Do these sorts of value depend on the valuable thing existing?

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I'm asking just because I'm suspicious of valuable things which do not always exist, and want to (eventually) find the terminology for the opposite.

  • 2
    Are only materially present things existing? Your notion of existance needs to be clarified imho.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 23, 2016 at 15:21
  • @PhilipKlöcking thanks for the heads up, i will try
    – user6917
    Jul 23, 2016 at 15:22
  • added as a comment cos i'm not sure i can clarify. perhaps "exist" in the sense that the thing still is what was valuable, has not changed into something with a different value... so supposing that life is valuable, when a living person dies, they don't have this form of value (that i'm asking about)
    – user6917
    Jul 23, 2016 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


Kant on absolute value

First, there is but one absolute value:

These [i.e., persons, defined as ends in themselves] are not merely subjective ends whose existence as effect of our action has a worth for us; but rather objective ends, i.e., things whose existence in itself is an end, and specifically an end such that no other end can be set in place of it, to which it should do service merely as means, because without this nothing at all of absolute worth would be encountered anywhere; but if all worth were conditioned, hence contingent, then for reason no supreme practical principle could anywhere be encountered. (Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Ak. 4:428, Cambridge p. 48, bolded by me)

He clearly states that without 'things whose existence in itself is an end' there would be 'nothing at all of absolute worth'. The carriers of this absolute worth are rational beings, as clarified once more later on:

Rational nature exists as end in itself. The human being necessarily represents his own existence in this way;... (Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Ak. 4:429, Cambridge p. 48)

Now one aspect of your question, as I understand it, is how this worth is bound to the existence of the rational being at hand, i.e. what happens if the rational being seizes to exist in a relevant sense (i.e. death) and if this does in fact change something.

I will have to admit: I only have a partial answer on that one.

Kant on the existence of rational beings and death

Here, we have to leave the Groundwork and have a look into the Critique of Practical Reason, the fundamental book on Kant's practical philosophy. In the Dialectics, Kant goes into some detail how the existence of (finite) rational beings has to be thought.

I'm not happy with the translation, but it is the only one I have at hand by now. I will therefore quote the key part and paraphrase other parts of the argument afterwards:

The full commensurability of the will to the moral law, however, is holiness, a perfection, of which no rational being of the sense world is capable in any time point of his existence. But since it is nonetheless required as necessarily practical, it can be encountered only in a progression going infinitely to that full commensurability. And it is necessary, according to principles of pure practical reason, to assume such a practical advancement as the real object of our will. But this infinite progression is possible only under the presupposition of an existence and personality of the same rational being, continuing into infinitely (which one terms the ‘immortality of the soul’). (Critique of Practical Reason, Ak. 5:122, Translated by Philip McPherson Rudisill Posted September 18, 2012, bolded by me)

But this is only a 'postulate', i.e. a 'theoretical sentence', and does not in the least say anything about the theoretical reality of this immortality. But as we, in acting morally, have to presuppose this postulate and act accordingly (according to Kant), it gains practical reality.


Within Kant's own framework, the rational being does not seize to exist with death if it comes to practical concerns. This does not mean that it 'really' continues to exist (we cannot know for sure), but that we have to act as if it were (we have to presuppose it).

The absolute worth and dignity of rational beings, which is bound to their existence as end-setting beings, does therefore not seize either. Because dignity/absolute worth is a practical category, i.e. when talking about value we already are talking about what I called 'practical concerns'. Dignity is therefore absolute (i.e. not to be relativised) as well as infinite (i.e. in time). It has nothing to do with things-in-themselves, though.


Well, this is valid at least for the critical Kant. There are some not very well researched shifts within his Opum postumum that arguably would make another answer possible, but I am not (yet) deep enough into it to build an answer on this.


Value is the word here with 'fuzzy logic' behind it's definition.

The Absolute, i.e. absolute Truth, exists, regardless of whatever BS you, or I, or another entity or individual thinks, says, writes, rules, and/or does, to infer differently.

To seek absolute truth regarding an issue arrayed before you for analysis and review, is the only way to fully comprehend Kant's 'categorical imperative'.

In summary, absolute truth exists, an individual must seek their absolute truth, and when that is accomplished, all of the absolute truth, i.e. the Whole Truth, becomes accessible to that individual.

Whether the individual accesses and understands the Truth arrayed before them is entirely up to the individual's free will ability to choose to utilize the 'genius, and more', capabilities of the intelligence they received at the moment of their creation.

  • value is called "absolute" in some of what i've read on kant
    – user6917
    Jul 24, 2016 at 18:02
  • Can you clarify what YOU mean by value, and by absolute? Kant's definitions are somewhat confusing for the lay-philosopher, don't you think? Jul 24, 2016 at 18:22
  • 1
    Do you really tell someone to put aside definitions of Kant in his question on Kant's definitions? You DO know how SE works, do you? Absolute worth, or end-in-itself, is clearly assigned to rational beings under the notion of dignity. I therefore think the question is not easy to answer but if it is, then only in Kant's framework and not in making up definitions.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 24, 2016 at 22:33
  • Phil, So, if Kant's philosophical framework was incorrect, then you would go right along with it even though it muddied the waters of clarity rather than filtering out the contaminants? How would that be an improvement over the muddle-headed thinking that amounts to a study of philosophy currently? Do you think that only your interpretation of what philosophy means is the only one extant in reality? And yes, I expect newer, more cogent and germane definitions, with exceedingly more clarity attached to the wording, than what was created more than 220 years ago or so. Nothing incorrect there. Jul 25, 2016 at 2:13
  • The point of a StackExchange is to have definitely answerable questions and experts' answers in order to create a Q & A database. Philosophy.SE accordingly needs a framework the questions are settled in, otherwise they would be either unanswerable or the answers would be rather arbitrarily linked to the question. This site is not about philosophising. It is about asking and answering questions on philosophy, not of philosophy. See this answer in Meta.Philosophy here.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 25, 2016 at 11:11

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