IV. Essence of Value

1. Essence of value and actual value

There are two ways in which to understand value: one is to consider the very essence of value, some quality which is possessed by the object, and the other is to consider the actualization of value, which takes place in the relationship between subject and object. The former is called “potential value,” and the latter, “actual value.” When it is said that value is that quality of an object which can potentially satisfy the desire of a subject, the value being referred to is potential value. Actual value is something that is necessarily appraised in our actual life, and such appraisal is actually carried out during the give and receive action between a subject and an object. The value determined by such an appraisal may be called actual value.

Potential value, then, is the quality of an object, or the essence of value, which refers to the contents, attributes, conditions, and so on of the object. The values of truth, goodness, and beauty themselves are not realized in the object itself, but are only latent in the object as the essence that can be realized as actual only through a relationship with the subject. Through that relationship they become actual values.

2. Potential value

Then what, concretely, is the essence of value? The essence of value consists of the object’s purpose of creation and the harmony existing between paired elements in the object. Every created being has a purpose for which it was created, namely, its purpose of creation. For example, a flower has the purpose to give joy to people through its beauty. Not only in the beings created by God, but also in things produced by people (e.g., art works and commodities) there are always purposes for which they were created.

The harmony between paired elements refers to the harmony between subject element and object element. Since all things are individual truth beings, they have within themselves correlative elements of subject and object, such as Sungsang and Hyungsang, yang and yin, and principal element and subordinate element. Harmony is realized through the give and receive action between these correlative elements. The give and receive action here referred to is that of the comparison type. In this way, the situation wherein the paired elements are harmonized centering on the purpose of creation is a situation wherein the essence of value, or potential value, exists.