The “Ought”-Dimension in Value Theory: The Concept of the Desirable in John Dewey’s Definition of Value and Its Significance for the Social Sciences

  • Elizaveta Kostrova
Part of the European Studies in Philosophy of Science book series (ESPS, volume 9)


The concept of “value” is widely used in various fields, and it has recently become the subject of empirical research. However, there is no common understanding of what it is. From the very start, the scope of value has been part of the opposition of what “is” to what “ought to be,” and the fact that value judgments contained a normative element seemed to make the exclusion of value from the area of scientific analysis inevitable. John Dewey offers a different way of reasoning about values, which would allow scientists to keep the normativity in a way of saving the specificity of the concept. In order to do this, Dewey links the source of value with the evaluation process and introduces the concept of the “desirable” drawing the line between the “desirable” and the “desired”. Clyde Kluckhohn later borrowed this concept from Dewey, while formulating the concept of values within Parsons’ theory of action. Thanks to him, the “desirable” has become a favorite part of value definition among different researchers. As a result of this development, the concept of “desirability” has been transformed: for example, in social psychology, the “desirable” has moved closer to the “important”, and the significance of the normative aspect has diminished, evolving to a more descriptive understanding, while the social dimension, though present already in Dewey, has greatly increased.


Definition of value Normativity Theory of action Pragmatism Desirability Fact/value dichotomy Value research in social psychology and sociology 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox UniversityMoscowRussia

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