Hi! I like to know how a philosopher comes to conclusion that a particular thing has an Instrumental value or an Intrinsic value. I read in Wikipedia, in Swedish section, that ice cream has an instrumental value, that there is no end in itself to eat ice cream, but it is good and makes me feel good. Feeling good has an intrinsic value. Is it a matter of on's preference to arrive at that kind of conclusion? Is it possible to say that any thing that is made by human has an Instrumental value.? Thank you for your help! Best regards Alan

The notion of intrinsic value is important to many debates in philosophical ethics. Very roughly, to say that something has intrinsic value (or is intrinsically valuable) is to say that it is good or desirable as such or for its own sake. On classical views, what has intrinsic value is worth seeking or having for reasons having to do with its own properties or nature. In your example of eating ice cream, the act of eating the ice cream does not seem to have intrinsic value. Rather, eating the ice cream is a way to attain something that has intrinsic value: pleasure, or "feeling good," as you expressed it. In this respect, ice cream itself does not have intrinsic value but has instrumental value: Its value is that it is a means to attain something else of intrinsic value. (Note that intrinsic and instrumental value are not mutually exclusive; something can be both good or desirable as such as well as being valuable as a means to other intrinsically valuable things. Good health might fit in this category: both good for its own sake and good as a means to attaining other good things.) So in figuring our whether something has intrinsic value, we thus ask ourselves about the nature of the value that it has. Is it valuable purely as a means to other valuable things (money!), or it is worth seeking out for its own sake? Philosophers have considered many candidates for intrinsic value. William Frankena generated the following list of such candidates:

life, consciousness, and activity; health and strength; pleasures and satisfactions of all or certain kinds; happiness, beatitude, contentment, etc.; truth; knowledge and true opinions of various kinds, understanding, wisdom; beauty, harmony, proportion in objects contemplated; aesthetic experience; morally good dispositions or virtues; mutual affection, love, friendship, cooperation; just distribution of goods and evils; harmony and proportion in one's own life; power and experiences of achievement; self-expression; freedom; peace, security; adventure and novelty; and good reputation, honor, esteem, etc.

There are several big philosophical questions in the air here: The main one you seem to be interested in is whether intrinsic value is ultimately dependent on preferences. This seems to be a question about direction of explanation. Let's suppose the following claim is true:

(V)For all x, x is intrinsically valuable if and only if a rationally informed individual would judge x as worthy of pursuit for its sake.

Objectivists about intrinsic value favor a 'right to left' reading of (V): a rationally informed individual would judge x as worthy of pursuit for its own sake BECAUSE x is intrinsically valuable, i.e., x has properties that render it worthy of pursuit for its own sake. Subjectivists about intrinsic value will favor a 'left to right' reading of (V): x is worthy of pursuit for its own sake BECAUSE a rationally informed individual would judge it as such.

I make no pretense of settling the dispute between objectivists and subjectivists about intrinsic value here. You might take a look at Michael Zimmerman's Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on intrinsic and extrinsic value (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/value-intrinsic-extrinsic/), particularly section 3, for more.

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