By In Metaethics, Moral Psychology Comments (6)

Deontic and instantive morality

Morality is not exclusively deontic.  There are, after all, many things that are morally good to do though not required, or morally bad though not forbidden. However, a deontic conception has gotten a grip on the contemporary conception of interpersonal morality, or morality insofar as it has to do with proper relations between persons in virtue of their personality. One presently popular conception of interpersonal morality runs along these lines: Interpersonal morality consists in obligations or duties that are incumbent on all persons; to have a duty is to be accountable to somebody. If I am accountable to somebody, then she has standing or authority to demand my compliance; and to exercise this authority is to be disposed to respond to noncompliance with Strawsonian reactive attitudes and practices expressive of them. 

In the last chapter of my book, How We Hope, I identified a common interpersonal attitude that eludes deontic characterization: disappointment in a person, or feeling let down by a person. I proposed that holding people to demands is only one mode of interpersonal relation, and that placing hope in people is another. Demanding involves a disposition to the central Strawsonian reactive attitudes of resentment, indignation, and guilt (and perhaps contempt and shame, which I will come in a bit); placing hope involves a disposition to disappointment (and perhaps some positive interpersonal feelings like gratitude and admiration, which I will also come to later).


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By In Value Theory Comments (21)

Too many distinctions in value

Perhaps three isn't too many, but it does feel unwieldy.  Nevertheless, it seems to me these are all different distinctions in
value, even though many people write as if they are the same:

1. Extrinsic-intrinsic

2. Conditional-unconditional

3. Priceable-priceless

Whether something has extrinsic or intrinsic value is a
question of where it gets its value—i.e. from something else or from
itself.  (Instrumental value is
thus one kind of extrinsic value, but it is not the only kind; Rae Langton, in
her 2007 Phil Review paper, “Objective
and Unconditioned Value,” proposes symbolic value as an example of
noninstrumental extrinsic value.) 
This is “something else” intensionally, and not necessarily
extensionally, so constitutive value is a form of intrinsic value.  E.g. if Mill is right that virtue is
valuable because it is a part of happiness, which has intrinsic value, then virtue has intrinsic value.

Whether something has conditional or unconditional value is
a question of whether it has its value in virtue of its relation to something
else, or rather in all circumstances. 
Constitutive value is thus an example of intrinsic but conditional
value.  (And Langton gives the
additional example of self-conferred value.) 

Whether something has priceable or priceless value is a
question of whether there is anything for which one could rationally trade
it.  I suppose if something has
extrinsic value then it must be priceable—it would always be rational to trade
it for either the thing from which it gets its value.  But consequentialism embodies the notion that intrinsic
value can also be priceable. 

The issue I’m trying to work out is the relation between
un/conditionality and priceability. 
I think there’s such a thing as
conditional priceless value. 
Consider, for example, the value of time spent with a loved one—it might
be priceless, but only on the condition that the relationship hasn’t fallen
apart.  Is there unconditional
priceable value?  It strikes me
that there could be, but you could rationally trade a thing of unconditional
priceable value only for another thing of unconditional value (either priceless
or of equal or higher price).

I care about this, obviously, because the Kantian idea that
humanity or rational nature is an end-in-itself usually contains all of these:
intrinsic, unconditional, priceless value. And I suspect different kinds of
value are carrying more weight than others, in different arguments.  More specifically, I suspect the really
crucial Kantian insight is that something or things have value without price.  And, yes, I'm ignoring the subjective-objective distinction, for now.

What do you think?

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