The Influence of Intrinsic Values and Universal Acceptance in Determining What Is Moral and What Is Not Moral

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
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Morality is the basis for determining and evaluating right or wrong or good and bad conduct. However, it is difficult to quantify the value of goodness and badness since there is no scale of comparison. Often morality is interchangeably used with ethics, though ethics is a study of morality and is diversely used to implement the code of conduct in several disciplines and professions. The morality of humans is an expression of what we value.

These expressions could be that of human desire, or a conditional learning process through orientation, mainly based on the principles of diverse cultures or what is universally accepted as truthfully and knowledgeably right, (Anderson & Elizabeth, 1997). The result of these varied origins has elicited debates as to whether humans have instrumental functional value or intrinsic moral value.

Intrinsic values are considered to be good for their own sake, i.e. independently. The only thing that is considered to be of intrinsic value is happiness. Physical things are not said to have intrinsic value because their utility is what leads to happiness or pleasure. Extrinsic values on the other hand, are the things that consequently lead to intrinsic values, i.e. happiness, e.g. having money is extrinsic but the utility of that money in a positive way, elicits pleasure. For example, use of money to buy a new pair of shoes, which are stylish and comfortable, eventually makes one happy. Extrinsic values are, therefore, a means to an end or derivative of intrinsic values, i.e. happiness is the ultimate end upon which everything of extrinsic value is a means, (Smith & Ward, 1948).

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When it comes to morals, it is problematic as to whether intrinsic values, which lead to happiness, should champion positive acts. For example, is all that brings happiness morally appropriate? Possibly not, because intrinsic values may be achieved through human desire, which is necessarily not right. If one derives pleasure from killing others, the intrinsic value is not morally right. However, most things are considered instrumental as their utility is the result of happiness, an item could have several utilities; therefore, the immediate result is not intrinsic but instrumental until the eventual result has no further use and if happiness is achieved through positive means, then it is intrinsic. It is worthy to note that intrinsic actions could also bear extrinsic results that are good, bad or indifferent.

The universal acceptance of what is moral is in contrast with moral relativism, which seems to be a liberal notion on ethics, such that there is a difference in the judgement of morals of people depending on their culture and valued principles, e.g. Muslims killing people in jihads for the sake of their religion is considered morally right. However, upholding moral relativism could be propagation of human desire to obtain intrinsic values sheltered under their beliefs and customs. The descriptive moral relativism is defendant on the fact that individuals tend to disagree on what is moral. In accordance with the meta-ethical moral relativism, such disagreements, do not consider anyone to be objectively right or wrong.

Another category of moral relativism, which is normative, upholds that there should be tolerance of behaviour despite disagreements since no one is considered objectively right or wrong, (Gilbert & Judith, 1996). It could be argued that moral relativism is not really a misunderstanding of ethics but regards morals as right or wrong, only relative to an individual's standpoint, e.g. their culture, religion, or other orientations of life initiations. If the morals are evaluated as truthfully right, and the result is positive, then they are considered intrinsic. Conversely, in the event of a disagreement which cannot approve the morality of a particular action, no standpoint is exclusively privileged over others.

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The Influence of Intrinsic Values and Universal Acceptance in Determining What Is Moral and What Is Not Moral. (2023, Apr 19). Retrieved from

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