Intrinsic value

Intrinsic value is the value something has ‘in itself’, or ‘for its own sake’. E.g. the intrinsic value of animals can be defined as a value placed on the inherent qualities of a species, independent of its value to humans.

It contrasts with extrinsic or instrumental value — that is, with value a thing has only in virtue of its capacity to produce something of real value. Money has extrinsic value, but no or little intrinsic value.

Something similar might be said about antibiotics: the value they have is instrumental, because it consists entirely in the ability to restore health. Is health intrinsically valuable, then? Some would say yes, but others would see it as an ‘instrument’ allowing the animal to access something that is genuinely of intrinsic value, e.g. freedom from pain.

Some will argue that the nature has intrinsic value, while others argue that the nature has extrinsic value. Photo: Anne Algers