The Creation And Destruction Of Value

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American Psychologist


Science characteristically pursues generalizations thought to approximate eternal truths. Thus, a science of values would be expected to specify the natural laws that govern human values and their effects on action. However, research in psychology suggests that values often are contextually determined, sociohistorical phenomena that can be created or destroyed. Traditional approaches to a science of values would be likely to reify historically specific and context-dependent phenomena into timeless generalizations that may then take on a normative force, shaping social life and institutions. An illuminating and useful science of values must include a critical examination of history and culture. By making the historical contingency of values clear, such a science could encourage discussion of what values people ought to have and what social arrangements best contribute to the development of those values.

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