Value has been a fundamental issue in philosophy from the time of Plato, although the common usage of the term "value" in philosophy extends only back to the nineteenth century. Before that time, value were discussed in terms of the good, the right, beauty, virtue, truth, obligation, moral judgement, aesthetic judgement etc. The recognition that all these separate concepts are based on the same underlying structure led to the development of "value theory" through the works of such eminent philosophers as Lotze, Meinong, von Ehrenfels, and later Scheler, Nicolai Hartman, Perry, Dewey and Pepper. The common ground of concepts such as the good, the beautiful, the right is that they deal essentially with what ought to be, rather than with what is. This distinction between value (what ought to be) and fact (what is) pervades all of the social sciences and humanities and is the subject of considerable debate, most recently in the area of policy analysis.
The term value or values is used in a great variety of contexts and has many meanings in everyday language. Value can mean standards, beliefs, principles, moral obligations and social norms, but also desires, wants, needs or interests. Furthermore, value can also mean the worth, importance or significance of a thing or object of interest. This abundance of different meanings is not only found in ordinary speech, it is also evident in the usage of "value" in the social sciences and humanities.
As far as philosophy is concerned the term “value theory” is used in different ways. Firstly, it is used to encompass all the other fields of philosophy, like social, political, feminist and also the philosophy of religion — whatever areas of philosophy are deemed to encompass some “evaluative” aspect. Secondly “value theory” is roughly synonymous with “axiology”. Axiology can be thought of as primarily concerned with classifying what things are good, and how good they are. For instance, a traditional question of axiology concerns whether the objects of value are subjective psychological states, or objective states of the world. Thirdly, or in a more useful way, “value theory” designates the area of moral philosophy that is concerned with theoretical questions about value and goodness of all varieties. The theory of value, so construed, encompasses axiology, but also includes many other questions about the nature of value and its relation with other discipline and applications.
The development of concepts and measures of value in philosophy, the social and behavioral sciences and in economics is based on theories of value. In order to scrutinize in detail and provide a foundation for the discussion of value, and to clarify the assumptions underlying different conceptions of value, this section presents a brief discussion of theories of value
A primary distinction can be drawn between normative and meta-normative theories of value:
(a) normative theories of value make judgements about...