By In Uncategorized Comments (5)

Valuing Babies?

I would value your help in thinking about how to use the term “valuing”. In the disreputable circles I run in, people tend to say that valuing is a higher order attitude that babies, who admittedly have lots of desires, lack. Some say, for example that one’s valuings are expressed only in what you want yourself to want, or what you believe good, and babies will lack such complicated attitudes. This has led Eden Lin to say that subjective views have a problem in that the typical subjectivist views, which tend to claim the well-being or reasons determining attitude is a more complex higher order attitude, cannot capture the well-being of babies.

I think the word valuing is used to point toward our authentic evaluative take on the world. The heroin addict desires heroin but does not value it because her first order desire does not speak for her or express her evaluative point of view. But because creatures with an evaluative point of view can differ so widely in other ways, it seems to me which attitudes speak for an agent can differ quite widely as well. That is, I want to try out saying, what it is for different creatures to value something can be quite different depending on their capacities and depth of attitudes. A baby has a very simple evaluative point of view. They don’t second guess their initial instincts the way us sophisticates do. But still, there is a clear sense in which they care about stuff and have an evaluative point of view.

So I think we should say that babies value stuff by having first order unsophisticated pro-attitudes towards stuff but us sophisticates value stuff in more complicated ways. Then we subjectivists can say that what grounds an agent’s well-being or reasons or whatevs is what the agent values and still have a view that has hopes of being adequate to adults and babies both. Of course none of this would make any easier finding a persuasive account of which attitudes speak for sophisticates—that hard task will remain.

Now I agree that is sounds a bit weird to speak of a babies values. But I think this is perhaps because there is a simpler word to use in their case whereas there is not in the adult case. Further, we are used to thinking about valuing only in the case of adults. A toy model: if we thought something like an agent’s values are reflected in her highest order unrenounced attitudes, we subjectivists could say that a creatures valuings determine her good and have that possibly fit both babies and sophisticates.

5 Responses to Valuing Babies?

  1. Mark Herman says:

    Perhaps a stronger case for isolating unsophisticated valuing is animals. With babies, some idealization moves may (explicitly or implicitly) get traction from the babies’ future sophisticated selves. Maybe baby neurology even provides (something like) latent capacities that idealization could exploit. Dogs and pigs are immune to this.

  2. Dave Sobel says:

    Yes, good. As long as it still counts as valuing I would totally take that on board.

  3. Michael Byron says:

    Dave, I would have thought that Mark’s non-human animal case was a reductio of your proposal. Such animals (obviously?) are subjects of well-being, but they do not value.

    I think your proposal concerning babies gets any traction at all by virtue of trading on their proleptic participation in our valuing practices.

    OTOH, we could make your point merely terminological, such that you define valuing differently. In that case, I think you will need to say something about why valuing is first-order for some animals all the time, other animals some of the time, and often higher-order for many adult human animals.

    Do we have a lot of such widely ambiguous terms in our theories? And is that really the notion that we want to use ‘valuing’ to track (other than to save a certain flavor of subjectivism)?

  4. David Sobel says:

    “I think you will need to say something about why valuing is first-order for some animals all the time, other animals some of the time, and often higher-order for many adult human animals.”

    I had hoped that this gesture could offer the start of such an explanation: “A toy model: if we thought something like an agent’s values are reflected in her highest order unrenounced attitudes, we subjectivists could say that a creatures valuings determine her good and have that possibly fit both babies and sophisticates.”

    On the toy model, it seems to me what you want explained is totally explained.

    On the linguistic intuition: I had tried to concede that this sounds awkward to say and then tried to explain that awkwardness without the explanation having to do with the claim being false. Did you have any reaction to that proposal?

  5. Daniel Wodak says:

    I had a similar response to Eden’s interesting argument on this stuff when we were both grad students. One other nice feature of the highest-order desire theory Dave is floating is that it provides a good response to the objection that higher-order desire theories are arbitrary. (Why focus on second-order desires when some people have third- or … -order desires?) I’m framing this in terms of desires but I think the same dialectic arises with higher- vs. highest-order attitude theories generally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.