The Interest Theory of Value

Philosophy 11 (42):163 - 175 (1936)
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Abstract

The connection of value-experience with activity has led to the widespread modern tendency to interpret value in terms of interest. To value a thing is certainly to take an interest in it, and there can be no doubt that the value any object has for us tends to vary with the interest we take in it. The suggestion readily arises, therefore, that the value of any object simply is the interest we take in it. The difficulty with views of this type is that interest is a distinctly subjective category while value is persistently spoken of as if it were somehow objective. Indeed, the term “value” would lose the most essential element of its meaning if it could not be applied to objects of common knowledge in such a way that two people could significantly discuss the question as to whether the object A is not more valuable than the object B and each, on the basis of his own interest and experience, defend a different view. I do not think the subjectivity of value can be as easily disposed of as does Laird1 in discussing the argument, “Beauty is not in the aurora. Therefore it is in the beholder's mind.” This, he says, leads to the absurdity, “Therefore the beholder's mind is beautiful.” The apparent absurdity is due to the ambiguity of the term “beautiful.” It is applied either to an experience or to the object of that experience

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