Intrinsically Good

Something is 'intrinsically good' if it is good in itself (as an end itself), not with respect to its instrumental goodness--not what it is good for (not as a means to an end).

Intrinsic goodness cannot be established by sensory observation; that is, it cannot be based on what exists (Steiner, 1988, p. 25). Reasoning based on fundamental principles or maxims should instead be used to determine intrinsic value. For example, Immanuel Kant (1785) provided the categorical imperative as a fundamental maxim:

Act as though the maxim of your action were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature.” (p. 24)

Naturalistic fallacies must be avoided. Just because something currently exists does not mean that it has intrinsic value. Nor should we rely solely on authority. Just because someone else tells us what is intrinsically valuable, does not necessarily mean it is so. To be free and to be rational, we must instead reason from justifiable criteria (see criterial knowing that).

Examples of criteria (or norms):

  • Autonomy (freedom)
  • Beauty
  • Goodness
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Rationality
  • Respect for others
  • Truth

Determination of worthwhile goals of education should be part of philosophical educology. For example, in Educology of the Free, Steiner (1981) argued that students should become rational and therefore autonomous.

Note that:

Compare with: Value theory: What is intrinsic value? and Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Value (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)