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3 Ultimate Types Of Values: What’s Good, Truth, And Beautiful

Values are the heartbeats of our civilization, pulsing through history as the unseen forces shaping our choices, defining our relationships, and illuminating our understanding of the world. These deeply held beliefs and principles have steered humanity from ancient times to the present, influencing every aspect of life. So, by examining the essence of what values are and why we treasure them, we can unlock secrets about what it means to be human. What’s more, we shed light on the common types of values that unite us all in our quest for a life filled with purpose.

In this article, I’ll explore what values are and the ways that scholars have grappled to codify them over the ages. More importantly, I’ll examine why we have values and a set of primary values that are found universally within all of us and cultures. Namely, these primary values are truth, moral goodness, and beauty which I’ll describe and provide examples of.

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth.”

Albert Einstein

What Are Values and How Are They Codified by Scholars?

types of values

Values are the fundamental beliefs and standards that govern our behavior and guide our choices. Positively, they serve as the cornerstone for our judgment of what is important in life, influencing our actions, our interactions with others, and our perception of the world. Indeed, values are deeply embedded within cultural, religious, and personal frameworks, shaping our sense of what is right and wrong, desirable and undesirable. 

Values in western philosophy have been examined since the time of classical thinkers like Plato. In particular, he identified intrinsic worth in aesthetic experiences such as beauty and harmony, and believed that such qualities contribute to a well-lived life. Later, in the 20th century, the study of values and ethics became more formalized. For instance, philosophers like G.E. Moore codified values between intrinsic value type (good in itself) and instrumental value type (good as a means to something else).

Over the years, many distinguished scholars have researched and written about values with a wide range of viewpoints. This has included classifying values into various classes and types. To illustrate, below is a partial list of different classification of value types codified by philosophers and scholars:

Examples of Value Types
  • achievement
  • aesthetic
  • benevolence
  • conformity
  • cultural
  • economic
  • exchange
  • family
  • hedonism
  • instrumental
  • intrinsic
  • moral
  • organizational
  • personal
  • political
  • power
  • security
  • self-directed
  • stimulation
  • social
  • terminal 
  • traditional
  • universalism
  • use
  • utilitarian

For more references on the exploration of types of values, see TheHelpfulProfessor’s The 8 Types Of Values, Shalom H. Schwartz’s An Overview of the Schwar view of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values, Rovaha’s Four types of value, Wikipedia’s Values (Western Philosophy), and EvolutionNews’ The Transcendental Treasury of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

So, depending on your viewpoint of values, there are a lot of ways to classify values. However, can we narrow down the list of all these types of values? Isn’t there just a handful of primary types of values that we all universally aspire to? As in many of the value types listed above, many individual values could be classified under several of these listed value types. For instance, where do you classify a value such as wealth or fun? In most cases, these values and most other values can be listed under several of the value types listed above. 

Hence, I am thinking that if we could simplify these value classifications, we could better understand the primary values that we universally strive for in life. Isn’t there a way to just classify each individual value under just one value type? Yes, I think there is, but first let’s discuss why we have values.

“Truth, goodness, and beauty are cosmic values that communicate divine meaning to the intellectual, moral, and aesthetic capacities of the human soul, which brings a balance in the soul, which, in turn, harmonizes the human person with divine meaning and purpose of the cosmos, which was considered the prerequisite to human flourishing.”

Stephen R. Turley

Why Do We Value Ideas and Objects?

Universally all of us value both ideas and objects. Buy why?  Why do these things bring so much significance and impact to our lives?  So, let’s break it down.

  • Why Do We Value Ideas? We value ideas for their power to inspire, transform, and provide meaning to our existence. Positively, these values can be ideologies, innovations, or philosophies that challenge our thinking and push the boundaries of our human potential. 
  • Why Do We Value Objects? Similarly, we value objects for their utility, beauty, or sentimental attachment, representing memories, accomplishments, or traditions. 

So, the act of valuing is deeply personal yet universal in its application. Indeed, values represent our collective attempt to find purpose, connection, and satisfaction in the myriad aspects of our existence. What’s more, as we all seek value in our lives, we ask such questions as: What is real? What is right? What is lovely? In fact, throughout the ages these exact questions embody the three primary or cosmic values that human beings have sought. Namely, we all to some degree value truth, goodness, and beauty.

Indeed, the famous Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, spoke of these values as internal capacities of logos (reason), ethos (morality), and pathos (emotion). Further, these internal human capacities correspond to these cosmic values that have always been with us. To restate, these types of values are:

  • Truth – Logos. That which describes reality.
  • (Moral) Goodness – Ethos. That which characterizes a culture, fulfills a designed purpose.
  • Beauty – Pathos. That which is lovely.

“That which you create in beauty and goodness and truth lives on for all time to come. Don’t spend your life accumulating material objects that will only turn to dust and ashes.”

Denis Waitley 

Primary Types of Values: Truth, Moral Goodness, Beauty.

So, truth, moral goodness, and beauty are fundamental values that have always been with us. Indeed, these primary types of values form the pillars upon which our ethical, intellectual, and aesthetic judgments rest. Further, these three terms permeate through time showing up in the writings of a wide range of scholars. These diverse thinkers include Immanuel Kant, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and Mohandas Gandhi to name a few. 

What’s more, in western thought these terms have been called the “transcendentals” because of their universality and their ability to measure all that is. Namely, these primary values guide us in seeking what is true or false, good or evil, beautiful or ugly. Now, these cosmic values are not just in western thought. In fact, Sri Aurobindo, an Indian philosopher, describes these values as ways:

  • Truth: The way of the intellect, or of knowledge — the way of truth;
  • Beauty: The way of the heart, or of emotion — the way of beauty;
  • Goodness: The way of the will, or of action — the way of goodness.

Below, I’ll describe in more detail each of these primary types of values: truth, moral goodness and beauty. Also, I’ll include examples of individual values that can be associated with each of these value types.

“truth, goodness, and beauty are the three things we all need, and need absolutely, and know we need”

Dr. Peter Kreeft

1. Truth: Types of Values That Seek What Is Real and What Is Not.

So, the values that are associated with the value type, truth, seek what is real. These values are much embodied in the scientific method as defined below: 

“…systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

Indeed, these types of values center on seeking the truth, even when it challenges our own existing beliefs. Moreover, these value types include such values as intellectual honesty, competence, curiosity, integrity, knowledge, learning, and wisdom to name a few. Further, these values are the beacons that light our path toward a more enlightened and reliable understanding of the universe and our place within it. The bottom line is that these values are focused on seeking truth. Hence, these values seek to observe, question, accumulate new knowledge, and adjust hypotheses as more discoveries are made about what is real and what is true.

2. Moral Goodness: Types of Values That Define the Greater Good.

The value type of moral goodness is embodied in values that define a collective group such as a culture, a religion, and organizations. So, values in this category exemplify and describe the what and how to achieve the greater good. Examples of values that fall into this category include community, fairness, inclusion, justice, peace, responsibility, tradition, respect, and many others. Indeed, these values promote both the individual members of the culture as well as the collective group itself. With these values, these moral principles, individuals seek to commit and to contribute collectively. Thus, with these values they uphold and advance the greater good of the society. 

3. Beauty: A Value Type That Describes What Uplifts Our Spirits and Feelings.

The value type of beauty encompasses values that positively impact our spirit and feelings. Indeed, this value type is not just physical appearance. It also encompasses the aesthetic qualities of life, art, nature, and the human spirit. Positively, we value things and ideas that uplift our emotions and raise our spirits. Furthermore, these inspirations, founded in creativity and innovation, push the boundaries of what is possible. Thus, it lifts our spirits and fuels our imagination. Moreover, we are attracted to nature’s splendor, the appreciation of craftsmanship in well-made objects, and the quest for elegance in design and architecture.

Hence, we all have a deep-seated human desire for beauty in our surroundings and experiences. So, examples of these beauty type values include joy, grace, fun, love, personal fulfillment, self-expression, creativity, optimism, uniqueness, and humor.

For more discussion on the primary value types of truth, goodness, and beauty see, Paulo F. Ribeiro’s Truth, Goodness, and Beauty: The Equation of a Good Life, Kenneth R. Samples’ The 3 Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, & Beauty, and Steve McIntosh’s THE NATURAL THEOLOGY OF BEAUTY, TRUTH, AND GOODNESS.

“Truth, beauty, and goodness have their being together. By truth we are put in touch with reality, which we find is good for us and beautiful to behold. In our knowing, loving and delighting, the gift of reality appears to us as something infinitely and inexhaustively valuable and fascinating.”

Father Thomas Dubay

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