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I mean to ask where the value of a human lies, not within the context of the universe but within the room of humanity. What exactly makes a human important? And, is it always something she puts out into the world?

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    What value? Are we important?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 18:30
  • Not important, but necessary.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 1:10
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    I'm important to me. You're important to you, I presume. Then the fact we all depend on each other for our livelihood (see Adam Smith's wealth of nation part about the woolen coat for a striking exemple of how inter connected our livelihoods are). Given all this, how about I value the importance you give to yourself as much as you value the importance I give to myself and consider every human altogether to deserve dignity?
    – armand
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 1:57
  • You want to discuss Value, and I think that is good and valid. This is an interesting book: Hilary Putnam The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays
    – Gordon
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 2:16
  • In the minds of others. Eg. I assess the value Thomas has for me, and I decide and act, whether if I get closer to or farther from him (in order to interact or not with him). Perhaps I feel I need to reject him, but others might consider him very attractive. Without nobody else in the world, Thomas has absolutely no value (no positive, no negative).
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 7:10

5 Answers 5

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To the early Christian fathers, those who wrote the works compiled into what we now call today the Philokalia (the love of beauty), the value of human life is that of the nous, or consciousness of the individual which is transcendent of human rationality.

In the Hellenic perspective, the value of life was constrasted to the classical and Bronze Age understanding of the kaoloi and kagaloi or the good and the beautiful having the most value as a class of persons, the Hellenic world focused more on the rationality of mankind and this concept followed well into the Augustinian works and thus western scholasticism.

This mind body dualism as a measure of value collapses when you encounter a subject who is incapable of reason, but in your blood you know they indeed have value. This is despite having a birth defect, serious injury, or old age which makes them incapable of reason. Therefore, reasoning or goodness in the classical view cannot be the measure of value of an individual human.

I would recommend investigating the early Greek Orthodox fathers, Like St. Gregory of Nissa, and how they cooperated Hebrew metaphysics and classical philosophy into the concept of Noetic theology, which you will not find many sources in the west who write about it.

This is the eastern view of human value, so I hope its simpler than the way western thinkers have tried to arrive at value apart from a concept of imago dei. Perhaps springing off of this ancient dogma will allow you to further establish your work.

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    This was a good answer, and I was going to upvote it until I read the last paragraph. It's fine for an answer to take sides in a religious or philosophical dispute, but it should remain courteous to the other sides. Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 6:23
  • You say the value of human life is that of the "consciousness of the individual which is transcendent of human rationality", but why would this have value? The only reason given I see here is "in your blood you know they indeed have value", which doesn't mean humans have value in any objective sense, but merely that other humans tend to value them. This could be due to evolution, due to the influence of the Holy Spirit or due to whatever other religions might say this is caused by.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 8:24
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    +1 to @DavidGudeman. Put-downs (even subtle ones) and unfriendly language are unacceptable behavior on this site.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 8:52
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    Was that 'Bronze Age understanding' really how a life was valued? We can go to actual texts like the Odyssey to back the idea 'Kleos Aphthiton' was a primary value. "This is the eastern view of human value". You mean, Eastern Orthodox Christian? Because your phrasing could imply Chinese & Indian thought holds the same. Coopted rather than cooperated? Is there a single 'noetic' view of human value?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 10:16
  • @DavidGudeman, correction accepted. We’ll keep it academic Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 2:01
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Regarding valuing humans in general, humans don't objectively have value, but we should value others because:

  • We want to be valued (which may be aided by reciprocation)
  • We'd want to be valued if we were in their shoes (a common idea, built upon in the "veil of ignorance" thought experiment, which proposes designing society as if you had no knowledge of what your ethnicity, social status, gender, life goals, etc. would be)
  • We have empathy and kindness, and consider expressing these traits to make the world better for everyone
  • We live in a society, where the unnecessary / preventable suffering of some tends to make ripples throughout society, from hurting those who care about them, to hurting everyone else, in the knowledge that society is unjust and promotes or ignores suffering, and we could be next to suffer
  • Those people may be able to create value for us in future

Regarding valuing specific humans, one could create value by:

  • Being there and caring for your friends and family
  • Being kind and promoting kindness to increase human happiness and reduce suffering
  • Advancing human knowledge and progress
  • Etc.

Where you see value in yourself and others would depend on what you want the world to look like and which traits you care about.


Note: This answer should roughly be describing the value of human life according to humanism, which reflects how this question has been tagged.

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  • @BillOnne Actually all of those are subjective reasons.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 15:21
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Values are very important to sustain dharma. And if one wants to know exactly where values lie, (strictly speaking) he must know himself; otherwise we can say it is in the mind.

Since there is the Substratum over which this entire creation exists, the one that transcends dharma and adharma, and since it is beyond intellect, one cannot find the exact location of values using one's intellect.

https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/7/verse/7

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'True' value is only true in the sense that a person or persons might find it true.

In other words, it is a subjective - rather than objective - value.

Therefore the value of a human lies wherever he or she or another deems it to lie.

For one person, it may lie in something relatively trivial, such as a person's perceived beauty. For another, it may lie in the fact that they are human. Some might find value in a person's deeds. Others might find it in a person's attitudes.

To claim there is some kind of objective value is to assume the burden of proof. We have no reason to think that such a value exists.

Even if you believe that human value is derived from a creator god or gods, the values of deity are also subjective.

The closest you will arrive at true value might lie in your own answers to the question. At least you can be relatively certain of your own values. The claimed or perceived values of others are merely claims and/or perceptions.

It is an interesting question to ask of others. It is a fascinating question to ask of oneself.

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I think a person has value in themself. Inherent value. As a matter of historical interest, look at the old Porphyrian tree, down at the bottom is the all-important individual. She stands alone. (Plato is used as an example of the individual). https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porphyrian_tree

You may also want to study the philosophy of Personalism. “Personalism” by Mounier, Emmanuel, free PDF at Internet Archive.

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