ALUES -- as in those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. [Oscar Wilde].
Be they family, ethical, algebraic or corporate; market, used car, journalistic, or artistic -- we daily weigh or are otherwise concerned with values. Our values offer fertile ground wherein contradiction takes root.
Few issues are as contentious and contradictory as those dealing with life and death: is he pro-choice when it comes to abortion law but anti-death penalty in criminal law? Is she pro-life on the issue of abortion but supportive of handing down the death penalty? What about assisted suicide?
Does placing a high value on life mean all life or just certain forms, i.e., human life? Is it only cultural differences that account for roasting dogs for dinner in one situation, treating them as valued family members in another, or using them for experimental purposes in yet a third setting? In the United States, the value of a rabbit may be all three: a source of human food, a cuddly pet or as a testing agent for cosmetics. Any value the rabbit might have for herself is rarely considered, unless by VEGANS or VEGETARIANS, whose values in this area reflect concerns about other value-laden notions: cruelty, sustainability, health, etc.
When questions of value intersect the world of commerce (following the money is a valuable ploy), things really begin to get interesting, as well as contradictory: I. Glenn Cohen examines how decisions are made as they reflect our values in connection with the concept of commodities.
Under current law, sperm, art, pollution rights, and life insurance can be sold; votes, organs, draft cards, and children cannot. Demarcating a line between what can and cannot be permissibly sold is the goal of the commodification debate, and leads to a host of philosophical contradictions. His paper is free, downloadable, and illuminating.
I. Glenn Cohen, Harvard Law Review 2003. vol. 117, No. 689