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Nielsen, N. (1960). Value Judgements in Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:425-429.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:425-429

Value Judgements in Psycho-Analysis

Nils Nielsen

In comparatively recent times the concept of value has undergone a profound change of considerable interest especially to psycho-analysts. In earlier philosophy, and also in some modern schools of thought, value is an absolute quality pertaining to the object and independent of the subject; the expression 'a thing of beauty' is taken literally, acts are good or evil in a metaphysical sense, and so on. The statement 'This picture is beautiful' can be either true or false according to this theory, and is thus in principle amenable to scientific examination. The objective theory of values, which has been defended by such modern thinkers as G. E. Moore, was in the 19th century challenged by Nietzsche and others, who propounded the theory of relativism, which states that value is subjective and dependent upon the state of mind of the person who values. This theory has become very popular among psychologists, but it does not seem to cover the facts in their entirety. The so-called emotive theory of values asserts that value judgements are no judgements at all, being neither true nor false, and to the philosopher signifying nothing. They are instead emotive propositions of an imperative or interjectory character, a way of giving vent to our feelings or of influencing people. If you say that X is a jolly good fellow, you may have that feeling, eventually shared by others, but which somebody certainly will deny. You may also be expressing your opinion that people ought to be like X, that is, if you mean anything at all and aren't simply joining in a song.

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