The Universe from an Intentional Stance

A Non-Comprehensive List of Human Values

Human values are said to be complex (cf. Stewart-Williams 2015, section “Morality Is a Mess”; Muehlhauser and Helm 2012, ch. 3, 4, 5.3). As evidence, the following is a non-comprehensive list of things that many people care about:

Abundance, achievement, adventure, affiliation, altruism, apatheia, art, asceticism, austerity, autarky, authority, autonomy, beauty, benevolence, bodily integrity, challenge, collective property, communism, community, compassion, competence, competition, competitiveness, complexity, comradery, conscientiousness, consciousness, contentment, cooperation, courage, “crabs in a bucket”, creativity, crime, critical thinking, curiosity, democracy, determination, dignity, diligence, discipline, diversity, duties, education, emotion, envy, equality, equanimity, excellence, excitement, experience, fairness, faithfulness, family, fortitude, frankness, free will, freedom, friendship, frugality, fulfillment, fun, good intentions, greed, happiness, harmony, health, honesty, honor, humility, idealism, idolatry, imagination, improvement, incorruptibility, individuality, industriousness, intelligence, justice, knowledge, law abidance, life, love, loyalty, modesty, monogamy, mutual affection, nature, novelty, obedience, openness, optimism, order, organization, pain, parsimony, peace, peace of mind, pity, play, population size, preference fulfillment, privacy, progress, promises, property, prosperity, punctuality, punishment, purity, racism, rationality, reliability, religion, respect, restraint, rights, sadness, safety, sanctity, security, self-control, self-denial, self-determination, self-expression, self-pity, simplicity, sincerity, social parasitism, society, spirituality, stability, straightforwardness, strength, striving, subordination, suffering, surprise, technology, temperance, thought, tolerance, toughness, truth, tradition, transparency, valor, variety, veracity, wealth, welfare, wisdom.

Note that from the inside, most of these values feel distinct from each other. Some of them have strong overlap, however. For instance, industriousness, diligence and conscientiousness often refer to similar things.

Also, note that most of these do not feel instrumental to each other. For example, people often want to find out the truth even when that truth is not useful for, e.g., reducing suffering or preserving tradition.

Some terms subsume multiple very different or even opposing moral views. For instance, progressives would say it’s fair if wealth is taken from the rich and given to the poor while libertarians would say it is fair if everyone receives wealth in proportion to how the market values their work.

Many of the values can be interpreted both deontologically and consequentialistically. For example, “frugality” could refer to the moral maxim “you shall be frugal” or to “you shall care about others being frugal”.

These values should not be understand as being valued additively. People presumably do not care about the amount of consciousness in the world plus the amount of happiness in the world. Instead they may care about the amount of consciousness times the average happiness of the conscious experiences.

Some (articles with) lists that helped me to compile this list are Keith‑Spiegel’s moral characteristics list, moral foundations theory, Your Dictionary’s Examples of Morals, Eliezer Yudkowsky’s 31 laws of fun, table A1 in Bain et al.’s Collective Futures, the examples in the Wikipedia article on Prussian values, the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism, the ten commandments, section IV, chapter 1 in Nussbaum’s (2000) Women and Human Development, Frankena’s (1973) Ethics, 2nd ed., p. 87f. and Peter Levine’s an alternative to Moral Foundations Theory.