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Intrinsic Value
Posted: 15 February 2012 10:03 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello, first post!

I’m wondering what the naturalist perspective on intrinsic value is and if a naturalist would say that human life is better than non-human life? I’m fairly new to naturalism and am trying to understand its moral propositions, of which I feel the perspective on human life as it relates to other kinds of life is a crucial distinction.

If the proposition from naturalism is that all life has equal value, then would that necessarily entail that man engages in specieism when placing a priority of humans over other life? Does naturalism even suggest intrinsic value? Or is all human value extrinsic?

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Posted: 16 February 2012 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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abe zydar - 15 February 2012 10:03 PM

Hello, first post!

I’m wondering what the naturalist perspective on intrinsic value is and if a naturalist would say that human life is better than non-human life? I’m fairly new to naturalism and am trying to understand its moral propositions, of which I feel the perspective on human life as it relates to other kinds of life is a crucial distinction.

If the proposition from naturalism is that all life has equal value, then would that necessarily entail that man engages in specieism when placing a priority of humans over other life? Does naturalism even suggest intrinsic value? Or is all human value extrinsic?

There is no single answer to your question, because there is no single philosophical theory, “naturalism”. There are many versions of naturalism. Some will countenance a naturalist account of value, others will say that value is non-naturalizable.

I’m also not sure what you mean by “intrinsic”. For example, many naturalist accounts of value are essentially utilitarian. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist ethics (something is good or bad depending on its consequences), and hence to that degree its value is not “intrinsic”, as for example a more Kantian or virtue-based ethics might be.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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One might also consider that every living being is connected to everything else, where the destruction or introduction of an apparently unrelated thing (animate or inanimate) may have future dire consequences (or benefits). I am sure there must be examples of such unexpected connectedness.

[ Edited: 16 February 2012 05:20 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 16 February 2012 07:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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dougsmith - 16 February 2012 05:11 AM

For example, many naturalist accounts of value are essentially utilitarian. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist ethics (something is good or bad depending on its consequences), and hence to that degree its value is not “intrinsic”, as for example a more Kantian or virtue-based ethics might be.

When I say “intrinsic value”, I do mean that an object has value “in itself” or for its own sake. With that in mind, my inquiry is related more to human value. Does a human have value? I would say at a minimum that life is better than non-life, so a human has some value. Put another way that the property of life is intrinsically valuable. From there, I’m trying to understand whether Kantian or Utilitarian ethics would say that human life is higher than other life forms, and the basis for that.

Perhaps I’m begging the question for an non-consequentialist ethic, since intrinsic value relies solely on the value of the object itself, rather than its duties or performance.

Where the rubber meets the road for me is with my self-concept. Do I value myself in terms of my performance? Or do I have intrinsic value regardless of performance?

Thanks, I hope that is stated clearly.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 08:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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abe zydar - 16 February 2012 07:53 AM

When I say “intrinsic value”, I do mean that an object has value “in itself” or for its own sake. With that in mind, my inquiry is related more to human value. Does a human have value? I would say at a minimum that life is better than non-life, so a human has some value. Put another way that the property of life is intrinsically valuable. From there, I’m trying to understand whether Kantian or Utilitarian ethics would say that human life is higher than other life forms, and the basis for that.

Perhaps I’m begging the question for an non-consequentialist ethic, since intrinsic value relies solely on the value of the object itself, rather than its duties or performance.

Where the rubber meets the road for me is with my self-concept. Do I value myself in terms of my performance? Or do I have intrinsic value regardless of performance?

Thanks, I hope that is stated clearly.

I would change the question slightly to ‘does an object have value to me?’

Value is a human concept. Nature doesn’t really work that way. So, I suppose that in terms of the universe, human life isn’t any mroe or less important than anything else. But to us, it certainly is.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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abe zydar - 16 February 2012 07:53 AM
dougsmith - 16 February 2012 05:11 AM

For example, many naturalist accounts of value are essentially utilitarian. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist ethics (something is good or bad depending on its consequences), and hence to that degree its value is not “intrinsic”, as for example a more Kantian or virtue-based ethics might be.

When I say “intrinsic value”, I do mean that an object has value “in itself” or for its own sake. With that in mind, my inquiry is related more to human value. Does a human have value? I would say at a minimum that life is better than non-life, so a human has some value. Put another way that the property of life is intrinsically valuable. From there, I’m trying to understand whether Kantian or Utilitarian ethics would say that human life is higher than other life forms, and the basis for that.

Perhaps I’m begging the question for an non-consequentialist ethic, since intrinsic value relies solely on the value of the object itself, rather than its duties or performance.

Where the rubber meets the road for me is with my self-concept. Do I value myself in terms of my performance? Or do I have intrinsic value regardless of performance?

Thanks, I hope that is stated clearly.

Value is subjective. Nothing has any intrinsic value the way you mean it.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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mid atlantic - 16 February 2012 08:20 AM
abe zydar - 16 February 2012 07:53 AM
dougsmith - 16 February 2012 05:11 AM

For example, many naturalist accounts of value are essentially utilitarian. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist ethics (something is good or bad depending on its consequences), and hence to that degree its value is not “intrinsic”, as for example a more Kantian or virtue-based ethics might be.

When I say “intrinsic value”, I do mean that an object has value “in itself” or for its own sake. With that in mind, my inquiry is related more to human value. Does a human have value? I would say at a minimum that life is better than non-life, so a human has some value. Put another way that the property of life is intrinsically valuable. From there, I’m trying to understand whether Kantian or Utilitarian ethics would say that human life is higher than other life forms, and the basis for that.

Perhaps I’m begging the question for an non-consequentialist ethic, since intrinsic value relies solely on the value of the object itself, rather than its duties or performance.

Where the rubber meets the road for me is with my self-concept. Do I value myself in terms of my performance? Or do I have intrinsic value regardless of performance?

Thanks, I hope that is stated clearly.

Value is subjective. Nothing has any intrinsic value the way you mean it.

I agree. If there is no God, no purpose to the universe, then there is no intrinsic value in anything. The only value is the value we assign things.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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domokato - 16 February 2012 11:51 AM

If there is no God, no purpose to the universe, then there is no intrinsic value in anything.

Why would God have anything to do with purpose or value in the universe? What does it matter what purpose God would see, or what value God would give? He’s just another person.

One might as well say that if the king values it, it’s valuable, or if the king thinks this has a purpose, then it has a purpose.

Value and purpose, if real, are independent of anyone’s opinion about them. Anyone, including the king, and including God. (And if not real, are not real whether or not God exists). This is something we’ve known since Plato.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Oh I see, I think my conception of intrinsic value was just wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrinsic_value_(ethics)

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Posted: 16 February 2012 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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domokato - 16 February 2012 12:49 PM

Oh I see, I think my conception of intrinsic value was just wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrinsic_value_(ethics)

OK, well, maybe. I just don’t see how the existence or nonexistence of God has any bearing on intrinsic value.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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OTOH can we say that all things have an intrinsic potential, which may or may not become expressed in reality?

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Posted: 16 February 2012 08:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Speaking of utilitarianism, this reminds me of that debate about values between Lane Craig and that utilitarian philosopher. Craig said something about utilitarianism proving that if there is no god then anything is permitted, since we could justify torturing an innocent child if that was the best way to maximize overall happiness. I found this discussion interesting as it showed just how ambiguous that famous line from Dostoevsky is. Most people take it to mean that if there is no god then there is no objective value or morality whatsoever, but it could also mean that if there is no god then any particular action or type of action could be permitted in the right circumstances. The utilitarianism he was attacking was of the second type. It argues that the objectively right action is that which produces the most happiness, and anything is permitted in order to achieve that goal, including torturing innocent kids. I have to say, it sounded to me as though Craig was purposely mixing up these two different meanings of ‘anything is permitted’ in order to try to win over the audience, as if to say, ‘This is the chaos and nihilism that we end up with in the absence of god ... no value, no meaning, injustice everywhere, innocent people being tortured, and on and on’. It was a totally dishonest way of arguing from Craig in my opinion, but the other guy didn’t do a very good job of defending himself anyway.

[ Edited: 16 February 2012 09:10 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 17 February 2012 04:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dom1978 - 16 February 2012 08:58 PM

Speaking of utilitarianism, this reminds me of that debate about values between Lane Craig and that utilitarian philosopher. Craig said something about utilitarianism proving that if there is no god then anything is permitted, since we could justify torturing an innocent child if that was the best way to maximize overall happiness. I found this discussion interesting as it showed just how ambiguous that famous line from Dostoevsky is. Most people take it to mean that if there is no god then there is no objective value or morality whatsoever, but it could also mean that if there is no god then any particular action or type of action could be permitted in the right circumstances. The utilitarianism he was attacking was of the second type. It argues that the objectively right action is that which produces the most happiness, and anything is permitted in order to achieve that goal, including torturing innocent kids. I have to say, it sounded to me as though Craig was purposely mixing up these two different meanings of ‘anything is permitted’ in order to try to win over the audience, as if to say, ‘This is the chaos and nihilism that we end up with in the absence of god ... no value, no meaning, injustice everywhere, innocent people being tortured, and on and on’. It was a totally dishonest way of arguing from Craig in my opinion, but the other guy didn’t do a very good job of defending himself anyway.

I don’t know how Craig gets from atheism to utilitarianism. His argument, were it any good, would simply be an argument against utilitarianism.

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Posted: 17 February 2012 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Yeah, it’s difficult to figure out exactly what Craig was up to. He seems to think that all these secular philosophers are the same when you get right down to it. Deep down they’re all relativists, subjectivists, nihilists, and any other nasty names you can come up with. He seems completely ignorant of the fact that most secular philosophers are not relativists and do think there are right and wrong answers in these areas, which is precisely why consequentialists and deontologists have been debating these things for so long. Craig just isn’t interested in dealing with the richness and complexity of secular ethical thinking. His only aim is to win the crowd over and save their souls, and he seems to think it’s perfectly OK to distort and twist things in order to achieve this.

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Posted: 17 February 2012 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Write4U - 16 February 2012 03:39 PM

OTOH can we say that all things have an intrinsic potential, which may or may not become expressed in reality?

Intrinsic potential? What is that?

Is it like potential energy, as opposed to kinetic energy?

Too much philosophy deals with taking concepts meant specifically for human society and misapplying them outside of societies. This sounds suspiciously like that to me.

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Posted: 17 February 2012 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 17 February 2012 01:15 PM
Write4U - 16 February 2012 03:39 PM

OTOH can we say that all things have an intrinsic potential, which may or may not become expressed in reality?

Intrinsic potential? What is that?

Is it like potential energy, as opposed to kinetic energy?

Too much philosophy deals with taking concepts meant specifically for human society and misapplying them outside of societies. This sounds suspiciously like that to me.

Perhaps it does not belong in this thread and I don’t want to hijack this conversation which I find very interesting.
do a search and you’ll find that i have discussed and argued the concept of “that which may become reality” or “a latent excellence” on many occasions.
But if you are interested, I have an excerpt about David Bohm’s theory of the “Implicate and Explicate” , see
http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/12699/  post #11

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