Volume 40, 1998
Philosophy of Values
Inherent and Instrumental Values in Ethics
The distinction between inherent and instrumental values in ethics could, in my view, be said to represent a contemporary version of both the eudaimonistic distinction between virtues as instruments and forms of happiness as the goals or ends to be achieved through these instruments, and of the deontological distinction between duties and the summum bonum to be, at least ultimately or in an afterlife, achieved through them. The paper identifies and explores what appears to be a threefold relationship between inherent and instrumental values. First, their mutual inseparability is found to be based in the very concept of instrumentality. Second, their parallelism in the relevant respects is seen also to be rooted in their instrumental relation. Third, and very significant, the inherent and instrumental values are discovered to be reversible so that what were inherent values can often become instrumental and vice-versa. Finally, and most importantly, the value and richness of human life is perceived to be nothing else than the function of the richness in values in ethics as well as in other spheres of human life.