A General Theory of Value

What is value?

In “A General Theory of Value”, philosopher Ralph Barton Perry argued for a naturalistic account of values, defining value as “any object of any interest.”

From 1946 to 1948, Perry gave a Gifford Lecture, which later was enlarged to became his book “Realms of Value”. The Gifford Lectures are purportedly about “natural theology”, but many normative subjects have been addressed in them.

Above I have diagrammed Perry’s eight “realms of value”, although I have changed morality to ethics. I have also paired them up to give a fourfold, which doesn’t seem too erroneous.

  • Custom and Art
  • Economics and Science
  • Politics and Law
  • Religion and Ethics

I’m disappointed that Knowledge is missing from his list, but I could eliminate some of his choices and rearrange a bit to make room for it.

Further Reading:

Ralph Barton Perry / A General Theory of Value: its meaning and basic principles construed in terms of interest

Ralph Barton Perry / Realms of Value (Gifford Lectures)




On this blog: The World Values Survey


Another “General Theory of Value” available on the web:

C. L. Sheng / A Utilitarian General Theory Of Value

Click to access cls04-09.pdf

[*3.111, *10.74, *10.75]



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