Wolfgang Köhler

The Place of Value in a World of Facts

In this important and challenging book, Wolfgang Köhler's subject is value, or what he calls the requiredness of an object or activity. Starting with a descriptive account of values as we become aware of them, he finds that, inside certain contexts, parts of such structures do not appear as indifferent facts. They are experienced as belonging there intrinsically or, also, as being out of place in their contexts.

Köhler's closely reasoned analysis, drawing on the fields of psychology, biology, and physics, centers around this concept of requiredness. Certain things in nature belong together or require the presence of one another in such a way that fitness or requiredness constitutes a principles of association between them. This same principle of association, Köhler suggests, may help to explain the idea of value and lay a foundation for the scientific solution of ethical problems.




This theory of value is based upon (1) the phenomenological method, and (2) the principle of isomorphism. The former leads to a structural interpretation of value as "requiredness" (ch. 3). "Interest" is shown to be only one kind of requiredness, the subjective, in which the "vector of acceptance or rejection" issues from the self, whereas in other cases, e.g. in logic and esthetics, it issues from a part of the objective context. The principle of isomorphism leads to the assumption that the psychophysical substratum of phenomenal requiredness is a field of "forces" within a corresponding structure (ch. 9). Biology does not contain anything more akin to requiredness than does physics (ch. 8). Isomorphism is discussed against the background of (1) epistemological dualism, which claims a transphenomenal reality such as is most directly indicated by experiences of "transcendence" in memory (ch. 4, 7), (2) the structural resemblance of percepts and corresponding physical objects (ch. 5), (3) the existence of appropriate characteristics in physicochemical systems such as the brain (ch. 6), and (4) the principle of evolution (ch. 10). Once isomorphism is accepted the physicist should, rather than avoiding man's mind from a sentiment against anthropomorphism, regard it as our most direct access to general dynamics—whereby the "case against science" as neglecting man (ch. 1) might no longer be justified. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)







Internet Archive
Google Books
A Review of Wolfgang Köhler’s the Place of Value in a World of Facts
Defining value as the requiredness of an activity or object, the author describes value experiences and the nature, meaning, development, and function of value on the physical, psychological, and philosophical levels.
Cambrige University Press