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A value judgment is a judgment of the rightness or wrongness of something, or of the usefulness of something, based on a personal view. As a generalization, a value judgment can refer to a judgment based upon a particular set of values or on a particular value system. A related meaning of value judgment is an expedient evaluation based upon limited information at hand, an evaluation undertaken because a decision must be made on short notice.

Explanation Edit

The term value judgment can be used both in a positive sense, signifying that a judgment must be made taking a value system into account, or in a disparaging sense, signifying a judgment made by personal whim rather than rational, objective thought.[1]

In its positive sense, recommendation to make a value judgment is an admonition to consider carefully, to avoid whim and impetuousness, and search for consonance with one's deeper convictions.

In its disparaging sense the term value judgment implies a conclusion is insular, one-sided, and not objective — contrasting with judgments based upon deliberation, balance and rationality.

Value judgment also can refer to a tentative judgment based on a considered appraisal of the information at hand, taken to be incomplete and evolving, for example, a value judgment on whether to launch a military attack, or as to procedure in a medical emergency.[2] In this case the quality of judgment suffers because the information available is incomplete as a result of exigency, rather than as a result of cultural or personal limitations.

Most commonly the term value judgment refers to an individual's opinion. Of course, the individual's opinion is formed to a degree by their belief system, and the culture to which they belong. So a natural extension of the term value judgment is to include declarations seen one way from one value system, but which may be seen differently from another. Conceptually this extension of definition is related both to the anthropological axiom "cultural relativism" (that is, that cultural meaning derives from a context) and to the term "moral relativism" (that is, that moral and ethical propositions are not universal truths, but stem from cultural context). In the pejorative sense, a value judgment formed within a specific value system may be parochial, and may be subject to dispute in a wider audience.

NonjudgmentalEdit

Nonjudgmental is a descriptor that conveys the opposite meaning to the pejorative sense of value judgment: it expresses avoidance of personal opinion and reflex "knee-jerk" reactions.

Judgment callEdit

Judgment call is a term describing decision made between alternatives that are not clearly right or wrong, and so must be made on a personal basis.

Value-neutralEdit

Value-neutral is a related adjective suggesting independence from a value system. For example, the classification of an object sometimes depends upon context: Is it a tool or a weapon, an artifact or an ancestor? The object itself might be considered value-neutral being neither good nor bad, neither useful nor useless, neither significant nor trite, until placed in some social context.

A famous quote from mathematician G. H. Hardy:[3]

A science is said to be useful if its development tends to accentuate the existing inequalities of wealth, or more directly promotes the destruction of human life.

Godfrey Harold Hardy in A Mathematician's Apology (1941)

For a discussion of whether technology is value neutral, see Martin and Schinzinger[4], and Wallace.[5] Oddly, an item also may have value that is value-neutral to the extent that some of its utility or import were evident regardless of social context, for example, oxygen.

Value judgments and their context Edit

Some argue that true objectivity is impossible, that even the most rigorous rational analysis is founded on the set of values accepted in the course of analysis. See Free On-Line Dictionary of Philosophy. Consequently, all conclusions are necessarily value judgments (and therefore maybe suspect). Of course, putting all conclusions in one category does nothing to distinguish between them, and is therefore a useless descriptor except as a rhetorical device intended to discredit a position claiming higher authority.

As an example of a more nuanced view, scientific "truths" are considered objective, but are held tentatively, with the understanding that more careful evidence and/or wider experience might change matters. Further, a scientific view (in the sense of a conclusion based upon a value system) is a value judgment based upon rigorous evaluation and wide consensus. With this example in mind, characterizing a view as a value judgment is vague without description of the context surrounding it.

However, as noted in the first segment of this article, in common usage the term value judgment has a much simpler meaning with context simply implied, not specified.

See also Edit

Notes and references Edit

  1. Michael Scriven (KF Schaffner & RS Cohen, eds.) (1974). Philosophy of Science Association PSA: Boston studies in the philosophy of science, v. 20. Boston: Dordrecht:Reidel. p. 219 ff. ISBN 9027704082. http://books.google.com/books?id=nhY1vAIbdakC&pg=PA220&dq=%22value+judgment%22&lr=&as_brr=0&sig=XpsXOsBYNL5ls6imUMMcwQTrr8k#PPA219,M1. 
  2. Kristin Shrader-Frechette (Cohen, R. S., Gavroglou, K., Stachel, J. J., & Wartofsky, M. W., eds.) (1995). The case of Yucca Mountain: Science, politics and social practice. Dordrecht/New York: Springer. p. 204 ff. ISBN 0792329899. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZIo86_X2FAcC&pg=PA205&dq=%22value+judgment%22&lr=&as_brr=0&sig=hpsRKD85pQNkr-cHZLP64lvWDhQ#PPA204,M1. 
  3. Bill Swainson, Anne H. Soukhanov (2000). Encarta Book of Quotations. Macmillan. p. 408. ISBN 0312230001. http://books.google.com/books?id=Af84fBmzmVYC&pg=PA408&lpg=PA408&dq=Hardy+%22a+science+is+said+to+be+useful+if+its+development%22&source=web&ots=Fo72KKRak4&sig=XhYEjb6poy_avtezBVnwHNF26Gk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result. 
  4. Mike W Martin & Schinzinger R (2005). Ethics in engineering (Fourth Edition ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 279. ISBN 0072831154. http://books.google.com/books?id=64iYMPnD3X0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=centrifugal+turntable&lr=&as_brr=0&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA12,M1. 
  5. Philip Russell Wallace (1991). Physics. World Scientific. Chapter 1. ISBN 997150930X. http://books.google.com/books?id=64iYMPnD3X0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=centrifugal+turntable&lr=&as_brr=0&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA12,M1. 

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