Values, System and Design I

Concept of a value

A value can be defined in terms of:

  • Monetary value
  • Aesthetic value
  • Emotional bonding
  • Utility
  • A statement/idea different from that of a fact
  • A part of the social regulatory system (ten-commandments, book of family rites)


The core value of liberalism is…

The liberty or freedom of the individual ought to be of paramount importance

Historical reasons for the adoption of liberalism in the west include:

  • Religious warfare; Europe was the site of a great deal of religious/ethnic conflict throughout history. Free thinkers from 16th-17th centuries preached the virtue of individual freedom of conscience and choice of religious pursuit.
  • Religious reformation; Martin Luther's reform of Christianity placed emphasis on the importance of an individual's private relationship with God. This led to the separation of church and state (and religion became a private practice rather than a communal one).
  • Empiricism; a number of free-thinkers propagated the idea that all knowledge was ultimately derived from individual experience (ie: observation). This led to the idea that values cannot be genuine knowledge, as they can not be proved or verified through observation.

Value judgement

A value judgement is a rational decision concerning value

These can typically be stated in the form…

  • X is a good thing, because …
  • X is a bad thing, because …
  • X is better than Y, because …
  • X is worse than Y, because …
  • etc. etc…

Uncertainty & value judgement

Judgements with uncertainty are not necessarily value judgements (ie: the rest mass of a photon).

Making a value enquiry

(In the context of proposing / denying the execution of a engineering project)…

Identify issues

What is the problem? What is the (proposed) solution?
Which systems are involved in the technological solution?
What are the pros and cons of the arguments?

Separate fact from value

What are the facts to support or oppose a project? What are the value judgements in the arguments for/against the project?


We evaluate both fact and value judgement.

  • Facts; is the data accurate? What about the criteria for collecting data and its interpretation?
  • Value judgements; is the value judgement "right"? (what are the reasons and are they valid). Are any values taken for granted?


If an agreement is not met, an opposing view point should be supplied (along with good reasons).

Value judgement and decision making

A course of action (decision, plan or policy) is rational only relative to some set of values / aims.
We say it is 'rational' relative to those values / aims if it is the most effective way of achieving those values or aims.

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