within us; it is the way in which man reacts to the conditions of his environment".(17)

As I propose to show, the value-side of concepts and phenomena is neither wholly "in things" nor wholly "in us" but is generated by the creative interaction between us and our socio-cultural and natural environments.

Another economist-philosopher, Professor Lamont, defines value as "the place occupied by the content of demand (or the place occupied by any given thing to which we attribute goodness) within a rationally integrated personal conception of good".(18) It should be pointed out that in the motivational structure of most human beings that which is held to be "good" is much more a matter of intense and murky feeling than of "rationally integrated" conception. This is why, even in the construction of purely economic models, one should not overestimate the influence of the value-side of rationality and enlightened self-interest on human deliberations and choices. For, like other areas of man's behavior, his economic activity unfolds not in an ideally imagined vacuum but in a complex cultural context of many other considerations.

No less than those offered by the sociologists, these assertions about values formulated by the economists, although ingenious and largely truthful, fall short of a formally acceptable definition. This general failure may be due to the fact that, while man's preoccupation with the phenomenon of value is no less ancient than man himself, his preoccupation with the concept of value and with the theoretical and practical problems of its definition is very recent indeed.

For, just as man spoke languages before the first grammar was gradually abstracted and systematized from the recurrent uniformities and regularities of his lingual behavior, and, just as he obeyed and defied laws long before the concept of law was formally recorded, so he behaved in other realms of value long before various fields of modern scholarship began to display their organized interest in all the conditioning factors that stimulate and inhibit human conduct.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that the shortest road to our understanding of the phenomenon of value in all its multi-dimensionality and elusiveness does not lead through a longitudinal, successive series of isolated and destructively competitive specialized disciplines, each pretending to be self-sufficient, self-contained and self-explanatory, but rather through a latitudinal, simultaneous approach based upon constructively critical and cooperative efforts of all the interested and interdependent fields. Such an integrated approach would entail understanding the symbol "value" analytically, as in this work, on three levels of description. These descriptive levels are: values as phenomena, values as concepts and values-in-use as value-sidedness.

This is why every field of scholarship, including anthropology, despite increasing pressures toward ever narrower and more divergent specialization in depth, must pay much closer attention to what is currently growing in other gardens beyond its own largely imaginary fences.

According to A. M. Paterson, "Professor E. A. Burtt suggested that we might add 'tertiary' qualities to our primary and secondary qualities when we undertake an analysis of reality. These tertiary qualities are the ones embodied in the human institutions of the world. He suggests that we may be arranging nature with our methodologies due to main conditions in us rather than to main conditions in nature. Nothing can provide the satisfactory generalized concept of the world that does not entail extensive historical analysis of the major factors that have conditioned us, according to Burtt . . . In choosing between hypotheses of two kinds, the tertiary qualities are at work in us. The rise and fall of scholarly interests is conditioned by factors as yet totally unexplored. Burtt goes on to say that, though science may reject final cause, it does harbor in its fundamental categories functioning values or tertiary qualities that remain completely unseen".(19)


To us in anthropology and other behavioral sciences, the works of professional philosophers are of particular importance.

Even in so brief a survey, one must not fail to mention that, rightly or wrongly, historians of philosophy trace the development of the general theory of value to the end of the 19th century, that is, to the controversy between Meinong and Ehrenfels. These thinkers agreed in their assumption that value was a property of an object, but while the former sought the source of value in feeling, the latter attributed it to desire. Much earlier, however, in the 17th century, Spinoza asserted that things are good because they are desired and not the other way around. Although under different names, the theory of value developed for a long time in ethics, aesthetics and economics at the hands of various naturalists, hedonists and utilitarians.(20)

In the words of G. E. Moore (1903), "Good is good, and that is the end of the matter," and in the words of Bishop Butler, "Everything is what it is and not another thing".(21) These perhaps unintentionally lighthearted paraphrases of the law of identity remind one of the poetic humor of Gertrude Stein ("A rose is a rose is a rose. . .") without contributing to a definition of anything.

The problem of defining the concept of value is not brought closer to a solution by the assertion that "good is not a natural property," though "it depends entirely on the natural properties of that which is said to be good". For, however conditionally true it may prove to be, the statement that "Good is a property not of objects but of concepts" (22) does not amount to a definition of the idea of value which, in my opinion, may but does not necessarily have to pertain to "goodness" of any kind. Alas, the same applies to Professor Hartman's suggestion that "a thing is good when it fulfills the definition of its concept".(23) Every definition, in every context, on every conceivable assumption and for all purposes?

Besides Urban's Valuation, Its Nature and Laws (1909), which defined values as "funded affective volitional meanings,"(24) and many papers by Peirce, Bosanquet, Bradley, Royce, and Greene, one must refer to Perry's well-known General Theory of Value, which defines our troublesome concept as "any object of any interest".(25) As a common denominator of all familiar and conceivable types of value this may well be the best general and synthetic definition of the term presently available. Like Perry, Dewey was eager to avoid introspection and preferred a behavioristic approach.(26)

In 1923, Ogden and Richards published their striking work, The Meaning of Meaning, which might just as well have been named the value of value or the significance of significance, because the closest semantic equivalent of the term value in the most frequently recurring contexts is that of meaning or significance. Soon afterwards came The Idea of Value by Laird (1929), and in the 1930's, Schlick, Carnap and other eminent logical positivists emphasized the contrast between so-called emotive expression and so-called factual description or between so-called value judgments and so-called scientific or factual ones.(27) Unfortunately for this dichotomy, not all "facts" are wholly rational and not all "values" wholly emotional. Not all "facts" are amenable to universal agreement and not all "values" are doomed to universal disagreement.

In his Varieties of Human Values, subtitled A Pioneer Study in the Scientific Examination of Man's Varied Beliefs Concerning the Good Life, Professor Charles Morris argues that "The term 'value' is one of the Great Words, and, like other such words ('science', 'religion', 'art', 'morality', 'philosophy'), its meaning is multiple and complex". In his opinion, "It is not necessary for our present purposes to attempt to define it, in the strict sense of giving the sufficient and necessary conditions for the application of the term".(28)

It is hard not to sympathize with the difficulties that make so many outstanding thinkers shy away from the pitfalls and uncertainties to be encountered in every attempt at defining the concept of value in general. On the other hand, it is no less hard to understand why, if we do not even have to try to define it, we are required to treat the undefined in a supposedly scientific way.

According to Bertram Jessup, the need for preliminary agreement is axiomatic: "Between persons there can be no rational disagreement, that is, disagreement of the kind that leads to discussion rather than contention, unless there is first agreement."(29)

Unfortunately, however, from the very outset of his investigation, Jessup looks for a special field of value within the whole field of reality and claims that "fact per se is not value," and that "knowing (cognizing) is not valuing". Consequently, he defines value as "a post factual discrimination, that is, a discrimination within the field of fact, not one between fact and nonfact".(30) To him, some fact is value and some is not.

On closer scrutiny, however, even the distinction between "fact" and "nonfact" appears to depend on our evaluation of the evidence for or against the granting of "factuality". Besides, that something or other turns out to be a "nonfact" may in itself be a definite value. Similar considerations apply to the relationship between an as yet merely potential fact and its axiological significance. Depending on how this affects our interests, desires and aspirations, we may rejoice in or bemoan the demonstration that something hitherto uncertain in its logico-ontological status is or is not a fact.

F. S. C. Northrop maintains that "one of the first mistakes commonly made in talking about human values is to assume that we know what they are". He suggests that "we had better begin as best we can by trying to translate these words. . . into more exact terms and to put some content into them".(31)

One of the most impressive and humanly touching inquiries into the nature of value is undoubtedly Professor E. W. Hall's essay, What is Value? After some 250 pages of learned and valiant endeavor, the author concludes that his attempt must end with "the unsayable". In his opinion, "we cannot in a correct language formulate an answer to our question, What is Value?".(32)

Certainly, man's systems of symbols (verbal, mathematical, pictorial, musical and other) tend not only to illuminate but also to obscure, especially by segmenting, fixing and thus unintentionally misrepresenting the always changing reality in us and around us which may not be fully accessible, perhaps, even to a Bergsonian intuition. The essential dynamism and relativity of the unstable phenomenon of value in all its shifting manifestations cannot be perfectly captured and conveyed by the often static and sometimes distorting containers of our lingual and other symbols, many of which are more than merely ambiguous.(33)

In most cases, in my opinion, any kind of definition ("stipulative", "ostensive", "denotative", "operational" or whatever we may choose to call them) would be better than none as long as the "ultimate" ("real", "structural" or "theoretical") definition of a problematic definiendum remains unavailable. The wisest temporary way out of such difficulties is probably to resort to what Professor Edel, among others, calls "a working conception",(34) provided we articulate it as adequately and defensibly as possible and then use it with a maximum of consistency and responsiveness to intellectually honest and valid criticism.

Professor Svetozar Stojanovic, in his Contemporary Meta-Ethics, criticizes Wittgenstein's identification of the meaning of a term with its use and correctly points out that while every meaning is undoubtedly tantamount to a certain use, not every use is necessarily tantamount to a meaning.(35) The Yugoslav scholar proposes that Wittgenstein's dictum "Do not ask for the meaning, ask for the use" be modified as follows: "Do not ask for all uses, ask only for those which constitute meaning."(36)

Although this challenging reformulation is methodologically very pertinent and potentially helpful, its practical application depends in considerable measure on one's ability to grasp and control the lingual and non-lingual factors responsible for the frequent difference between the meaning of a term as intended by its utterer and user and its understanding, "correct" or "incorrect", by its recipient and interpreter. Alas, it is not always easy, without some arbitrariness, to determine which of the logically and socially possible meanings of a disputed word should be declared "valid", "objective", "accepted", and "settled" the intended or the received one.

Needless to say, this applies not only to so-called "value-laden terms" or "emotive expressions", presumably peculiar to moral discourse, but mutatis mutandis to language in general.

The difficulty is further increased by the fact that even the intended meanings themselves inevitably represent a result of a long and complicated process of semantic evolution. In this evolution the exact degrees of consciousness and deliberateness in the initial socio-genesis of a definition, the lingual and non-lingual conditions of an original formal enactment of a term, and the more or less spontaneous and crescive emergence of an eventual consensus about its meaning cannot always be historically traced and reconstructed. In other words, every socially shared term has a history, a past and usually also a future.

In this connection, Unamuno is undoubtedly right in emphasizing that "when we think, we are obliged to set out, whether we know it or not and whether we will or not, from what has been thought by others who came before us and who environ us. Thought is an inheritance . . . (it) rests upon prejudgements, and prejudgements pass into language... even Avenarius, who [in his Critique of Pure Experience], was obliged to invent a language, invented one that was based upon the Latin tradition, with roots which carry in their metaphorical implications a content of impure experience, of human social experience".(37)

Hence, as Professor Stojanovic himself rightly concludes: "the meaning of a word, of a group of words or of a sentence, as well as of other kinds of signs, cannot be precisely defined by giving the rules for their uses, because there are uses which lie beyond the boundaries of meaning."(38) Perhaps it should be added, "for the time being", because certain uses currently beyond the boundaries of a particular meaning may eventually expand its semantic territory. This happens intentionally in innovative and inventive uses of old terms for new purposes in creative literature, but much more often in ordinary discourse, quite unconsciously and by apparent accident. For, a term which repeatedly and habitually expresses an evolving meaning may eventually come to serve as its accepted designator. In the evolution of language and culture long accepted meanings of certain terms may be widened, narrowed or even completely discarded.

In the opinion of Stephen Pepper, one of the contributors to Lepley's Value. A Cooperative Inquiry, "As in many philosophical problems, so in the problem of value we have to cope first with a term of unsettled meaning. Yet the problem of value is not a problem about verbal usage. We desire to consider the nature of value or the facts of value, not the possible or customary uses of a term. . .".(39)

It might be advisable to say that the problem of value is not only a problem of verbal usage, because it is certainly that, too. As for Pepper's reference to "the facts of value", it seems to strengthen the position of those who oppose an unconditional and absolute distinction between the two.

By way of methodological suggestion, Pepper urges that we retain the word "value" and seek out the objects it denotes without letting our search digress into a study of verbal usage; that we do not assume any particular limitations on the meaning of the term in order not to define ourselves out of some of the most significant material in the field that our colleagues are studying, and that we select some promising value material as our point of departure and then carry our empirical study to the limits of our knowledge.(40)

Such warnings against possibly premature attempts to define an insufficiently explored definiendum should, of course, be taken seriously. But the scientific study of the phenomenon of value cannot get off the ground without an adequate preliminary definition of the concept of value in its seemingly essential generic terms. Such a definition cannot be conceived in a spirit of hair-splitting verbal cleverness or sheer semantic ingenuity. It can only be based on a systematic, critical and empirical survey of all the contexts of symbolic significance in which the phenomenon of value is encountered.

So broad a survey can be undertaken successfully only from the evolutionary perspective of man's adaptive behavior. This behavior is, of course, taking place in the always changing spatio-temporal continuum in which he confronts and responds to varying ecological challenges and opportunities and in which humanly perceived events and processes and humanly conceived and attributed meanings represent actualizations of the cosmic potential under the combined pressures of necessary and sufficient reasons.


Like man's universe itself, in which they constantly appear and disappear, the value-side, no less than the fact-side of concepts and phenomena, seems to me essentially relative and dynamic rather than absolute and static. The source of values is neither initially raw external nature alone nor proto-man's initially raw internal nature alone, but rather the creative interaction between these partly antithetical and partly complementary entities. In this interaction man is transforming an ever wider sphere of nature into culture and culture is making him ever more specifically human.(41)

As aptly noted by Professor Zivotic, "Man becomes a being of his own kind, a being which differs from all other natural species, by creating scientific, technical, artistic, moral, legal, political, religious and other values".(42)

Particularly significant in this context are changes in the nature of valuation brought about by the evolutionary transition from animal instincts to human drives and intelligence, and the social development of consciousness and self-consciousness out of the original unconscious.

Whatever else they may be, values are, therefore, emergent functions of man's interaction with other things, including other human beings. Values are always nascent resultants of two complex sets of components: the cosmos as it may "exist" outside of and apart from man and the peculiar, specifically human prism of our perceptive, affective and cognitive equipment. Our basic sensory values can be divided into as many fields as there are types of receptors and kinds of qualitatively different sensory experiences. We can thus speak of the values of sight (visual values), hearing (auditory, acoustic values), smell (olfactory values), taste (gustatory values), touch (tactile values), temperature (caloric values), etc. If a human world view is necessarily an anthropologism, based upon anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism, the world view of an insect is necessarily an entomologism, that of a fish an ichthyoologism, that of a bird an ornithologism, and so on.

Here it may be useful to recall the system of the self and the other developed by George Herbert Mead.(43) In the light of his behaviorist social psychology, values are never entirely "subjective" or entirely "objective", never wholly in the subject alone or in the object alone, but in the ever-fluctuating and novelty-producing relationship between the two.

With the possible and only partial exception of certain strictly idiosyncratic experiences, valuing and its consequent "values" are intersubjective, interactional and interrelational. More or less critically, selectively and hierachically, values are internalized, externalized, shared, transmitted and changed in the course of man's evolution and historical maturation. Even the most "personal" and "subjective" ones are of socio-cultural and historical origin. Over long periods of time, they may be more or less systematically standardized and supported by more or less benign or repressive positive and negative sanctions.

All of this seems to call for a careful re-examination of the often overdrawn dichotomies of the "subjective" versus the "objective", "fact" versus "value", the "descriptive" versus the "prescriptive", and so on. It also calls for the elimination from scholarly usage of such needlessly* confusing tautologies as "value discipline' "value problem", "value choice': "value judgment' and so on. For, if judgment means some kind of evaluation, and it inevitably does, and if the latter word is substituted for the former in the phrase "value judgment' the resulting "value evaluation " is hardly a contribution to effective and economical communication. That values occur in so-called "value judgments" or "value evaluations" as both means and ends should be self-explanatory. Values constantly appear in terms of one another. Under certain conditions, quantities pass into qualities, quantities are qualified and qualities quantified. At least some values are more or less comparable, reducible to other values and interconvertible.

[* E.g.: aged oldster, female woman, unmarried bachelor, other alternative, etc.]

Phrases like "statement of fact" versus "statement of value" and "pure factual description without evaluation" imply quite incorrectly and somewhat naively that the "facticity" or "factuality" of facts is not a value in itself and that there are supposedly "value-free facts" and "fact-free values". It is commonly assumed that facts are the data which the scientist observes and discovers in nature in "complete objectivity" and apart from any preference, predilection or presupposition. But, as Bridgman points out, in "pure physics" the problem of the "observer" must eventually deal with the observer as thinking about what he observes.(44)

On the other hand, values are often thought of as "purely subjective" preferences without any bases in the natural order of things, as if all of them were but expressions of irrational and unprovable emotional bias.

Regardless of their relationship to possible counterparts in a hypothetical absolute reality, what we call facts in science are not simple, epistomologically pre-fabricated and ready-made items just waiting for us to pick them up. They are complex mental constructs, based among other factors, upon our intellect's usual (but not invariable) preference for the value of logical truth versus logical error. They are judgments of what apparently is versus what apparently is not,(45) always from a certain genetically and socio-historically conditioned individual perspective which in certain respects may or may not coincide with other such perspectives. Even in the natural sciences, one's perception and cognition of so-called facts may change not only with one's changing fundamental assumptions, but also with one's natural as well as artifactual and mentifactual equipment.

I agree with Professor Bidney that "what the scientific method of investigation has demonstrated is the relative autonomy of so-called truth values and their comparative independence of moral and aesthetic values in the sphere of nature".(46) But the moment these values are reflected in the sphere of culture, their autonomy and independence tend to decrease.

The difference between error and truth is primarily epistemological, that between an error and a lie primarily ethical. An example of the former type of relationship may be man's still changing ideas about the actual shape of the Earth and of the latter, the well known Piltdown forgery.

For similar reasons, phrases like "value discipline", "value problem", and "value choice", already referred to, very misleadingly suggest that only certain disciplines, problems and choices are value based and value-bound while others are, presumably, value-free. Actually, it can be shown that disciplines, problems and judgments differ from one another not in that some are "value-tinged" and others "value-blank", but in that some are permeated by values which happen to be epistemologically, aesthetically, ethically, or otherwise relatively less controversial than others. Regardless of its relationship to logical truth values, as well as with regard to those, no discipline, problem or judgment is absolutely uncontroversial. For instance, a scientific genius may utter a statement which luckily hits and covers its aimed-at cosmic referent, but which at least in his lifetime unluckily fails to convince other scientists and thus temporarily fails to expand from an individually to a collectively perceived and recognized truth. For the anxiety-provoking prematurity of their insights, many trail-blazing and innovative thinkers have paid with their lives.

In part at least, this is so undoubtedly because "the ice-cold flame of the passion for seeking the truth for truth's sake"(47) has many natural as well as socio-cultural enemies. The human intellect is not a completely independent and isolated mental faculty. This was well documented, among others, by Francis Bacon in his famous discussion of the so-called idols.(48)

Consequently, as demonstrated, inter alia, by the cases of Bruno, Galileo, Darwin and Velikovsky, facts and theories whose implications challenge an established and officially supported view in any branch of science are not always greeted with open-minded critical detachment, calm and dispassionate rationality and honestly flexible readiness to reexamine and, if necessary, modify old conclusions in the light of new evidence.

On the contrary, blinding ideological preconceptions, powerful vested interests, strong personal prejudices and other crippling emotions often interfere with ostensibly reasonable and objective evaluations of an opponent's arguments and color the whole process of intellectual exchange with deplorable irrelevancies.

The difficulties which contribute to such exasperating and wasteful breakdowns in communication should be systematically studied by many fields of scholarship including not only epistemology, logic and semantics, but also the genetics and psychology of human perception, psychiatry, history of science and sociology of knowledge.

The phenomenon of value in general presents itself to us with increasing complexity, as we move from the analysis of the first manlike fossils and man-made tools in the remotest epochs of pre-history to the interpretations of his ever more conscious, deliberate and articulate symbolic utterances of aesthetic, ethical or other types of preference in ancient and modern civilizations. Just as various natural and historical conditions of human existence gradually, at first unconsciously and almost imperceptibly give rise to various systems of norms, so man's statements about these conditions and norms, from those concerning his origin in a dim past to those concerning his destiny in an unknown future, gradually, at first unconsciously and almost imperceptibly shade from relatively uncontroversial nonpreferential assertions to ever more highly controversial preferential ones.

The phenomenon of value is an evolutionary function of man's interaction with his always changing environments. This interaction may be rational, emotional, conscious or unconscious. Values are the ends as well as the means of human behavior. They are the ends and means of distinction and comparison, analysis and synthesis, preference and choice. Consciously or unconsciously, explicitly or implicitly, rationally or emotionally, we always distinguish while comparing and compare while distinguishing. Most of the time we also analyze and synthesize. Much of the time we prefer. Sometimes we choose, and the least frequently are we able to choose what we actually prefer.

Thus, choice presupposes preference, preference presupposes analysis and synthesis, and these, in turn, presuppose simple distinction and comparison. In the dynamics of human behavior, means may grow into ends and these, in turn, into means leading to other ends. The ethical implications of this potentially dangerous interconvertibility for the future of individuals as well as our species as a whole are enormous.


On the bases of all this, I submit that, the field of facts and values is coextensive with the whole field of human experience. To confine the concept of value to the sub-field of the emotive and preferential would be as arbitrary as to confine the concept of man to that of "white" or "black". As a matter of fact, because all human beings are (though differently) pigmented or "colored", the phrase "colored people" is as tautological as the phrase "value judgment". Instead of calling someone "colored", if the situation legitimately calls for it, let us name or describe the "color" as precisely as possible. Likewise, instead of calling a judgment merely a "value judgment", why not specify what kind or kinds of value it seems to contain. Thus, it may be an ethical, aesthetic, religious, political or other type of judgment. Why be vague and general if one can be clear and specific?!

In his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein says that a "tautology has no truth-conditions, for it is unconditionally true," whereas a "contradiction is on no condition true".(49)

The above preliminary definition of the concept of value is neither a tautology nor a contradiction because it presupposes and implies the essential relativity and transitoriness of every evaluator's relationship to every conceivable item of his environment's inventory. Thus, it is impossible to charge that, according to this definition, literally everything is actually and always a value. But, as things "emerge" out of the potential of the primeval and permanent flux of the Universe and enter what we call "actuality" by being humanly perceived, experienced and assessed, man is never aware of all of them, either simultaneously or successively, however long he may live. Thus, not everything, at any one point of the spatio-temporal continuum, is an actual value to any one evaluator, but everything of possible human significance is a potential value to some.

In nature and culture, as well as in the structure of human motivation, values are usually encountered and experienced in clusters, in more or less harmonious blends or in mixtures and combinations full of conflict.

Like the fact-side, again, the value-side of concepts and phenomena occurs in all spheres of nature and culture and can be classified as physical, chemical, biological, psychological, logical, mathematical, economic, technical, lingual, aesthetic, ethical, moral, religious, political, legal, and so on. Each of these divisions can, of course, be further sub-divided. Various ends call for various means, various fields for various methods. Consequently, no particular division of the realm of human experience, which is the realm of facts and values, is equally relevant and useful in all contexts and for all purposes.

Finally, facts and values (understood as phenomena) are a human universal. As such, they are historically, culturally and individually relative and variable in their concrete manifestations. One adheres to values not because it is nice to have them, but because they are as indispensable to the human survival of man as air and water are to his survival as an animal.

In the words of Professor Golubovic ". . . some endeavor, by means of values, in the first place to regulate their behavior; others to give meaning to their life; some, by means of values, rationalize their narcissistic desires, others their conformism; certain individuals accept only the values of their culture (ethnocentrism), others try to arrange their life by means of values as universal criteria".(50)

In his Mirror for Man, Clyde Kluckhohn warns that "No tenet of intellectual folklore has been so damaging to our life and times as the cliche that 'science has nothing to do with values'".(51) Quite apart from personifying a generalized abstraction (in this case the concept of science), those who espouse this view tend to overlook that even if "science " itself could be "value-neutral " or "value-free", its part-time practitioners, the scientists, as full-time human beings, could not. Moreover, says Kluckhohn with justified concern, "if the consideration of values is to be the exclusive property of religion and the humanities, a scientific understanding of human experience is impossible". He believes, however, that "it is absurd to claim a logical necessity for such an abdication".(52)

In a recognizable echo of Emile Durkheim (who never actually meant to "reify" them), Kluckhohn insists that "values are social facts of a certain type which can be discovered and described as neutrally as a linguistic structure or the technique of salmon fishing".(53)

In my opinion, it is true that "values are social facts of a certain type" and that those values that are instrumental in character can be tested in terms of their consequences, but the allegation about the neutrality of cultural descriptions may, alas, be closer to a methodological desideratum than to a psychological and axiological reality. For, just as not all values are equally emotional, not all of them are equally rational and conducive to agreement.

Hence, whether we make our predilections terminologically explicit and thus accessible to the criticism of our peers or merely refrain from using candidly and explicitly evaluative terms as if we had no underlying prejudices at all, our personal and cultural preferences and interests will always continue to work at least in our unconscious mind affecting the results of our scientific activity in ways frequently beyond our control.

In his History of Western Philosophy, Russell notes that Leibniz "cherished through his life the hope of discovering a kind of generalized mathematics, which he called Characteristica Universalis, by means of which thinking could be replaced by calculation. 'If we had it,' he says, 'we should be able to reason in metaphysics and morals in much the same way as in geometry and analysis' ".(54)

To this Unamuno replies that "all philosophy is . . . at bottom philology. And philology, with its great and fruitful law of analogical formations, opens wide the door to chance, to the irrational, to the absolutely incommensurable. History is not mathematics, neither is philosophy".(55)

At the end of his subtle, painstaking and meticulous work on Ethics and Language, Professor C. L. Stevenson writes with rare honesty and courage:

"When the basic nature of a subject is poorly understood, one must conceal his insecurity, from himself as much as from others, by consoling pretenses.* It is only when the subject develops that an inquirer can recognize, without losing confidence, that his conclusions may meet with intelligent opposition, or that they may require the correction of further experience and reflection."(56)

[* E.g.: The use of "the green house effect" by astronomers.]

It would, therefore, be inexcusably foolish and utterly immodest to expect that this or any future essay should produce the final and fully satisfactory solution of any of the theoretical and practical problems involved in defining the concepts of fact and value and tracing the fluctuating extensions of their multi-faceted referents in a world of constant change.

But I sincerely hope that, if it accomplishes nothing else, this effort will dramatize the tragicomic futility and presumptuousness of our attempts to treat the fact-side and/or the value-side of concepts and phenomena, in isolation from each other, with supposed scientific precision and rigor. For, as this paper suggests, this cannot be done without a preliminary and provisional agreement as to the minimum conditions for their epistemological recognition, conceptual delimitation and terminological identification.


1. E. M. Albert, "Cultural Facts and Cultural Values," a paper read at the 1962 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Chicago and made available through personal courtesy and kindness for which I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness. "Cultural Facts and Cultural Values", p. 1.
2. David Bidney, Theoretical Anthropology (N. Y. 1953), p. 415.
3. Albert, op. cit, p. 3.
4. Ibid., P. 3.
5. Walter Goldschmidt and Robert Edgerton, "A Picture Technique for the Study of Values," American Anthropologist, vol. 63, No. 1 (1961), pp. 26-47 and especially p. 26.
6. Goldschmidt and Edgerton, op. cit., p. 27. See also Goldschmidt, Man's Way, A Preface to the Understanding of Human Society (N. Y. 1959), pp. 66, 73.
7. A. L. Kroeber, Anthropology (N. Y., 1948 first published in 1923), pp. 294-5.
8. Kroeber, The Nature of Culture (Chicago, 1952),pp. 136-137.
9. F. M. Keesing, Cultural Anthropology (N. Y., 1958), p. 161.
10. John J. Honigmann, The World of Man (N. Y., 1959), pp. 595-6.
11. William F. Ogburn, Meyer F. Nimkoff: Sociology (Cambridge, 1940), pp. 905, 906-8.
12. Arnold M. Rose, Sociology, The Study of Human Relations (N. Y., 1956), p. 568.
13. Kimball Young and Raymond W. Mack, Sociology & Social Life (N. Y., 1959), pp. 70, 460.
14. Arnold W. Green, Sociology, and Analysis of Life in Modern Society (N. Y., 1968), p. 154.
15. David Dressler, Sociology: The Study of Human Interaction (N. Y., 1969), p. 68.
16. Talcott Parsons, The Social System (Glencoe, Illinois, 1951), pp. 12, 36-7.
17. Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (New Haven, 1949), p. 86. See also, by the same author, Theory and History (New Haven, 1957), pp. 19, 26, 35, 61, 271, 298.
18. W. D. Lamont, The Value Judgment (Edinburgh University Press, 1955), p. 290.
19. E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (Garden City N. Y., 1932), quoted by A. M. Paterson in "Velikovsky versus Academic Lag The Problem of Hypothesis," First published in P.S.A., 1974 (copyright 1977 by D. Reidel, Pub. Co., Dordrecht, Holland); reprinted with permission in KRONOS vol. 3, No. 2, Nov. 1977, pp. 121-136.
20. Stephen C. Pepper, "A Brief History of General Theory of Value" (chapter 39) in A History of Philosophical Systems, edited by Vergilius Ferm (N. Y., The Philosophical Library, 1950), pp. 493-502.
21. G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica (Cambridge University, 1903), quoted by Robert S. Hartman in "The Science of Value," an essay included in A. H. Maslow's New Knowledge in Human Values (N. Y., 1959), pp. 13-34, esp., p. 17.
22. R. S. Hartman, op. cit, p. 19.
23. Hartman, Ibid., p. 20.
24. Wilbur Marshall Urban, Valuation, Its Nature and Laws (N. Y., 1909), p. 212, 111-141.
25. R. B. Perry, General Theory of Value, (N. Y., 1926), pp. 115, 141-4, 177-8. See also the same work (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1950) and S. C. Pepper, op. cit., p. 496.
26. S. C. Pepper, op. cit., pp. 497-8.
27. Pepper, op. cit., pp. 498-9.
28. Charles Morris, Varieties of Human Values (Chicago, 1956), pp. 9-10.
29. Bertram E. Jessup, "On Value", in Lepley's, Value: A Cooperative Inquiry (N. Y., 1949), p. 125.
30. Jessup, op. cit, p. 131.
31. F. S. C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities (N. Y., 1948), pp. 20, 348.
32. E. W. Hall, What is Value ? (The Humanities Press, Inc., 1952), p. 247.
33. Paul Edwards, The Logic of Moral Discourse (Glencoe, Illinois, 1955), p. 240.
34. Abraham Edel, Ethical Judgment, The Use of Science in Ethics (Glencoe, Illinois, 1955), pp. 77-79.
35. Svetozar Stojanovic, Savremena Meta-Etika (Contemporary Meta-Ethics), Univerzitet u Beogradu, Zavod za Izdavanje Socijalistictke Republike Srbije (Beograd (Belgrade), 1970, 1971), pp. 231-235.
36. Stojanovic, op. cit., p. 260.
37. Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples (London, 1926), pp. 310-11.
38. Stojanovic, op. cit., pp. 234-5.
39. Stephen Pepper, in R. Lepley (editor), Value: A Cooperative Inquiry (N. Y., 1949), p. 245.
40. Pepper, Ibid., pp. 245-6.
41. Ralph Linton, The Study of Man (N. Y., 1936), p. 79.
42. Miladin Zivotic, Covek i Vrednosti (Man and Values) (Beograd, 1969), p. 7.
43. George H. Mead, Mind, Self and Society (Chicago, 1934, 1952), pp. 135-226; particularly, pp. 164-172, 173-178, 178-186, and 189-192.
44. P. W. Bridgman, The Way Things Are (Cambridge, 1959), p. 2. Idem in No. 19.
45. Bidney, Theoretical Anthropology, p. 415417.
46. Bidney, op. cit., p. 416.
47. Franz Boas, Race and Democratic Society (N. Y., 1946), pp. 1-2.
48. Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, "Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man," particularly aphorisms xxxix to lxi, in Philosophers of Science (N. Y., 1947), pp. 73-154.
49. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London, 1958), pp. 97-99.
50. Zagorka Golubovic, Covek i Njegov Svet U Antropdotskoj Perspektivi, (Man and His World in Anthropological Perspective), (Beograd (Belgrade), 1973), p. 193.
51. Clyde Kluckhohn, Mirror for Man (N. Y., Toronto, 1949), p. 285.
52. Kluckhohn, op. cit., p. 285.
53. Kluckhohn, Mirror for Man, p. 285. 54. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (N. Y., 1945), p. 592.
55. Unamuno, op. cit., p. 311.
56. Charles L. Stevenson, Ethics and Language (Yale University Press, 1965), p. 336.


  • Albert, E. M. and Kluckhohn, Clyde, A Selected Bibliography on Values, The Free Press, Glencoe, 1959.
  • Arrow, Kenneth J., Social Choice and Individual Values, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, London, Sydney, 1963.
  • Ayer, A. J., Logical Positivism, The Free Press, New York, 1959.
  • Broad, C. D., Five Types of Ethical Theory, Littlefield, Adams & Company, Paterson, N. J., 1959.
  • Bronowski, J., Science and Human Values, Harper & Row, New York, 1965.
  • De Beauvoir, Simone, The Ethics of Ambiguity, Philosophical Library; New York, 1948.
  • Greenwood, David, Truth and Meaning, Philosophical Library, New York, 1957.
  • Gruber, F. C. (editor), Aspects of Value, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1959.
  • Hobhouse, L. T., Morals in Evolution, Chapman & Hall, London, 1951.
  • Kant, Immanuel, Lectures on Ethics, Harper & Row, New York, and Evanston, 1963.
  • Kluckhohn, F. R. and Strodtbeck, F. L., Variations in Value Orientation, Row, Peterson, Evanston, Illinois, 1961.
  • Köhler,Wolfgang, The Place of Value In a World of Facts, A Mentor Book, 1966.
  • Kropotkin, Prince, Ethics Origin and Development, Tudor Publishing Company, New York, 1947.
  • Letourneau, Ch., L'Évolution De La Morale, Adrien Delahaye et Emile Lecrosnier, Editeurs, Paris, 1887.
  • Lewis, C. I., An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation The Open Court Publishing Company, La Salle, Illinois, 1946.
  • Mering, von, Otto, A Grammar of Human Values, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1961.
  • Mukerjee, Radhakamal, The Dynamics of Morals, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London, 1950.
  • Picard, Maurice, Values Immediate and Contributory, The New York University Press, New York, 1920.
  • Sahakian, W. S., Systems of Ethics and Value Theory, Littlefield, Adams & Co., Paterson, N. J., 1964.
  • Scheler, Max, Man's Place in Nature, Beacon Press, Boston, 1961.
  • Schlick, Moritz, Philosophy of Nature, Philosophical Library, New York, 1949.
  • Schrodinger, Erwin, What is Life and Other Scientific Essays, A Doubleday Anchor Book, 1956.
  • Sidgwick, Henry, Outlines of the History of Ethics, Beacon Press, Boston, 1960.
  • Stevenson, Ch. L., Facts and Values, Studies in Ethical Analysis, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1963.
  • Sullivan, J. W. N., The Limitations of Science, A Mentor Book, 1963.
  • Thurstone, L. L., The Measurement of Values, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 111., 1959.
  • Waddington, C. H., The Ethical Animal, Atheneum, New York, 1961.
  • Westermarck, Edward, Ethical Relativity, Littlefield, Adams & Co., Paterson, N. J., 1960.
  • White, A. B., Ethics for Unbelievers, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1948, 1949.

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