Stanford Encyclopedia states:

"In its broadest sense, “value theory” is a catch-all label used to encompass all branches of moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and sometimes feminist philosophy and the philosophy of religion — whatever areas of philosophy are deemed to encompass some “evaluative” aspect"

I am more concerned about the value theory one acts on rather than the what they should act on. Given one practices his own value theory is there an exhaustive list that philosophers have devised of what informed the value theory of us human beings (though they may not articulate it like this)?

  • What one de facto acts on is not value theory, without the normative aspect it is motivational psychology. And psychologists catalogued extensively what motivates people, Maslow's hierarchy of needs is well-known, for example.
    – Conifold
    Jan 13, 2022 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


At its root level, what we value comes back to instincts, or "human nature", as the question is tagged. Everything else is instrumental to those instincts. What separates instincts from more instrumental values is our ability to infer causation between actions, things, and how those affect our success in satisfying our instincts. Put simply, our value theory is the union of what we have found to satisfy us -- empirically verified -- with what we infer would satisfy us -- hypothesised. These beliefs have been informed by literally all surviving human experience mixed with our capacity to reason.

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