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Means Values, ends values, and ultimate values

Values tend to be hierarchically arranged. This may be shown through use of the concepts of means values and ends values. As the words themselves imply, means values are instrumental values in that they are sought as part of the effort to achieve other values. Ends values are both more general and more important in the eyes of the groups who are doing the valuing.

Thus, if health is an American value, then the maintenance of good nutrition, the securing of proper rest and the avoidance of carcinogenic and mind-destroying substances all become means to that end.

The distinction between means values and ends values is a matter of logic and relates to the context of a particular discussion. When the context shifts, so also may change the definition of particular values as means values or ends values. To a narcotics agent, the avoidance of hallucinogenic substances might be defined as an end in itself requiring no further justification. To a religious person, health might not be an end in itself but only a means to the continued worship of the deity. One additional distinction may be useful that implied in the concept of ultimate values. The concept of ultimate value is arrived at by following the same logical procedures used in distinguishing between means values and end values, and continuing the process until it can be pursued no further. If good nutrition is sought as a means to health, health as a means to longevity, and long life to permit one to be of service to God, is there any higher or more ultimate value than service to the deity? Regardless of which way the question is answered, it is obvious that one is about to arrive at an ultimate value that can no longer be justified in terms of other values.