It's easy to talk in terms of things having intrinsic value, and it often sounds as though philosophers take it for granted that this is a coherent concept. But it seems to me that "to be valuable/have value" can only be cashed out in terms of "being valued by someone." Is there anything in the literature on this subject? Has anyone given sense to the idea of "intrinsic value"?

It seems to be that jettisoning intrinsic value would have quite far reaching consequences in how we could reason axiologically. For example, instead of comparing states of affairs in terms of which is better than the other, simpliciter, one would always have to put in terms that answer the question "better for whom?" Whether someone's life was worth living could not be answered simply by noting whether there was a preponderance of pain or pleasure in their life, but by simply finding out if the person values their own life.

  • Something no more needs to be of value to someone in order to be of value than it needs to be seen by someone in order to be. Philosophy is not economics, or even physics, conceptions do not need to be "cashed out" in any direct sense to be of interest. There is a difference between intelligible and utilitarian. This said, only novices ask "which is better?" simpliciter anyway, the more experienced specify the ethical system according to which it is to be "better". On philosophical studies of intrinsic value see SEP.
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 4:56
  • If you are concerned specifically with economic goods (as opposed to moral values) there is a theory that there is no intrinsic value in a thing but that its value arises when individuals want it and are willing to exchange things to get it. This is called the subjective theory of value. It was introduced by Carl Menger and Eugen Böhm-Bawerk among others and is a feature of Austrian school economics.
    – Bumble
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 5:57


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