Human values and ethical values

         Human values and ethical values

Human values and ethical values are dealt here with the following set of questions :

  1. What are ‘values’?
  2. Definition of human values.
  3. Common human values.
  4. Intrinsic values and extrinsic values
  5. Difference between ethical values, human values, and moral values.
  6. Role of family and society in inculcating Human values and ethical values
  7. Methods of promoting values in family
  8. Methods of promoting values in society
  9. Role of educational institutions in inculcating values- Education system and values, role of education in promoting ethical values, contents of value education, role of educators in value education
  10. Need of human value

1. What are ‘values’? (Human values and ethical values: Role of family, society and education institutions in inculcating values)

What are ‘values’?

As Dewey said, value is something we cherish, appraise, want to prize. It is an act of cherishing something, holding something dear, and an act of passing judgement upon the nature and amount of values as compared with something else. Values govern our behaviour. An individual’s behaviour is governed by his/her belief systems, attitudinal dispositions, value orientation, etc. The social context of an individual is also plays an important role here.

Definition of ‘Values’Values are “things that have an intrinsic worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor”, or “principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable”. 

R. K. Mukherjee defines ‘value’ as – “Values are socially approved desires and goals that are internalised through the process of conditioning, learning or socialisation and aspirations”. 

According to Shaver, “Values are standard and principles of judging worth. They are a criteria by which we judge things – people, objects, actions, ideas, and situations – to be good, worthwhile, desirable or on the other hand, worthless, despicable, undesirable or somewhere in between these two extremes”. 

The concept ‘value’ is expressed in different life situation as significant in fulfilling our emotional, mental, spiritual and/or practical requirement. In ethics, value denotes the degree of importance of some thing or action, with an aim of determining what actions are best to do or what way is the best to live, or to describe significance of different actions. They are our moral compass and guides us in our thoughts, actions and decision making.

In Oxford Dictionary, the term ‘value’ is explained as:

“A worth, desirability, quality on which these depend.” 

2. What are ‘Human Values’?

(Human Values: Role of family, society and education institutions in inculcating values)

Human values are values which are fundamental to man’s innate nature of being human. These values guide a human being in the right path, giving a sense of satisfaction and rightness. Human values can also be referred to as the virtues that guide us to take into account human element when one interacts with another human being. There are many positive behaviours that create bonds of humanity between individuals and thus possesses value for all human beings alike. These values are the essence of human bonding and are essential for human existence and growth.

Plato has explained human values as “the things in the upper world you may take for the upward journey of the soul”. Thus human values enable a human being to realise the supreme value of human life, which according to Plato is the “essential form of goodness”. For Aristotle, human values through man’s rational power, ensures the attainment of happiness as “the supreme end of life”. A human being’s innate efforts to express human values in different modes of expression are a proof of his/her sense of values.

These human values are what we expect the others to do to us and what we aim to do/give to other human being. (“Do unto the others what you wish for yourself”.) Human values are expressed in the moral, social and practical contexts of a society/periods. These are social tenets which guide moral and social conduct. In the context of human values, it directs our attention to the unchanging and intrinsic nature of human qualities of kindness, sympathy, love and truthfulness. Thus, human values are defined as universal – means shared by all human beings, irrespective of religion, nationality, race, culture, personal history, etc.

3. Common Human Values

(Human values: Role of family, society and education institutions in inculcating values)

Basic common human values are – honesty, fairness, integrity, cooperation, brotherhood/friendship, compassion, empathy, respect, civility, openness, responsible, transparency, patience, prudence, etc. These common shared values promote social cohesiveness and cooperation, affection and discouragement of elements that threaten social cooperation. These human values are followed and adopted for a better existence in mutual ecosystem.

Some of the basic human values are as following:

Truth, love – caring, peace, responsibility, justice.

Some human values that can be learnt from the lives of famous personalities like Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.

Human Values: Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values
Core Human Values
  • Selflessness, dignity for all, loving and caring behaviour, compassion, benevolence, love for justice, respect for humanity, etc.

Some human values that can be learnt from the lives of great administrators like Swaminathan, Sam Pitroda, I.G. Patel, V P Menon, V. Kurien, etc.

  • Integrity, discipline, lawfulness, non – discrimination, loyalty, social equality, courage, solidarity and respect, sense of ethical accountability, sincerity, etc.

Some human values that can be learnt from the lives of great reformers like Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, etc.

  • Dignity for all, Contentment, Humanism, respect for humanity, kindness and compassion, social equality, tolerance, etc.

4. Intrinsic values and extrinsic values

The Human values and ethical values are classified into intrinsic and extrinsic. An intrinsic value is a value that one has of itself, independently of other things, including its context. For e.g., whether an action is morally right or wrong has exclusively to do with whether its consequences are intrinsically better than those of any other action one can perform under the circumstances. An intrinsic value is something that is good in and of itself. Something that has a true intrinsic value is happiness or pleasure. No physical thing has an intrinsic value.

An extrinsic value is a property that depends on a thing’s relationship with other things. It is the value which depends on how much it generates intrinsic value.

Extrinsic value is a mean to an end. It is the value, which depends on how much it generates intrinsic value. For e.g., money has extrinsic value because it can be used to buy something we like, like new clothes, or new gadget, that will give us happiness.

Pleasure is the ultimate end to which all things of extrinsic values are the means. 

5. Human values and ethical values differences, including moral values  (Human Values: Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values)

Human Values: Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values
Difference between Values and Virtue

Ethics are the rules or regulations or principles that the society expects you to abide by while interacting with others. Morals are inner feelings about what you should or should not do in order to avoid hurting other people. Human values can be interchangeably used with ethical values.

The ultimate goal is to establish these human universal values as the basis of human relationships, in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual respect of those values. Human values inspire us to better put into practice our moral values, especially in conflict situations, when we tend to put them aside and become confrontational.

The other points shall be covered in the next article. This is Human Values: Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values – Part I. 

Note: This article is a compilation from various resources on internet and books.


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