Not Stephen Petro ’12.

Petro’s groundbreaking book will be published in December.

Stephen Petro ’12 was introduced to value theory, a field of study concerned with theoretical questions about value and goodness, in a high school philosophy class. At Drew he began researching the topic and bouncing his own ideas off professors. Petro wrote his thoughts down to organize his ideas and eventually realized he could turn them into a book. By November of his senior year, he had a first draft.

The fruit of his labor, Rationality, Virtue, and Liberation: A Post-Dialectical Theory of Value, will be published in December by Springer. “It was essentially a labor of love,” says Petro, 24, who’s now studying at the School of General Studies at Columbia University.

Petro says his 304-page book presents a new theory of value, demonstrating that intrinsic, objective value exists in the world. The implications for human behavior, he says, are huge. “Value theory permeates every field we study and every line of work or project we pursue,” Petro says. “Many people, especially now in my generation, seems to be more compliant and less willing to question authority. Many have forgotten about the importance of personal liberation, but in my theory it has great inherent value.”

His book is intended for a general audience. “Maybe it takes a little bit of intellectual work to get through it,” Petro says. “Value theory can seem to be up in the clouds, but I’m very worldly. And I’m clear throughout the book how my findings apply to our daily lives.”

Petro plans to research the empirical branch of value theory next while pursuing a PhD in psychology and neurobiology. “Ultimately my goal is to learn what kind of social relations we can envision in the future,” he says. “Is there any hope for humanity in changing behaviors, or are they fixed?”

Petro will be on campus Oct. 24 to discuss his new book. For more details, visit his website,—Mary Jo Patterson