Intrinsic value and educational value

Jane Gatley

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In this paper, I ask whether educational value is determined in any way by intrinsic value. The aim of the paper is to explore whether appeals to the intrinsic value of an activity or state of affairs can justify proposed educational value. I turn to Korsgaard's work on the concept of intrinsic value to cast light on the relationship between intrinsic value and educational value. Korsgaard claims that the often held distinction between intrinsic and instrumental value conflates two separate distinctions. These are the intrinsic/extrinsic value distinction and the final/instrumental value distinction. These two distinctions will be considered with regard to literature that appeals to intrinsic value. The distinctions between intrinsic/extrinsic value and final/instrumental value will be used to clarify puzzles which arise when philosophers of education use the concept of intrinsic value to make claims about educational value. I argue that the intrinsic/extrinsic value distinction has little bearing on an activity's educational value. The instrumental/final value distinction is relevant, but does not imply that activities with final value are any more educationally valuable than those with instrumental value. I conclude that, regardless of the distinction being appealed to, general intrinsic value has little bearing on educational value.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Early online date24 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 May 2021


  • aims of education
  • curriculum
  • flourishing
  • instrumental value
  • intrinsic value


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