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 Habermas'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.