Whenever we feel the urge to say “human values” or “social values,” perhaps we should immediately substitute a phrase closer to our intended meaning. If we mean “motives,” then let’s talk about them. If we mean “consumer preferences,” then say so. If we mean “the norms of a particular group in society,” then talk about those. If we mean “general moral principles that ought to guide our action,” then explore, define, and defend those principles. What we will find, I believe, is that these more specific topics are an improvement over the vague label, and that once we’ve begun using them, the word “values” can never again substitute meaningfully for more substantial terms and questions.

Langdon Winner, The Whale and the Reactor
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