World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Universal value

Article Id: WHEBN0003445285
Reproduction Date:

Title: Universal value  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, United Nations Democracy Fund, Sima Nan, The Call of the Marching Bell, Global civics
Collection: Value
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Universal value

A value is a universal value if it has the same value or worth for all, or almost all, people. Spheres of human value encompass morality, aesthetic preference, human traits, human endeavour, and social order. Whether universal values exist is an unproven conjecture of moral philosophy and cultural anthropology, though it is clear that certain values are found across a great diversity of human cultures, such as primary attributes of physical attractiveness (e.g. youthfulness, symmetry) whereas other attributes (e.g. slenderness) are subject to aesthetic relativism as governed by cultural norms. This objection is not limited to aesthetics. Relativism concerning morals is known as moral relativism, a philosophical stance opposed to the existence of universal moral values.

The claim for universal values can be understood in two different ways. First, it could be that something has a universal value when everybody finds it valuable. This was Isaiah Berlin's understanding of the term. According to Berlin, "...universal values....are values that a great many human beings in the vast majority of places and situations, at almost all times, do in fact hold in common, whether consciously and explicitly or as expressed in their behaviour..."[1] Second, something could have universal value when all people have reason to believe it has value. Amartya Sen interprets the term in this way, pointing out that when Mahatma Gandhi argued that non-violence is a universal value, he was arguing that all people have reason to value non-violence, not that all people currently value non-violence.[2] Many different things have been claimed to be of universal value, for example, fertility,[3] pleasure,[4] and democracy.[5] The issue of whether anything is of universal value, and, if so, what that thing or those things are, is relevant to psychology, political science, and philosophy, among other fields.


  • Perspectives from various disciplines 1
    • Philosophy 1.1
    • Sociology 1.2
    • Psychology and the search for universal values 1.3
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Perspectives from various disciplines


Philosophical study of universal value addresses questions such as the meaningfulness of universal value or whether universal values exist.


Sociological study of universal value addresses how such values are formed in a society.

Psychology and the search for universal values

S. H. Schwartz, along with a number of psychology colleagues, has carried out empirical research investigating whether there are universal values, and what those values are. Schwartz defined 'values' as "conceptions of the desirable that influence the way people select action and evaluate events".[6] He hypothesised that universal values would relate to three different types of human need: biological needs, social co-ordination needs, and needs related to the welfare and survival of groups. Schwartz's results from a series of studies that included surveys of more than 25,000 people in 44 countries with a wide range of different cultural types suggest that there are fifty-six specific universal values and ten types of universal value.[7] Schwartz's ten types of universal value are: power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. Below are each of the value types, with the specific related values alongside:

Schwartz also tested an eleventh possible universal value, 'spirituality', or 'the goal of finding meaning in life', but found that it does not seem to be recognised in all cultures.[8] Some consider love to be a universal value.

See also


  1. ^ Jahanbegloo 1991, p. 37
  2. ^ Sen 1999, p. 12
  3. ^ Bolin & Whelehan 1999
  4. ^ Mason 2006
  5. ^ Sen 1999
  6. ^ Schwartz & Bilsky 1987, p. 550
  7. ^ Schwartz 1994
  8. ^ Schwartz 1992


  • Bolin, Anne, and Patricia Whelehan (1999). Perspectives on Human Sexuality. SUNY Press.
  • Diamond, Larry Jay, and Marc F. Plattner (2001). The Global Divergence of Democracies. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Jahanbegloo, Ramin, (1991). Conversations With Isaiah Berlin. McArthur & Co. Reprinted 2007, Halban Publishers. ISBN 1-905559-03-8, ISBN 978-1-905559-03-9
  • Mason, Elinor, (2006). 'Value pluralism'. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Accessed 13 Nov 2007).
  • Pettit, Philip (1996). The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (1992). 'Universals in the Content and Structure of Values: Theory and Empirical Tests in 20 Countries'. In M. Zanna (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 25). New York: Academic Press: 1-65.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (1994). 'Are there Universal Aspects in the Structure and Contents of Human Values?'. Journal of Social Issues, 50 (4): 19–45.
  • Schwartz, S. H. and W. Bilsky (1987). 'Toward a Universal Psychological Structure of Human Values'. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53: 550-562.
  • Sen, Amartya (1999). 'Democracy as a Universal Value'. Journal of Democracy, 10 (3): 3-17.

External links

  • Kofi Annan, 'Do We Still Have Universal Values'.
  • Martha Nussbaum, (1999). 'In Defense of Universal Values', Women and Human Development; The 5th Annual Hesburgh Lectures on Ethics and Public Policy. Occasional Paper Series, 16:OP:1 (Accessed 14 Nov. 2007). [dead link]
  • Shalom H. Schwartz, 'Basic Human Values: An Overview'. (Accessed 14 Nov. 2007). [dead link]
  • Michael J. Zimmerman, (2007). 'Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Value', Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Accessed 13 Nov 2007).
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.