Value in Social Theory: A Selection of Essays on Methodology

By Gunnar Myrdal; Paul Streeten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
VALUATIONS AND BBLIEFS 1

1. THE MECHANISM OF RATIONALIZATION

P EOPLE have ideas about how reality actually is, or was, and they have ideas about how it ought to be, or ought to have been. The former we call 'beliefs'. The latter we call 'valuations'. A person's beliefs, that is, his knowledge, can be objectively judged to be true or false and more or less complete. His valuations -- that a social situation or relation is, or was, 'just', 'right', 'fair', 'desirable', or the opposite, in some degree of intensity or other -- cannot be judged by such objective standards as science provides. In their 'opinions' people express both their beliefs and their valuations. Usually people do not distinguish between what they think they know and what they like or dislike.

There is a close psychological interrelation between the two types of ideas. In our civilization people want to be rational and objective in their beliefs. We have faith in science and are, in principle, prepared to change our beliefs according to its results. People also want to have 'reasons' for the valuations they hold, and they usually express only those valuations for which they think they have 'reasons'. To serve as opinions, specific valuations are selected, are formulated in words and are motivated by acceptable 'reasons'. With the help of certain beliefs about reality, valuations are posited as parts of a general value order from which they are taken to be logical inferences. This value hierarchy has a simple or elaborate architecture, depending mainly upon the cultural level of a person. But independently of this, most persons want to present to their fellows -- and to themselves -- a trimmed and polished sphere of

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1
Appendix 1 in An American Dilemma.

-71-

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Value in Social Theory: A Selection of Essays on Methodology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • Part 1 1
  • Chapter Two - The Relation Between Social Theory and Social Policy 9
  • Part 2 55
  • Chapter Four - American Ideals and The American Conscience 65
  • Chapter Five - Valuations and Bbliefs 71
  • Chapter Six - Encountering the Negro Problem 89
  • Chapter Seven Facts and Valuations 119
  • Chapter Eight - Facets of the Negro Problem 165
  • Chapter Nine - The Principle of Cumulation 198
  • Part 3 206
  • Chapter Eleven - The Logical Crux of All Science 231
  • Postscript 237
  • Index 263
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