One of the most important issues in public and academic debate is the concept of value and the difficulty in defining it. In this new book, the leading social theorist Hans Joas explores the nature of values in relation to some of the leading figures of twentieth--century philosophy and social theory. Seeking to synthesize utilitarian and normativist approaches, Joas argues that only by appreciating the creative nature of human action can we understand how values and value commitments arise. Values, Joas suggests, arise in experiences of self--formation and self--transcendence. He arrives at this thesis by tracing the tensions in the work of thinkers including Friedrich Nietzsche, William James, Max Scheler and John Dewey. He goes on to explore the work of Charles Taylor, and concludes with an examination of postmodern challenges to the concept of identity and with a provocative critique of Habermasa s treatment of the relation between the right and the good. Throughout the book, Joas differentiates between values, norms and desires.
He clarifies their respective role in the dynamics of human action, and explores how the ways we acquire values relate to the other ways in which we understand the world and ourselves. This important book will be of great interest to students and scholars of sociology, social theory and philosophy.
Hans Joas is Professor of Sociology at the Free University of Berlin.
Preface. Formulating the Question. The Genesis of Values as Genealogy of Morality? (Friedrich Nietzsche). The Varieties of Religious Experience (William James). Collective Ecstacy (Emile Durkhein). The Immanence of Transcendence (Georg Simmel). The Value--Feeling and its Object (Max Scheler). Shattering Intersubjectivity (John Dewey). Identity and the Good (Charles Taylor). The Concept of Self and its Postmodern Challenge. Values and Norms: the Good and the Right. Notes. Bibliography