Front Page Titles (by Subject) DEFINITION X: Worth is the moral quantity or value of merchandise or things, and of actions that are good for man in communal life, in accordance with which they are fit to be compared one with another. - Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence
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DEFINITION X: Worth is the moral quantity or value of merchandise or things, and of actions that are good for man in communal life, in accordance with which they are fit to be compared one with another. - Samuel von Pufendorf, Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence 
Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence, translated by William Abbott Oldfather, 1931. Revised by Thomas Behme. Edited and with an Introduction by Thomas Behme (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009).
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Worth is the moral quantity or value of merchandise or things, and of actions that are good for man in communal life, in accordance with which they are fit to be compared one with another.
1. The most natural foundation of worth in things is their ability to exhibit some use in communal life.1 Hence things which are utterly useless we are accustomed commonly to call worthless. Now the use of a certain thing is defined not merely from the circumstance that it truly helps to preserve or to make pleasurable our existence, but in addition that it contributes some pleasure or ornament, even though this be in the sole opinion of certain men. Upon such things the luxury and the lustfulness of men have generally placed an inordinate worth. Now in comparing things with one another according to their worth, various considerations are commonly regarded. For here to such a degree does the necessity of a thing, or the nobility of its application, fail always to have chief consideration, that, by a singular provision of nature, those things which our life cannot do without are rather accorded the less worth, because nature presents a bounteous supply of them. Therefore it is rarity which is principally effective here, and this is held in an esteem none too slight when there are brought from far distant places things to which frequently the desires of men are violently drawn. For most men value chiefly those things which are to be had in common with a few; and, on the contrary, that thing is held cheap, whatever it may be, which is seen among the household goods of any and everybody.
Determinately, moreover, worth is commonly recognized from usage or custom, that is, a thing is commonly estimated at as much as is very generally offered or given for it.2 This is scarcely so that it does not have some range within which more or less can be demanded, except when the law has fixed the worth of a thing at a definite point. Now in common worth the labours and expenses which merchants undergo are customarily taken into account. There may also be certain estimable accidents of a thing because of which it may be legitimately bought or sold above or below the common price, for example, because of a loss which is to follow, deferred profit, peculiar affection, or if it be bought or sold as a favour to another, when otherwise it was not to be bought or sold. These same accidents are customarily pointed out to the man with whom a bargain is being made about a thing, and can properly be imputed. That deferred or increased gain also which arises from delayed or anticipated payment of the worth can be computed. For the day of payment is a part of the price, and it means more to give something immediately than after a time; since, forsooth, in the meantime profit might have been secured therefrom. Also there is not a little in the consideration of the place where the merchandise is produced or the worth paid. For the same thing is valued differently in different places, and the value of money, or the interest, is not the same everywhere, and the rates of exchange for forwarding money are different in different places. Moreover, it very frequently happens that the worth of a thing changes, that is, goes either up or down, this change being due to the large or small supply of buyers, of money, of merchandise, or because of impending peace or war, and similar chance happenings.
2. Now not merely corporeal things have their own worth, but also incorporeal things and the very actions of men, in so far as they can bring to others some utility or delectation. About these, however, it must be noted that, by the laws of God and of man, some of them have been placed outside of human bartering, to such a degree that man ought not to fix a price for them, and ought not in turn to supply or perform these actions for a price. Of this kind are those sacred actions to which a certain supernatural effect has been assigned by divine will and institution, for example, the remission, through priestly absolution, of sins and of punishment due sins, the application of spiritual benefactions through the exhibition of the sacraments, and the like, in regard to which, if a man supply them to another for a price, he is said to be committing simony. Thus the judge cannot rightly sell for a price the justice which he ought to administer gratis. Thus the plyer of the dagger, or the poisoner, does not rightly for a price sell his services in murdering a man, or the harlot sell her favours, or the man who disseminates lies to the injury of others, his stilus, or the man who sets out to help unjust causes, or to overthrow just ones by the perjuries of others, his honour; and so others of this ilk. Furthermore, the worth of useful or delectable actions is commonly estimated in proportion to the necessity, utility, difficulty, or delicacy of the action, or the multitude or scarcity of the artisans or workmen, the large or small number of contractors available, and the abundance or scantiness of their means.
In incorporeal things utility and splendour are principally regarded. And in all things corporeal as well as incorporeal, worth is determined in particular cases by law or custom, or by an understanding between the parties to the agreement.
3. Now worth can be divided into common and eminent. The former is that which inheres, from the foundations already mentioned, in all sorts of things which enter into exchange. Before the use of money was introduced, men knew no other worth beside that, and even yet some barbarians do not know of any. Hence business intercourse on the part of such men consisted merely in the simple exchange of things, and they were not able to let or to hire one another’s services except in return for a thing. Now, indeed, that was a highly inconvenient method of fulfilling contracts between men, since it is not easy for any one whatsoever to possess things of that kind for which another is willing to give his own in exchange, or which have the exact value of the other’s property; and in states where citizens are distinguished by different statuses, it is necessary that there be several classes of men which cannot at all maintain life with that kind of exchange, or else are able to do so with extreme difficulty. Hence civil life was rude and simple as long as that was the sole method which obtained of exchanging goods; and those who use it to-day are far removed from the customs of the more civilized nations. Having considered, therefore, the inconveniences of exchange, most nations agreed with one another to set a certain eminent worth, as it were, upon a definite thing, according to which as a standard the worth of other things should be exacted, and in which that same worth should be, as it were, eminently contained; and all that to such a degree that this thing could be used in exchange for any thing at all, and could be conveniently employed for conducting business and fulfilling all kinds of contracts. For this end the nobler metals, gold, silver, and bronze, were judged to be the most suitable, forasmuch as their substance is not too common, is durable, and is not clumsy because of its bulk; although a state might destine other substances also for this use, which would have to be employed by citizens in the place of money. These metals, in quantities of a definite weight, and marked with definite figures, are called coins, upon which the administrators of states, or the mutual agreement of the users, set a fixed value. Nevertheless, that increase or decrease of worth which other things undergo because of scarcity or abundance, money also itself does not entirely escape, as a coin made of the same material and with the same weight is worth now more and now less; although that variation is not as sudden or as frequent as the variations of value among other things. From what has been said in passing can be explained also the controversy among the ancient Roman jurisconsults regarding worth.3 Sabinus and Cassius, of their number, affirmed that other things besides money had worth, and therefore they included exchange under purchase and sale. Both of these positions were denied by Proculus and Nerva, because otherwise it could not be made clear, when things had been exchanged, just which would appear to have been sold and which to have been given under the name of price. For it seemed to them to be absurd that both things had been sold and both given under the name of price. Now, in truth, both views can stand in a certain way. The first can stand, indeed, if we say that the purchase was made at common or eminent worth; and that the price in exchange appears to be the thing which is given by the one who started the business transaction. For he appears to be the purchaser who asks that something be given him in exchange for some property of his own. And the latter opinion can stand if only that in which eminent worth appears is called purchase.
[1. ] The subsequent discussion of the foundation of price is largely based on Grotius, JBP, II.xii.14; cf. JNG, 5, 1, §4.
[2. ] Cf. Dig., XXXV.ii.63: “The value of property should be estimated, not by affection nor according to any particular advantage attaching to it, but for what it can be disposed of at an ordinary sale”; about that, JNG, 5, 1, §9.
[3. ]Dig., XVIII.i.1, §1.