link: operative values 


                                     PROCESS: 'OPERATIVE VALUES'


theme: As a biological organism, the human individual makes value choices on the basis of the inherent tendency toward self-actualisation. Value choices instinctively made in the context of the inherent tendency for self-actualisation are known as the 'operative values'.

"The living human being has, at the outset, a clear approach to values. He prefers some things and experiences and rejects others. We can infer from studying his behaviour that he prefers those experiences which maintain, enhance, or actualize his organism, and rejects those which do not serve this end. Watch him for a bit... The infant's 'values' are clearly obvious to anyone observing his behaviour and his reactions. Hunger is negatively valued and food is positively valued. But when the hunger is satisfied then food is negatively valued. Security is positively valued. Affection is positively valued because it communicates security. New experience is valued. Pleasure is gained from the satisfaction of curiosity. Pain, bitter tastes and sudden loud sounds are negatively valued. The infant reacts overtly and gives expression to his likes and dislikes. He naturally likes what is good for him dislikes what is bad for him. The approach to 'values' which is demonstrated by the infant is a flexible, changing, valuing process, not a fixed system...Unlike many of us, he knows what he likes and dislikes, and the origin of these value choices lies strictly within himself. He is the center of the valuing process, the evidence for his choices being spplied by his own senses... He likes a food and then dislikes the same food. He values security and then rejects it in favor of new experience. He is not influenced by anyone but is reacting as a biological organism operating within an environment in which it must satisfy its ultimate need for self-actualization. The 'values' expressed by the infant are 'operative' values. The 'operative values' are the values chosen on the basis of the organism's inherent tendency toward self-actualization. (Carl Rogers "Freedom to Learn" Charles Merrill Publishing Company, Columbus Ohio l969 From chapter l2 "A modern approach to the valuing process" 239-257). 

Natural origins of human values  The valuing process in the developing human being and the natural origins of human values and the human conscience: A 'value' is a value choice. In the developing human organism, value choices or 'values' are a function of the degree to which they are advantageous to the organism.  As value choices, 'values' have no objective validity. The validity of values exists only within the context of human existence. There are no values outside of human existence. Values are rooted in the conditions of human existence - 'existential isolation'... the 'human situation' or 'human condition'. All human beings share the existential dichotomies inherent in the human condition. It is the knowledge of the human condition which leads one to conclude that values have objective validity. The criteria for 'good' and 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong' etc. are ultimately derived from the meaningfulness of human existence and the conditions for human survival. The values which are rooted in the conditions for adaptation and survival are the 'organismic values'. Organismic values are components of a biologically based valuing process which is intrinsic to the human organism ...the 'organismic valuing system'.

The organismic valuing system is the intrinsic valuing system involving the natural organismic values.

"Values are rooted in the very conditions of human existence; hence our knowledge of these conditions, that is, of the 'human situation', leads us to estabishing values which have objective validity; this validity exists only with regard to the existence of man; outside of him there are no values." (Erich Fromm "Values, Psychology, and Human Existence" in Maslow A.H. (ed) New Knowledge in Human Values. New York: Harper, 1959 )

Like all biological organisms with biological needs for self-preservation and adaptation, the human organism has the natural capacity to adjust its behaviour to a continuously changing environmelnt. Value choices and decisions are made in accordance with the organismic valuing process. 

Given the opportunity to grow to maturity in a growth promoting climate of freedom and respect, regardless of culture, the human organism prefers goals which satisfy the ultimate need for self-actualization instinctively living by values which facilitate its own self-enhancement and the enhancement of its species. Clear at the outset, its approach to 'values' is a flexible, changing process of decision making in the form of value choices.

In the human infant, likes and dislikes are clearly expressed. Reactions and behaviour are overt. The organism naturally prefers those experiences which maintain, enhance, and contribute to self-actualization and rejects those which do not. Food is valued positively and then becomes  valued negatively when hunger is satisfied. Affection is valued positively because it communicates security. When the need for security is satisfied and pleasure is gained from the satisfaction of curiosity, then affection is rejected in favor of new experience .

 The 'values' expressed by the human infant are natural organismic values known as the 'operative' values. The operative values are natural values of the intrinsic organismic valuing process. They are the values which are sensed as being advantageous to the organism. Operative values are the biologically based instinctive values chosen on the basis of the organismic striving for self-actualization. They are value choices which are indicated by preferences of behaviour leading to the fulfillment of psychological and emotional needs of the organism and organismic tendencies to favor the development of the self, of others and the species. Naturally valued are those objects and experiences which contribute to the individual's own growth and development, and the growth and development of others.

Operative values are related to the organism's inborn capacities and talents. The operative values are the value choices which make up the inner core of human nature. They are value directions which are common to all human beings who have complete freedom to choose their own value directions, regardless of cultural influences.

The human organism has a natural sense of responsibility for its own self-actualization, its own virtue and happiness. Instinctively aware of its own biologically based psychological needs, aware that its basic needs must be satisfied for the achievement of its potential as a 'whole' human being, its full 'humaness'.

The operative values are the human values or 'human needs'... the value choices which do not involve any cognitive or conceptual thinking.

Human motives for behaviour or 'human needs' The human values are actually intrinsic human needs which include the biologically based spiritual needs 'growth needs' or 'metaneeds'. The most urgent human need is the need for safety or 'security'. Safety needs are prepotent to the growth needs and curiosity. Fear and anxiety inhibit curiosity and growth. Freedom from anxiety and fear is the pre-requisite to curiosity, exploration and growth through knowledge. The child will give up growth to retain the security of approval from significant adults. In a normal growth process, once the basic needs for security are fulfilled, the organism becomes less dependent on others for growth needs of creation and production...

 Denial or frustration of any of these needs, capacities or yearnings leads to psychopathology which is manifest as the wickedness of human behaviour or 'evil'.

 Denial of human needs leads to psychopathology or 'evil'  If the instinctive tendency for growth and productive life is thwarted, then there is a transformation of the blocked constructive energy into destructive energy. Those individual and social conditions which make for the blocking of productive energy produce the destructive energy which is the source of evil. Growth in a social environment which does not satisfy the human need for security results in the individual's anxiety, hostility and ultimate lack of personal freedom.

The insecure individual learns to rely on the changeable factors in the environment, becoming motivated by the deficiency of security needs i.e. 'deficit motivation'. Deficiency motivation results in involvement which is limited and interchangeable because it is based on need gratification. When need gratification becomes the basis for human education and teaching methodology, the result is failure to develop the potential of the human organism.

Education for human potential depends on teaching methodology which is based on the recognition of human needs or operative values.

The operative values are those values which make up the inner core of human nature.

Implications for education The perplexing issues of 'values' and 'ethics' could be resolved with the recognition of the potential universality of the organismic valuing process and the operative values

'holistic education'.

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