Prices as Economical Relevant Values to the Profit Equation

Values are not always the same, because they are principally understood intersubjective. Without context, values are neither morally nor valuing. Originally, the term value, which we might understand as an umbrella term with core values, dominant cultures and value codices, can not be a philosophic-theological concept but comes out from the National Economy in Germany. While Aristotle was searching after the eu sän, making one live a good life; there were economists such as Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer asking for the value added of particular cases.

Further efforts by companies are necessary to integrate a value management in business ethics that “does not loose the economical coloration of the value term, on the other hand also avoids a metaphysical overstatement”[1]. Value orientated corporations can reject prescriptive standards in corporate philosophies, if they are developing their individually, subjective values. Only if moral decisions have consequences values have a moral dimension, which is going beyond the own “moral compass” [2] of individual values.


Re-engineering ethical standards, value oriented companies have to come to talk with its stakeholders, which are profiting of the company value. Is it sure that ethical values equally gaining financial value added? Only arguing with those profit hypotheses is not credible enough. Executives need a consistent stance, a clear ethical judgement in order to be successful in the long run. This includes a greater orientation towards an awareness[3] that means a positive understanding of ethic values – in a system where risky behaviour of managers is still greatly rewarded by companies. Values are anything else than an available catalogue of manageable impact.

David Hume pointed out that there is a categorical difference between Being and Doing something[4] that we cannot conclude from purely descriptive models to normative imperatives. Jesus and his disciples never explicitly spoke about values but truth. Plato even did not spoke about values but about the Idea of the Good. Until the mid-19th Century, the concept of the term “value” has been understood economically as a subject of the National Economy, until Herrmann Lotze founded a broader philosophy of values. But values in themselves are initially subjective, not a mission statement on the basis of steady codifying elementary values. Individual values, to which a greater number of people agrees, are creating standards and not vice versa with values that are engaged by managers thinking in top-down patterns.

Economists do not have a philosophical value theory, because they are equating values with prices as an equilibrium[5] for products or services. The value of an object depends on the subjective importance that individual men attribute to it. Economically speaking, prices are “nothing more than aggregate value associations”[6]. In theology on the other hand, values are behaviours such as questioning for truthfulness, loyalty and justice.

In philosophy however the matter is different. Here the value concept is “the result of a hypostatisation of value predicates”[7]. So a glass of water is less valuable for a swimming pool owner than a parching marathon runner, who would already cherish a sip of precious water.[8] If it is about money, the purchaser will only accept those prices, which are under his subjective value senses. In essence economic values diverge from ethical standards.[9] Their scientific conception and resulting recommendations for action are being discussed controversial.

[1] Wieland, Josef, Die Ethik der Governance, in: Wieland, Josef (Hg.), Studien zur Governanceethik, Bd. 1, Marburg 52007, p. 81.

[2] Lennick, Doug u.a., Moral Intelligence. Wie Sie mit Werten und Prinzipien Ihren Geschäftserfolg steigern, Heidelberg 2006, p. 86.

[3] Enderle, Georges, Handlungsorientierte Wirtschaftsethik: Grundlagen und Anwendungen, in: St. Galler Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsethik, Bd. 8, Stuttgart 1993.

[4] Hume, David, A Treatise of Human Nature, Oxford 1978 (orig. 1740).

[5] Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (RGG4), Art. „Wert/Werte“, p. 1468.

[6] McK Wissen, Das Magazin von McKinsey, 11. Ausgabe, „Wert“, Hamburg 2004, p. 22.  

[7] Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (LThK), Art. „Wert“, p. 1108.

[8] Oermann, Nils Ole, Anständig Geld verdienen? Protestantische Wirtschaftsethik unter den Bedingungen globaler Märkte, Gütersloh 2008, p. 209.

[9] Camenish, Paul F., Business Ethics: On Getting to the Heart of the Matter, in: Stackhouse, Max L. u.a. (Hg.), On Moral Business, Classical and Contemporary Ressources for Ethics in Economic Life, Princeton (USA) 1995, p. 587.