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cardinal values, ordinal values

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631170488.1995.x


The cardinal values , which may be defined as ends in themselves - freedom, peace, solidarity etc. - serve as foundations for the body of laws. Ordinal values , which may be defined as the means to be employed - such as work, family, country, health-constitute the corpus of rules. Following Lewin (1935), we may take the view that values are internalized parents. This articulation between means and ends is delicate and often disturbed. We have seen catastrophic periods of social conflation of these two levels (‘ Travial, Famille, Patrie ’ replacing the cardinal values ‘ Liberté, Egalité, Fraterniteé ’ on the fascades of French town halls). And one often finds, in respect of preventive medicine, the highly regrettable reduction of cardinal solidarity to ordinal health. However, a particular clinical curiosity merits our attention in this connection. Many studies conducted in the USA, Hungary and south-east France have revealed a peculiar phenomenon: that users of chemical prostheses (alcoholics and drug-abusers) typically rank values differently. That is to say that, when asked to arrange in order of importance eighteen ordinal values (being polite, brave, honest, loving, ambitious etc.) and eighteen cardinal values (peace, security, love, joy etc.), we see two different phenomena: the population as a whole lists these various items in a very homogeneous way (varying only by two ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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