What Is A Hierarchy Of Values, And How Is One Created?

Hierarchy of values

Each person has their own way of seeing and interpreting the world, a unique vision that has been nurtured based on their experiences, personality traits and teachings from their family.

This makes each of us value in one way or another the different aspects that make up our lives, such as family, money, religion, culture, work or anything that comes to mind.

The hierarchy of values ​​is this mental structure in which we organize what we consider most valuable and significant in our lives of what is not so, and also what we consider to be good and what is bad. Let’s look at it further.

What is a hierarchy of values?

We can define as a hierarchy of values ​​that structure in which we place the beliefs and attitudes that determine our behavior, assigning each of them a certain importance The values ​​that make up such a hierarchy are not stable over time, since depending on our experience, changes in opinion and social influences, we value one thing or another differently throughout our lives.

Values ​​are different from individual to individual and very variable depending on our social, work, cultural and religious environment Each person has a range of values ​​that he considers superior and inferior, establishing his own concept of what is moral, philosophical, aesthetic and ethical in his life. For example, there are those who consider family and everything related to it to be of high value, while for others it is money and leisure that acquire great weight in their lives.

Component elements of the hierarchy of values

Generally, the hierarchy of values It is faithful to the representation of what the individual considers necessary to lead a happy and well-being life

This mental structure is formed throughout the life of each individual based on their experiences and mixed with their personality and values ​​acquired from peers, which usually define what is good and what is bad within a society. There are three fundamental elements that determine this structure.

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1. Perceptions of the individual

The perceptions and interpretations that the individual makes of the world in which they live will determine what their values ​​are In turn, the establishment of such values ​​will respond to the needs, interests, aspirations, training and personal conditions of the person who welcomes them.

2. Qualities of value

The second aspect that determines the structure of the hierarchy of values ​​has to do with the qualities of the value closely related to each person’s personal preference but also how it is interpreted as positive or negative from a social perspective.

3. Situation of the individual

The third aspect has to do with the momentary situation in which the person lives This is the most unstable element, since we all go through different situations throughout life that can make us change our minds and value differently an aspect that, in the past, was highly valued.

Characteristics of securities

We can highlight different characteristics of values taking into account the three aspects just mentioned:

Personal values

Max Scheler’s Hierarchy of Values

Values ​​have been studied since ancient times. Already in Classical Greece, philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle proposed treatises on ethics, morality, beauty and aesthetics, trying to organize what were the most important values ​​for man’s life.

As the centuries passed, the philosophy of David Hume, a Scottish philosopher who studied ethics and was concerned with the way in which moral judgments were made, appeared. It is these moral judgments that play a key role when establishing what is good and what is evil ideas that determine both what we understand as socially accepted values ​​and the hierarchy we establish with them.

One of the key figures when talking about the hierarchy of values ​​is the German philosopher Max Scheler. This thinker is known for his studies of axiology, a branch of philosophy that studies values, their nature and essence. Scheler’s great contribution is having proposed a hierarchy of values, establishing a very well-organized structure of the levels that he considered made up the priority and importance that people give to different values ​​based on social thought.

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Max Scheler’s proposal for a hierarchy of values, starting from lowest to highest level of importance, is as follows:

1. Values ​​of pleasantness

Also known as hedonistic values, pleasantness values ​​correspond to the affective states through which we feel and seek pleasure, and feel and avoid pain They are those that have a direct relationship with what we understand as pleasant and unpleasant.

2. Vital values

The vital values They refer to the life of the body, that is, those that are related to health, illness, physiological needs and instinct Its search is done to achieve biological well-being, while its deprivation leads to discomfort and health problems.

3. Spiritual values

Spiritual values They are those that, according to Scheler’s model, are captured through our spirit and do not involve the body Here we would find aesthetic, legal, intellectual and pure knowledge values.

4. Religious values

Finally, in the hierarchy proposed by Max Scheler, we have religious values, which would be those that would have the greatest degree of importance. They are made up of the sacred and defined it by differentiating between the holy and the profane

Examples of value types

Although Max Scheler’s model is interesting and serves to give a bit of shape to what can be understood as a hierarchy of values, the truth is that everyone can establish their own What is meant by a value is very subjective and the importance we give to it is even more so, therefore, making a model that specifies what the levels of this type of hierarchy are is really complicated.

However, as an example and as a guideline for those who want to embark on the adventure of writing their own hierarchy of values, assessing what they consider to be more important in their life than what is not so important, below we leave 6 types of values ​​to take into consideration.

1. Social values

Social values They understand the importance we give to people who are part of our social environment, be they family, friends or society itself They have a lot to do with prosocial behaviors, adaptation to the culture of birth or host.

2. Religious values

Religious values ​​are established by each doctrine, denomination or religious sect They can be values ​​associated with a very well-defined religion or, also, more alternative beliefs, of a pagan or sectarian nature.

  • Related article: “The origins of religion: how did it appear and why?”
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3. Moral values

Moral values are those that derive from their relationship with society and are useful when making decisions being subject to ethics.

4. Biological or physiological values

Biological or physiological values ​​are those that arise from the basic needs of the human being having a relationship with food, health, the need for protection and maintenance of physical and psychological integrity, among others.

5. Economic values

The economic values They have a direct relationship with wealth They are those with which material, commercial, goods needs are satisfied…

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6. Aesthetic values

The aesthetic values They are those who focus on beauty as an object of interest seeking balance, functionality and also visual impact.

Value Hierarchy Example

Taking into consideration the 6 examples we just saw, Here you can see an example of a hierarchy of values ​​ordered from most to least important

  • Family and friends (social)
  • Faith and religion (religious)
  • Solidarity, cooperation and doing good (morals)
  • Sex, food and health (physiological)
  • Beauty, art and culture (aesthetic)
  • Work, material goods and savings (economic)

The importance of the hierarchy of values

Each person’s hierarchy of values ​​is valuable because it is a structure composed of our convictions that determines many aspects of our behavior. It guides and guides our actions and motivates us towards achieving different goals or behave in a way that we consider correct based on our own values.

This hierarchy of values ​​is unique to each individual, but it is also shaped socially. That is, the combination of the values ​​of each individual within a society forms a common hierarchy of values, composed of those socially desirable values ​​and those who do not share them or distance themselves from them, can be marginalized or seen as people who are not governed by what the majority supports.

At an individual level, the most important values ​​are those that make up our identity those that determine our particular way of expressing ourselves and living.

The clearer and higher they are in the hierarchy of values, the more they will help us guide our behavior and give a certain meaning to our life, guiding us to carry out a certain purpose or have a future and vital perspective.