Welcome to our discussion thread on David Sobel’s From Valuing to Value: A Defense of Subjectivism, recently reviewed by Ben Bramble for NDPR. We have invited Sobel and Bramble to provide any comments they’d like on either the book or the review, and we hope other readers of PEA Soup will chime in with thoughts on either the book or the review as well.
From the OUP blurb on FVV: “Subjective accounts of well-being and reasons for action have a remarkable pedigree. The idea that normativity flows from what an agent cares about-that something is valuable because it is valued-has appealed to a wide range of great thinkers. But at the same time this idea has seemed to many of the best minds in ethics to be outrageous or worse, not least because it seems to threaten the status of morality. Mutual incomprehension looms over the discussion. From Valuing to Value, written by an influential former critic of subjectivism, owns up to the problematic features to which critics have pointed while arguing that such criticisms can be blunted and the overall view rendered defensible. In this collection of his essays David Sobel does not shrink from acknowledging the real tension between subjective views of reasons and morality, yet argues that such a tension does not undermine subjectivism. In this volume the fundamental commitments of subjectivism are clarified and revealed to be rather plausible and well-motivated, while the most influential criticisms of subjectivism are straightforwardly addressed and found wanting.”
From Bramble’s review: “In making all of these arguments, Sobel develops an extremely innovative and nuanced subjectivism. In my view, Sobel’s is probably the most sophisticated defense of subjectivism given to date. That said, I have a number of concerns. First, I am not entirely persuaded by Sobel’s response to the Amoralism Objection. When I think of an agent who knows all there is to know about a given innocent, but remains unmoved by her condition or well-being, I am inclined to think that we have here, not some brute to be condemned, but someone who is making a mistake, someone who has either missed something (an evaluative fact) or is responding in an ill-fitting way to their full and accurate appreciation of the evaluative facts. Such an agent fails to care about something that seems in some sense worth caring about. Sobel’s response, and indeed his subjectivism more generally, seems to lack the resources to properly account for this intuition.”2