Moral concept

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Values, or values ​​for short, are generally used as desirable or morally well-regarded properties or qualities that are ascribed to objects , ideas , practical or moral ideals , facts , behavioral patterns , character traits or goods .


A value decision means a decision based on values . The overall structure formed from the values ​​or values ​​of a society is called a value system or value order . The network of interlinked but differently weighted values ​​is called a value hierarchy . If a value system contains a sole claim to truth , it is the characteristic of an ideology . Value creation can be understood in a material and ideal sense.


In economics , business administration and finance, the concept of value is largely assigned a different meaning than in the humanities , especially ethics , theology , sociology or pedagogy .

If the goal of economic action is to achieve the highest possible material operational added value ( profit ), ethical action is about creating ideal values. In practice, both objectives often contradict each other and make orientation and prioritization difficult.

The meaning of the concept of value changes depending on whether the value is attributed to individuals, social actors or a society and whether they are understood as objective knowledge or subjective attitudes. Value decisions are sometimes considered to be constitutive elements of culture , insofar as they determine the attribution of meaning within a social system (group, society, etc.). Conversely, culture is a medium in which values ​​can be passed on and changed, either through direct mediation of value decisions or through habits, customs etc.

The basic values ​​of a person or a society are also referred to as basic values .

When attempting to define a common catalog of values, questions arise such as whether a common catalog of values ​​should include procedural rules (such as the rule of law) in addition to notions of the "good" (such as solidarity), and to what extent postulates can also be included in the Reality has not yet been implemented.

Differential psychology examines individual values ​​and attitudes . The social sciences and social psychology deal with sharing, passing on or discussing values ​​in groups . Other sciences, such as moral theology and pedagogy, have to deal directly with questions of the stock of values ​​and the transmission of values. These are also the subject of social and political discussion.

In the technical use of German-speaking philosophy, "values" can, for example, make up partial aspects of the good . In addition, there is a broad spectrum of philosophical value concepts as well as moral-philosophical and metaethical framework theories - a subject area that is also referred to as axiology .


In the philosophy of values , especially its sub-area of ethics , the terms "value concept", "value retention" or "added value", according to their important representatives Oskar Kraus , Hermann Lotze and Max Scheler, form the basis and orientation of thinking and acting according to ideal values. According to Siegbert A. Warwitz , ideal values ​​are values ​​that do not primarily serve to increase material profit, but are based on social standards or mean an increase in the spiritual quality of life, an inner enrichment, a maturation of the personality. This requires an understanding of immaterial values ​​and the ability to distinguish between useful thinking and the striving for meaning. He sees “a metaphysical, also religious orientation, a humanistic way of thinking or a social orientation” as the most important sources of motivation.

In his social criticism, Erich Fromm differentiates between “idealistic” and “materialistic” values. He is interested in the alternative of enrichment through external goods or human qualities. Hermann Lotze uses the term “value” in the sense of “something that is emotionally recognized by people as superior, to which one can look, approve, adore, strive, behave”.

Proponents of the philosophy of values ​​are of the opinion that the question of value has been asked about the character and mode of being of values ​​since the very beginning of philosophical thought, especially in Aristotle's ethics of goods . In his work Plato described the idea of ​​the good . The ancient ethics of goods of Aristotelian origin were also taken up in theology and continued within the framework of moral theology .

Windelband , Rickert and others developed an ethics of values ​​with the intention of establishing philosophical ethics more anthropologically than ontologically . The term is of decisive importance in Max Scheler's approach to material ethics of values ​​in the years 1913 to 1916. Scheler expressly differentiated his ethics of values ​​from traditional ethics of goods.

In 1959, Bochenski (1902–1995) distinguished three groups of immaterial values ​​that can be realized through behavior: moral, aesthetic and religious.

  • The moral values ​​are a requirement for action; they contain what ought to be done.
  • The aesthetic values ​​contain the ought to be.
  • The religious values ​​as a combination of moral and aesthetic values ​​also take into account the not-to-be and the not-to-do, and state it in the form of sin .

In recent discussions, attempts to justify values ​​ontologically or anthropologically have come under heavy criticism. In 2016 , the Freiburg philosopher Andreas Urs Sommer argued in a highly acclaimed book that values ​​are "regulative fictions" that are constantly being redesigned depending on individual and social needs. Sommer rejects the idea of ​​eternal values ​​that exist for themselves, but without diagnosing a decline in values. Values ​​are necessarily plural and relative - and that they are is to be welcomed.


The concept of value was used “generously” in psychology and “often only used in the context of colloquial language”. It was also customary to explain and vary the term used from a philosophical point of view based on the results of psychological research. In 1924, the term was used in Eduard Spranger's youth psychological work, which had been reissued for decades, in formulations such as "Whole value", "Realization of value" and "Value of the world".

However, since the 1960s, due to multiple studies (for example Kurt Lewin , Clark L. Hull , Edward C. Tolman , Desmond Morris ), the term received a definitional ambiguity, "in two directions" ( Rolf Oerter ): 1. Values ​​than that Points of reference of things or living beings are attractive or repulsive. 2. A value conveyed by culture serves as a “guideline” for people to understand or to cognize the world and consequently becomes a premise when planning behavior.

As a hypothetical construct of an individual-world relationship, the value is either perceived as a complex of factors affecting the world on the living being or used in the motivational concept of the individual as a draft target or corrective to shape the world. For the most part, however, the concept of value was to be found as a dynamic concept in the literature. In this “value concept”, which is based on a broader basis of psychological research, the action-oriented meanings of the terms “value experience” and “value realization” described in German-speaking countries were found again. As a result of his research on cognitive development, Jean Piaget explained in 1966 that the formal thinking acquired in childhood is a later also affectively accompanying prerequisite in order to be able to structure the “values ​​associated with future projects” appropriately for planning life plans in adulthood. From the point of view of existential analysis, in 1974 Frankl gave the values ​​the status of "comprehensive possibilities of meaning"

In 1974, Haseloff described the value attitudes as long-term efficient complexes of effects from the motive class of endeavors, "which represent socio-culturally thematized and standardized permanent sources", make direct reference to the "value systems and the order of preferences of personality" and "mostly [...] solidify according to the law of the functional autonomy of motives ”(G. Allport). A synopsis of psychological and sociological literature resulted in Hans Joas 2004 describing an inner-individual dynamic in the term "value attachments", which the human being in an active process, "in the processes of self-education and [...] in experiences of self-transcendence" developed.

Social norms

From values ​​(e.g. the value of respect for property), social norms (concrete rules for social action) can be derived - e.g. B. "Whoever takes away a movable property of another with the intention of appropriating it ...". However, historically specific commandments such as “You should not steal!” Often precede their value abstractions. Values ​​are a central part of many rules of conduct, but they are not themselves rules of conduct. Values ​​are attractive, while norms are restrictive.

“The norm says what is necessary and generally applicable to happen in a situation.” A certain type of connection of conditions for action in a situation leads to the claim of a requirement to do. How does the social norm relate to the mental dispositions of willing? The norms include ideality. They are based on drafts that are prepared as ideal possibilities in the mind when building a concept of life. The point of reference for these standards is “clearly the value as a category of selection”. Compliance with the norms "is initiated by the negative consequences of non-compliance". “The norms of social interaction give order to behavior. They act as group stabilizers. ”With a socio-political perspective, Habermas naturally refers in 2004 to the citizen's orientation towards norms; He uses the term “norm awareness” for this ethical disposition.

Change in values

Values ​​are usually passed on to subsequent generations through socialization . This does not happen completely. For example, a constant change in values ​​can be observed in western industrial societies. There are many reasons for the change in values ​​(changed environmental conditions, conflict attitude towards other generations, etc.). Values ​​differ from attitudes in that they are more stable.

Conflicts of values

The system of all values ​​is apparently not free of contradictions or individual values ​​seem to be in a competitive relationship with certain other values. It is sometimes postulated that the value of prosperity conflicts with the value of sustainability or that the value of individual freedom conflicts with other values ​​(such as equality ).

However, a more differentiated view also gives a more differentiated picture here. In such debates, different levels of time and abstraction are often mixed up. In the example above, for example, the value of prosperity only briefly conflicts with the value of sustainability; long-term prosperity cannot be generated without sustainability. Freedom, too, is fundamentally not opposed to other values, but to other freedoms (or the freedom of others).

On the other hand, values ​​that seem perfectly compatible in abstract terms can conflict with one another in concrete situations. It is then not possible to behave in such a way that one does justice to all values ​​at the same time. A value hierarchy is also used in this context . Not all values ​​are considered to be of equal importance, so that in such cases there is usually a more or less clear orientation. The respective weighting of a value depends on the individual situation and / or culture. Here, too, it has to be checked whether it is actually a collision of (abstract-general) values ​​per se - or not a (concrete-individual) normative conflict of objectives (“conflict of duties”). This conflict was expressed by Max Weber through the distinction between ethics of responsibility and ethics of conviction .

Political, business, interpersonal or even internal conflicts can often be traced back to a collision between different values ​​or beliefs. In the Gordon Model , a communication model for resolving conflicts, a distinction is made between value conflicts and conflicts of needs.

Enforcement of values

The general recognition of certain values ​​as binding norms - which ideally have arisen in a democratic process - does not automatically mean that they are adhered to. Because willingness to act is related to personal attitudes . These, in turn, are shaped by many social factors that can be in conflict with the values ​​of society. The lower the social consensus of a norm - that is, the more the individual has the feeling that it has been arbitrarily set and "unjust" - and the more inconsistent a society (e.g. ethnic composition , religious affiliations, differing interest groups and number of subcultures within a society), the greater the number of people who, from a selfish perspective, find it advantageous not to adhere to this norm. The enforcement of such "unpopular" norms can only be achieved through a system of sanctions (which works as well as possible) .

A consideration under the paradigm of game theory suggests that only an evolutionarily stable strategy can endure. Since the same values may be associated with time to different patterns of behavior in relationship and one and the same patterns of behavior over time to different values based , there is no clear relationship between values and the reproductive success of a population.

Universal values

In the 1980s, the psychologist Shalom H. Schwartz, together with Wolfgang Bilsky, raised the question of whether there are universal values. He designed a value model and postulated a number of values ​​that all people should have in common in different ways. His research focus was on the structure of values ​​and their motivational relationship to one another.

The InterAction Council , a group of experts made up of politicians, social scientists and representatives of worldwide religious communities, developed the most extensive possible minimal synthesis, based on political premises and an inventory of ideological and religious ideals. In 1997, ethical options for everyday life were presented as a " Universal Declaration of Human Duties ".

Other approaches are the project world ethos of Hans Kung , the international Earth Charter , the discourse ethics or project Ethify Yourself .

However, global ethical perspectives are not accepted without criticism. In 2004, J.-C. Kapumba Akenda as a dilemma of ethical universalism: On the one hand, the worldwide claim to reason and justice and, on the other hand, the sovereignty of local communities must be respected (see also the different convictions of "cold and hot cultures" .) As "building blocks of ethical universalism" suggested Akenda advocates “solidarity without paternalism ” and “communication without the need for consensus”.

Values ​​in business life

In economic life, the concept of values ​​is primarily used in a material sense: The money economy , for example, understands "added value" as the essential goal of productive work . It is about converting existing goods into goods with a higher monetary value . Manufacturing companies calculate with a production account with which the income and expenses incurred by the production activity are shown. The "gross value added" is a measure of the economic performance of a company.

However, in connection with the banking and managerial crisis, the topic of values ​​has received increasing (and new) attention in recent years in the economic discussion. In the spirit of Erich Fromm, a new ethics discussion has started about the relationship between material and immaterial values ​​in a knowledge-based economy and their evaluation. Relevant keywords are sustainability , corporate social responsibility , value management, value-oriented personnel management, value- balanced corporate management and ethical development. In view of the scandals, the focus of public attention has increasingly shifted to the fact that the material value orientation must not be decoupled from the ethical if society is to be given a humane orientation.

See also


Zeitgeist, changing values, future

Web links

Wiktionary: moral concept  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Value  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Gensicke: Zeitgeist and value orientations. In: Deutsche Shell (Ed.): Youth 2006. A pragmatic youth under pressure. 15. Shell Youth Study , S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 2006
  2. Klaus Buchenau: Position: The European catalog of values ​​does not exist! Federal Agency for Civic Education, January 20, 2010, accessed on July 17, 2017 .
  3. ^ Siegbert A. Warwitz: When venture shows the way of becoming. In: Ders .: Search for meaning in risk. Life in growing rings. Explanatory models for cross-border behavior. 2., ext. Edition, Verlag Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, pp. 260–295
  4. Erich Fromm: To have or to be - the spiritual foundations of a new society. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt , Stuttgart 1976.
  5. Such an attempt at definition by the Kant researcher Paul Menzer, which is quoted in Georgi Schischkoff : Art. Wert. In: Ders .: Philosophical Dictionary. Kröner , Stuttgart 1982 21 , p. 746f, here: 746
  6. Cf. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, first book, first chapter; for example according to Oelmüller / Dölle / P., page 130
  7. Cf. Plato: Staat , 5. – 7. Book; for example according to Oelmüller / Dölle / P., pages 120 and 125
  8. Bochenski, pp. 73 f .; see. from a psychological point of view Rolf Oerter : Modern developmental psychology. Auer Verlag, Donauwörth 1967, pp. 287–295, term "Religious values"
  9. Andreas Urs Sommer: Values. Why you need it even though it doesn't exist, Stuttgart: Metzler 2016, cf. Andreas Urs Sommer: Values ​​are negotiable. Their great emptiness is their greatest strength. Plea for a self-confident value relativism, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, No. 61, March 14, 2016, p. 29, also at
  10. Rolf Oerter : Modern Developmental Psychology, p. 228
  11. cf. Heinz Remplein: The emotional development of people in childhood and adolescence. Ernst Reinhardt Verlag, Munich, Basel 1958, pp. 121–634 (many subsequent editions)
  12. ^ Eduard Spranger: Psychology of adolescence. Verlag Quelle and Meyer, Leipzig 1924, pp. 19, 23 and 92 (many reprints)
  13. FL Ruch and Philip Zimbardo : Textbook of Psychology. Springer , Berlin, Heidelberg, New York 1975, p. 308.
  14. Oerter: Modern Developmental Psychology, p. 229.
  15. Bärbel Inhelder , Jean Piaget : The Psychology of the Child (= Fischer pocket books, Bd. 6339 ). Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 1977 (Paris 1966, German edition 1972), ISBN 3-436-02401-5 , pp. 109–111. In this regard, Inhelder and Piaget were critical of the lack of other scientific research. The results of Erik H. Erikson , M. Mead, Malinowski, Schelsky u. a. were put into perspective; see. Footnotes 8 and 10 in Chapter 5, pp. 111 and 130.
  16. Viktor E. Frankl: The unconscious god. Psychotherapy and religion. Kösel , Munich 1948-2004, and dtv , vol. 35058, Munich 2014 12 , ISBN 3-466-20302-3 , p. 72.
  17. ^ Otto W. Haseloff: Market research and motivation theory. In: Karl Christian Behrens (ed.): Handbook of market research, Volume 1 Methods of market research. Gabler , Wiesbaden 1974, p. 120.
  18. See Hans Joas : The emergence of values. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1997, p. 257
  19. See Hans Joas: The cultural values ​​of Europe. An introduction. In: Ders./ Klaus Wiegandt (ed.): The cultural values ​​of Europe. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-596-16402-8 , p. 14
  20. ^ W. Heistermann: The problem of the norm. In: Journal for Philosophical Research , 1966, pp. 202f.
  21. Jürgen Habermas and Joseph Ratzinger : Pre-political moral foundations of a free state. In: "On the Debate" (edited by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria), 2005, No. 3, III .; see: Ludger Honnefelder and Matthias C. Schmidt (eds.): What does responsibility mean today? Schoeningh , Paderborn 2008, ISBN 978-3-506-76318-1 , p. 16. Habermas expressly sees it as an interest of the constitutional state to use the cultural sources from which the "norm awareness and solidarity of citizens feeds", to handle carefully. In this context, he refers to the “coordination of actions via values, norms and communication-oriented language use”. Joas formulated more strongly than Habermas; Lit .: Joas, 2004 2 , pp. 126–128.
  22. Winfried Noack: Pastoral Diakonia: Guide for volunteer helpers in church parishes and employees in diaconal institutions. Frank & Timme , Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86596-287-4 , p. 43
  23. Peter Eisenmann : Values ​​and norms in social work. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-018443-1 . Pp. 128-203 (especially pp. 136, 151, 175, 189, 192, 251).
  24. Roland Alton: Ethify Yourself. Live and operate with nine values. Online book ,, chapter values, accessed on April 18, 2014.
  25. See J.-C. Kapumba Akenda: Cultural Identity and Intercultural Communication. IKO, Frankfurt / M. 2004, p. 166.
  26. See Akenda: Cultural Identity. P. 268ff and p. 285
  27. ^ Michael S. Aßländer : From vita activa to industrial value creation: A social and economic history of human work. Metropolis, Marburg 2005.
  28. Erich Fromm: To have or to be - the spiritual foundations of a new society. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1976.