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The Value of Value - In Ethics and Morality

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As a social scientist of ethics and morality, Luhmann has noticed the ethical wave that has recently swept across the western world, and states that this particular kind of wave seems to have a wavelength of about one hundred years (cf. Luhmann 1989: 9 ff.). Even though the frequency and the regularity of such a phenomenon is both hard to verify and, if true, difficult to explain, it seems fair to say that since the Enlightenment, an approaching fin-de-siecle has brought an increased interest in matters concerning morality and ethics.1 The present peak has in public-political discourse and some parts of business ethics given prominence to especially one term, namely ‘value’. The question that interests me is the following: What does the articulation of ethics and morality in terms of values mean for ethics and morality as such. Or, to put the question in a more fashionably way: What is the value of value for morality and ethics?To make things a bit more precise, we can make use of the common distinction between ethics and morality, i.e. that morality is the immediate, collective and unconscious employment of morals, whereas ethics is the systematic, individual and conscious reflections of morals and morality.2 The main question is then, what the use of ‘value’ as the key-term in moral discourses means to morality as such. Accepting ethics as a part of morality - since one cannot be moral without sometimes reflecting on the validity of the morality employed andexperienced - I have attempted to answer this question by investigating what the use of the term ‘value’ leads to in ethical discourses, i.e., what moral implications it has for ethics to focus on the concept of value.

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Asger Sørensen

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