Intrinsic Vs. Instrumental Value [2:36]


A lot of people think that ethics is just about strong convictions or social rules – and that’s it.  But philosophers have come up with a variety of critical thinking tools to help us work through the ethical problems we face.  Intrinsic vs Instrumental value is one of the oldest and most important of these tools.  In short, some things we desire or value because they get us other things we value – like money.  But where does this end?  Well, some things we value in and of themselves and not for any other reason.  Utilitarians conclude, for example, that happiness or pleasure is the only thing with intrinsic value.  Others also argue for knowledge, beauty, and friendship.

Discussion Questions

  • Besides friendship, what are some things that have both instrumental and intrinsic value?
  • What are some thing that many people believe have intrinsic value, but we often find don’t when we get them?
  • Is there anything that has intrinsic value?  And what are some examples?

Keywords: beauty, happiness, utilitarianism, friendship, value, philosophy, ethics, moral theory


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