Making intrinsic values work: Integrating intrinsic values of the more-than-human world through the Life Framework of Values

Seb O’Connor, Jasper O. Kenter

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This paper addresses central limitations of ecosystem services and nature’s contributions to people (NCP) by developing a novel approach to consideration of intrinsic values of nature. Intrinsic values are seen as bundled with values of ecosystem services and NCP within the Life Framework, an innovative, comprehensive and easy to communicate framework of values. Building on work by John O’Neill, values are conceived of as related to living with, from, in and as the world. These frames are related to but distinct from more formal ethical justifications of intrinsic, instrumental and relational values, which straddle the four Life Frames. Focusing on intrinsic values, we conceive these as ends without reference to humans as valuers, but which nonetheless can be articulated by people. We draw on more-than-human participatory research and post-normal science to promote the articulation and deliberation of perspectives and interests of the more-than-human world by an extended peer community. This clearly differentiates our approach from both rights-based intrinsic value and utilitarian existence value approaches, although it is inclusive of them. The approach is demonstrated by an elaborate integrated marine ecosystem valuation, where we investigate associations between intrinsic and relational values and the four Life frames. The Life Framework, operationalised through the post-normal, more-than-human participatory approach, operationalises articulated intrinsic values in a way that puts them on an equal footing with values of ecosystem services and NCP, providing an opportunity to bridge and reconcile these different types of value through deliberation. This enhances the recognition and procedural justice of valuation, while at the same time retaining the practical advantages that the ecosystem services framework brings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1247-1265
Number of pages19
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number5
Early online date23 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 02 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Articulated intrinsic values
  • Deliberative democracy
  • Environmental ethics
  • More-than-human participatory research
  • Relational values
  • Shared values
  • Social values


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