Although both the words have been used synonymously, I would like to know the underlying difference between the two.

If we consider the notion of intrinsic value we see that certain things such as joy and pain have intrinsic values whereas things such as money possess extrinsic value. Utility, on the other hand, considers the usefulness of things in general. Now it seems that things identified with extrinsic value might have utility ("You can use money to buy cars and therefore, it is valuable"), but can things with intrinsic value have utility. For instance, how can emotions be useful? Because if they were then they would not have intrinsic value in the first place. So, to me, it seems that things with intrinsic value will not have utility and thus, provides one difference between value and utility.

  • There's a lot in this question: why assume that something that has extrinsic value can't also have intrinsic value? Do you have a particular philosopher in mind in order to compare these words, and if so can you provide a passage? Mar 22 '16 at 17:04

I do not see a difference between utility and extrinsic value. In particular your example concerning the extrinsic value of money shows, that money is useful to obtain a certain goal.

You ask

how can emotions be useful?

The list of emotions comprises fear, anxiety, pleasure, joy, contempt, disgust, curiosity, hope, disappointment, expectation, exaltation, depressiveness.

Emotions are flexible (emotional conditioning): There is no fixed attachment which links a certain experience with a set of emotions. E.g., some people experience pleasure about a certain movie while others feel disappointment.

From a biological point of view, one can ask for the function of linking experiences with emotions, i.e. for the utility of emotions. One answer is that emotions serve as a marker of stored experience. As a consequence, in a new situation we have quick access to our stored experience by activation of the corresponding emotion. Hence also emotions are useful. One can discuss whether from a biological point of view intrinsic value exists at all.

Of course, the viewpoint of biology is only one possible approach. At least since the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle a professional conversation has been conducted about values and the question whether an intrinsic value exist as a final guide of life.

  • Honestly, that is an enlightening answer. Thank You!
    – nls
    Feb 25 '16 at 17:21

Utility refers to a thing’s effect on the physical world, while value refers to a thing’s effect on a person’s mind. Handing a car dealer money has no effect on the car you want, but it affects the mind of the dealer, who then allows you to take the car. So in that example the money has no utility, only value. Utility is objective and value is subjective. I believe a mind is the only thing that could have intrinsic value, because it will infer a value upon itself. But it will also be judged with an extrinsic value by others. Because value is subjective, an object can’t have value, it can only be valued. But it’s utility is intrinsic and objective. At least that’s my drunken opinion on the matter.

  • 1
    Edit: I said that value is the effect something has on a mind, but I should have thought that out a little more. Value isn’t an effect. It’s a mind’s reaction. That is why two minds could choose to value something differently. I want to clarify that, even though I doubt anyone will ever read this. Mar 16 '18 at 22:10

A useful something is an effective instrument to reach some objective. A valuable something is a moving back goal.

Appreciate the difference between "objective" and "goal". Objective belongs to the indifferent field of universe with its disposition of entities; a human there in this respect is akin to a stone or a rain. In "bread is useful for your life" life is an object among objects, it is not your life but life attributed to you like a state, and bread is a fuel to support that objective state. Goal is humanitarian matter (so it is a different perspective), it is about my (or your) aspiration. If/when I don't have goal, I don't have values. Objective implies there can be ways to achieve it, it implies usefulness of things. Goal does not necessarily imply the existence of ways to reach, the utilities.

Value is a special sort of goal. We can feel something as valuable only when that goal is unreachible in full (or exactly) while we aspire to get it. Every value(able smth) is like a masterpiece in a museum: you are deprived of right to posess it whatever strong your want be. Note that it is not "objective state of de-licensing" but one's experience that his goal in its clean or complete form is elusive. Only then it is "valuable". We cannot fill up with a "valuable". And mind takes it: "agree to mourn" with the thing we love.

A bit aphoristically: Value is what separates me from what I appear not while in view to be it. (It is the counter-part of possibility which is what separates me from what I appear by taking away the base/cause to be it.)

Because thus value is by definition unreachible (of which I'm aware while pretending to reach) there can exist no instrument believed (authentically) to help to reach - no any useful matter. Neither value itself is useful (in the definition I stack to) nor it is surrounded by "useful" means.

It is a mistake to treat utility like value or mix "useful" with "valuable".

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