Value objectivists like myself tend to think of practical reasoning as the process by which an agent forms beliefs about what things have value, and then organizes those beliefs in order to act in a way that makes sense in light of them. But suppose you are skeptical about objective value – how, in that case, do you understand practical reasoning?
We find one way of understanding it in Harry Frankfurt’s recent work (especially in The Reasons of Love). On Frankfurt’s view, the roots of practical reason are not cognitive but volitional: rather than detecting things’ pre-existing values, we give them value by caring about them. Love, which represents the deepest form of caring, sets the limits to practical reasoning; it is in light of what one loves that one’s actions must make sense. Love, then, has a special importance for human agency. It also has a special value for human beings: for according for Frankfurt, loving things makes a person’s life better, by making it meaningful.
The claim that practical reason may be grounded in love, or caring, might be an attractive picture for people whose sympathies are broadly Humean. And the claim that love enhances the value and meaningfulness of one’s life might be attractive to many objectivists (including myself). The question though, is: can Frankfurt have both? In fact there is, I think, a conflict between Frankfurt’s views about what makes a person’s life better, and his claims about the value of love.
Here are the claims. (In the interest of space, I’m leaving out the textual support for attributing these claims to Frankfurt.)
(G) The value of A’s life is enhanced or damaged by the fact that P if and only if P is something that A actually cares about, or if the fact that P somehow has an enhancing or damaging effect on other matters that A cares about.
(L) In itself, the fact that a person loves something makes that person’s life better than it would otherwise be.
(G) sets the criteria which a consideration must meet if it is to be judged relevant to the goodness of a person’s life. (L) claims that a certain sort of consideration – that a person’s life contains instances of loving – is reliably relevant to the goodness of that person’s life. We should expect, then, that loving should meet the criteria set forth in (G). But is this indeed the case?
It is easy to see that this is not the case. For suppose there is an agent (call her Apathetic) who does not love or care about anything. Since Apathetic does not care about anything, the fact that she does not care about anything is not something that she cares about; nor does the fact that she does not care about anything affect anything that she cares about. Thus, the fact that Apathetic does not care about anything does not meet the criteria set forth in (G). I assume, however, that most of us would agree with Frankfurt’s judgment (expressed in claim (L)) that the fact that Apathetic does not care about anything makes her life worse than it might otherwise be. Thus, (G) seems to be false: in at least some cases the fact that a person’s life is P can damage the value (to her) of that life, even though she neither cares about P, nor about anything that is affected by P.
Apathetic is unusually apathetic, of course, but she is in no sense a conceptual impossibility. Of course, it is presumably true that an enlightened Apathetic, who was somehow in a position to appreciate the damage that the absence of love was doing to Apathetic’s life, would care about this failure to care. But for Frankfurt to make use of this possibility would be to open the door to all kinds of objective values. If the fact that a more enlightened Apathetic would not be apathetic about her own life is allowed to generate reasons for action, why should the fact that a genuinely enlightened Apathetic would care about other people’s lives not be allowed to generate (moral) reasons for action in a similar manner?
The point can also be made with a less extreme example. Suppose that Selfless, unlike Apathetic, does care about something: the welfare of her children, perhaps. It does not follow that Selfless must care about the caring itself. Suppose that Selfless is truly selfless and cares only for the welfare of her children. Given the choice between a situation in which her children flourish, but she no longer cares about them, and a situation in which her children suffer, but she continues to care (and thus regrets that they suffer), she would without hesitation choose the former state of affairs. As it happens, this is not her situation: the best way to ensure that her children flourish is to make certain that she is there to protect them, and she therefore regards the preservation of her own life as valuable – but only instrumentally valuable.
Selfless’s life, unlike Apathetic’s, has a purpose. Her life is therefore presumably better than Apathetic’s life. Does it follow that she must care about the caring that gives her life a purpose? Not unless she also cares about whether her life has a purpose, and Selfless is too selfless for that. She would, perhaps, prefer that her children’s lives were purposeful, since she wants them to be as well off as possible. She might therefore hope that her children find something to care about, the way that she has. But none of this implies that Selfless must care about the fact that she herself cares about her children – despite the fact that this does make her life better.
Thus, Frankfurt’s claims about the intrinsic value of loving, while correct, show (G) to be false. Loving is not only an intrinsic value but a kind of objective value: it tends to make a person’s life better whether he cares about it or not. The true issue separating Frankfurt from traditional moral objectivists is not whether there are objective values, but rather which objective values there actually are.
12 Replies to “Harry Frankfurt, Value Objectivist”
If Frankfurt’s view is that caring enhances the value of one’s life, then it is not clear why he would endorse (G) instead of
(G*) The value of A’s life is enhanced by X if and only if X is something that A cares about, or if X somehow has an enhancing effect on other matters that A cares about.
Unlike (G), (G*) does not imply that A has to care about X for X to be damaging to her life or make her life worse than it might otherwise be. Accordingly, Apathetic does not have to care about her not caring about anything in order for her not caring about anything to be damaging to her life. Frankfurt’s view or not, (G*) makes much beter sense than (G).
I would like to add another point. Although we can say that A’s life is enhanced by A’s caring about X when A’s life is enhanced by X because A cares about X, (G*) does not require A to care about caring about X.
I’ll admit that I’m commenting irresponsibly, not having read the new Frankfurt stuff, but… it seems that we can remove at least some of the incompatibility relatively painlessly simply by dropping the “in itself” from L (call the modified version L*). While Apathetic’s lack of caring cannot *damage* her life without violating G, it doesn’t follow that A’s life is perfect by default. So it would seem to make sense that having something to love, if that loved thing went well, would make A’s life better (though here the love is only playing an instrumental role). Similarly with Selfless – surely her love for her children at least instrumentally makes her life go better, since she now has a desire to satisfy (and it might also “enhance” her loved thing in another way, at least if she’s reasonably good at purusing her children’s interests).
Now, I don’t know if Frankfurt would love this – but it at least seems that you could get a fairly tight and reasonably satisfying connection between loving something and your life going well this way.
Hi, Troy. Interesting post. I had a number of thoughts. First, I suspect Frankfurt could simply suggest that, as you actually put it above, the fact “that a person’s life contains instances of loving … is reliably relevant to the goodness of that person’s life.” Emphasize the “reliably” and he doesn’t have a problem, it seems (at least not in terms of these kinds of rarified counterexamples).
Second, I think you might be cheating a bit with the Selfless example. The idea, on Frankfurt’s view, is that her care about her children must be something she cares about. You suggest that, given a choice, she’d go with non-suffering children she no longer cares about over suffering children she still cares about. But how would her choosing the former make *her* life go better? It would certainly make for a better state of affairs, from her position, but why think that would have any (positive) effect on her (post-choice) well-being? Frankfurt can actually go in one of two ways here: (a) she’d indeed make such a choice, but the post-choice her would have a worse life; or (b) the post-choice self would have a *better* life, but it wouldn’t be *her* (given that caring for her children was essential to her identity).
Third, I think you misspeak at the end when you say that “none of this implies that Selfless must care about the fact that she herself cares about her children – despite the fact that this does make her life better.” I’d thought that Frankfurt’s line was that you must care about *P* (in this case, her caring about her children), rather than care about *the fact that* P, if the fact that P has a bearing on your well-being. Or did I just miss something?
Final thought, then, related both to my previous mention of identity and the clarification just given: I think the degree to which we care about X corresponds to the degree to which *that care* is constitutive of our identity. If this is right (and I actually think Frankfurt holds something like this), then caring about my specific cares will *typically*, if not always, come along for the ride, depending on the degree to which one cares about the X in question. In other words, suppose I care deeply about my children. If this is central to my identity, I actually find it nearly incoherent to think that I could care about my children without caring about that care. Caring involves a mix of emotional, cognitive, and desiderative elements, but let’s just focus on the emotional aspects here. If I care about X, then I am subject to emotional ups-and-downs, dependent on the fortunes of X. So if something bad were to happen to my children, I’d feel bad (to put it simplistically). But it seems to me that, in an identity-essential care like this, how could we even make sense of the person who *wouldn’t* be subject to emotional downs were his *care* for his children to wane or disappear? It seems to me that, in cases like this, caring about the care is almost essential for the lower-order care even to count as a care in the first place. So I guess I’m urging the incoherence of the Selfless case.
I am always skeptical about formalizations of views when the view strikes me as quite plausible, yet the formalization suggests that it is contradictory. While not always the case, my suspicion is that this typically indicates that there is something wrong with the formalizations or how they are being employed. And in this case, I think that is the problem.
Let’s start with (L), which says, “In itself, the fact that a person loves something makes that person’s life better than it would otherwise be.” Now, firstly, we should note that what Frankfurt has in mind here is a genetic statement. The fact that you love something is what creates value for you that is a part of determining how well good your life is. Recall he says that caring about something is necessary for us to have final ends, and so in a very real sense there is no way to measure how good a life is without love, since it is a life with no ends to be achieved. About an apathetic life he says, “Our lives would be passive, fragmented, and thereby drastically impaired. Even if we might perhaps continue to maintain some vestige of active self-awareness, we would be dreadfully bored” (p.53). So the subjective experience of the person without love (and thus without any final ends) would be one that is inferior to a person with love.
Now, Frankfurt might be a bit quick to endorse any life with love over one without it. One might argue that it is better to be terminally bored than to care about things and people, but have all of then come to total ruin. Perhaps it is better to be apathetic than to have all of ones ends frustrated. Or, in other words, it might not be better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. But that might only be true in the case of the people with the most truly horrible experiences in life. For most of us, the fact that we care about some people and things is the source of value in our lives, and so by definition it has to be a life with more value than one without love at all. As Frankfurt says, “… love is not necessarily grounded in the value of the beloved but does necessarily make the beloved valuable to the lover…” (p. 40). Without love, our lives have no meaning to us.
Now that leaves us with (G) to consider. The idea that he suggests and that you try to formalize is really quite simple. Suppose I care about a lot of things, but whether or not the Red Sox win the World Series is not one of them. To that, I am indifferent. It, therefore, makes sense that them winning does not make my life better and their losing does not make my life worse. If, however, I love someone who cares deeply about the Red Sox, then since their winning makes his life better and my loving him means I care about the things he cares about, then their winning makes my life better.
The idea that is being represented in (G) is one about what makes my life better or worse from within the framework of discussing a life where I do care about something to start with. So I think you have to see (L) as in some sense an issue on a different level from that of (G). I’m not sure if this will make sense, but the issue here reminds me of the supposed problem for utilitarianism that if total happiness is the measure of the best state of affairs, then some people might seem to have a moral obligation to have more children and we might seem to have a moral obligation to kill the truly unhappy, since that would increase the total balance of happiness over unhappiness. But these kinds of questions of changing the population base we are talking about seem to miss an important point. The utilitarian need claim no more than that for a fixed group of people, the greater the total happiness, the better. So for Frankfurt it seems that all he is saying is that for a fixed set of things you care about, (G). Thus it is an invalid move to put the very issue of whether you care about something into (G) as P. The issue of whether you care about something or not will make your life better has already have been answered by him with (L).
As a final comment I just want to throw out a quick “thank-you.” I had not heard of Frankfurt’s book before reading your entry here about it, but I went to the library yesterday to check it out and finished reading it today. I enjoyed it a lot and think it has a lot to recommend it. So, thank-you, Troy, for writing about it.
Thanks, guys, for the challenging comments. Let me start with something I avoided providing before: the textual basis for the principle I’m calling (G). It comes from Frankfurt’s “Reply to Susan Wolf,” in an anthology of papers devoted to his work titled Contours of Agency:
“On Wolf’s account, the immorality of what Hitler cared about counts against its suitability; and I suppose that it would count so strongly that she would judge it unsuitable no matter how much contentment and fulfillment and joy his caring about Naziism brought to his life. On the other hand, the fact that his life was so dreadfully immoral might really have had no effect whatever on the value to him of living that life. It is possible, I am sorry to reveal, that immoral lives may be good to live. In my view, at least, the value to Hitler of living the life he chose would have been damaged by the immorality of that life only if morality was something that Hitler actually cared about, or if the immorality of his life somehow had a damaging effect on other matters that he cared about.” (Frankfurt, “Reply to Susan Wolf,” pp. 247-8)
The last sentence is what I have generalized to form (G): The value of A’s life is enhanced or damaged by the fact that P if and only if P is something that A actually cares about, or if the fact that P somehow has an enhancing or damaging effect on other matters that A cares about.
Okay; now on to the comments. Wai-hung suggests replacing (G) with (G*):
(G*) The value of A’s life is enhanced by X if and only if X is something that A cares about, or if X somehow has an enhancing effect on other matters that A cares about.
I take it that Wai-hung’s thought is that since (G*) speaks only of what enhances A’s life, it leaves it open that something A does not care about (for instance, Apathetic’s failure to care about anything) might damage A’s life.
It seems unlikely, based on the passage from “Reply to Susan Wolf,” that Frankfurt would accept (G*). For if A’s life could be damaged by his failure to care about anything, though he did not care about that failure, then one might think that Hitler’s life could be damaged by his failure to be moral, though he did not care about that failure. (For similar reasons – I think – he would not accept Daniel Levine’s claim that “While Apathetic’s lack of caring cannot *damage* her life without violating G, it doesn’t follow that A’s life is perfect by default.” I don’t see what else he can possibly appeal to in judging an agent’s life to be perfect or imperfect, without endorsing some sort of objective standard and thus becoming an objectivist about value.)
Of course, I am assuming that we can generalize Frankfurt’s claim in the final sentence of that passage, and that it is not a specific claim about the value of morality (so that, while some things can affect the value of a life though the agent does not care about them, morality cannot). If the claim is specifically one regarding the value of morality then the argument needs to be prosecuted on a different basis. Again, though, this would seem to make Frankfurt an objectivist about value – something he denies.
Of course, even if Frankfurt is committed to (G) Wai-hung might be right that he should not be, and that he should prefer (G*). But there is something odd about the combination of the claim that something can damage one’s life whether one cares about it or not and the claim that nothing that one does not care about can enhance one’s life. For suppose that X is the sort of thing whose absence from my life can damage my life even if I don’t care about it. If that is so, then it is surely already true of me that the presence of X in my life would enhance my life, by rendering it undamaged.
Perhaps, though, some would argue that all such Xs are things such that they cannot possibly be in my life (and thus enhance my life) without my caring about them. I think David Shoemaker is arguing along these lines when he suggests that the Selfless case is incoherent: “how could we even make sense of the person who *wouldn’t* be subject to emotional downs were his *care* for his children to wane or disappear?” But given Frankfurt’s volitional definition of caring (where caring about A is simply a matter of being fundamentally motivated to act in certain ways toward A – i.e. take care of A, protect A from danger, etc.) I don’t see any incoherence. Selfless is moved to take care of her children, but is not at all moved to preserve the state of affairs that consists in her being so moved (except instrumentally – i.e. except insofar as she judges the continuation of that state of affairs to be an effective means to what she actually cares about, i.e. the state of affairs consisting in her children’s being taken care of.) So I’d at least like to hear a little bit more about why David thinks the Selfless case is incoherent.
On the other hand, I’ll grant that the Selfless case is unusual, even unnatural. But I don’t think appeals to the typical, or even to the natural, will get us very far here. If I have correctly identified Frankfurt’s account of what makes a consideration relevant to the value of a person’s life, then that account should apply to all cases. If it doesn’t work in the highly unusual cases (what David calls the “rarified” ones) then that suggests that what is really going on – not just in those cases, but in the more usual ones – is something other than what Frankfurt suggests. I think this is a response to David’s points about the use of the word “reliably” (though I’m willing to be told otherwise).
Similarly (I think), I think Daniel Levine gets Frankfurt’s account wrong (or else surreptitiously improves it) when he writes that “surely her [Selfless’s] love for her children at least instrumentally makes her life go better, since she now has a desire to satisfy…” I would have thought that love could only have instrumental value for Selfless if Selfless had some sort of desire that she could fulfill, or come closer to fulfilling, by loving. (Isn’t that what ‘instrumental’ usually means?) Thus, if Selfless desired to have desires (because she agreed with Frankfurt that having desires makes one’s life better) then her having a desire (for her children’s well-being) would have instrumental value; but if she doesn’t already have such a desire (i.e. a desire for desires), then I don’t see how her having a desire for her children’s well-being has instrumental value for her at all. And I have, of course, imagined Selfless as being so selfless that she has no self-regarding desires. (Note, by the way, that a person who believes that life without desire is meaningless, and so desires desires, already desires something – namely, desires. So presumably, what a person must really desire is something else: namely, to desire something else.)
Similarly (I think), David White’s claim that the value of love is “in some sense an issue on a different level from that of (G)” strikes me as exactly right, but just the sort of thing that Frankfurt cannot say (without fundamentally changing the nature of his position.) In fact it’s just the sort of thing I would want to say, because it makes the value of love objective (i.e. not contingent on what a person cares about). This would make Frankfurt an objectivist about the value of love, and so an objectivist about values – something he strongly denies. (“[E]fforts to make sense of objective value tend to turn out badly,” he writes in “Reply to Susan Wolf.”)
Well, I haven’t responded to everything, and I’m not completely certain of some of the responses I have managed to put forward, but that’s enough for now. I’ll leave it to my commentators to press me on points I haven’t addressed, or re-press me on points they think I have addressed inadequately.
I’ll just add two brief (I hope) comments.
1. As I was working on my previous remarks, there was something else I thought about commenting on, but didn’t. But now that you have presented the Frankfurt quote that is the basis for (G), it seems worth mentioning. It stuck me that if you revise (G) so that it is a one way conditional, not a biconditional, then there no longer is any tension between (G) and (L). The passage you quote uses only one way conditionals, and so maybe this is more what Frankfurt had in mind. My proposed revision is this:
(G’) 1. If P is something that A actually cares about then the value of A’s life is enhanced (damaged) by the fact that P (not P); and
2. If Q is something that A actually cares about and P somehow has an enhancing or damaging effect on Q then A’s life is enhanced (damaged) by the fact that P (not P).
Now if we revise (G) this way, then your problem cases go away (I think).
2. I still think you miss the importance of the genetic claim that Frankfurt is making; the idea that love creates value. You speak of “the value of love,” but that is not quite putting it right. For Frankfurt there is no value without love, and the fact of loving causes things to have value for the lover. Neither of these claims suggests that love has value in itself prior to ones having that love. But once one does love something and value is created, one of the values it could create is the value of loving itself. Now Frankfurt does allow that one can love something and wish that one did not love it, so it is not automatic that if one loves something then love has value in itself. For Frankfurt, love has no value for the person who loves nothing, since it is a life devoid of value. Love only has value for the person who does love and does not desire that she not have that love.
Good response, Troy. I don’t think, however, your argument against Frankfurt would work even if Frankfurt’s view is that the value of A’s life is enhanced or damaged by X iff X is something that A cares about. Consider this important premise of your argument:
(1) The fact that Apathetic does not care about anything makes her life worse than it might otherwise be.
This can be taken to mean:
(2) The fact that Apathetic does not care about anything does not enhance the value of her life;
(3) The fact that Apathetic does not care about anything damages the value of her life.
It is clear that your argument needs (3), but the view you ascribe to Frankfurt implies only (2) but not (3)—since Apathetic does not care about anything, there is nothing that enhances the value of her life; by the same token, there is nothing that damages the value of her life either!
Troy: I’ll make this brief, because I know how exhausting these comments can be. The Selfless case seems incoherent to me because it seems built into what it means for someone to care for her children *in a way (partially) constitutive of her identity* that she will also care about her caring, i.e., that she will be moved to preserve/maintain her caring for her children. The notion that someone could care deeply for her children without also being subject to negative, well-being-substracting emotions were that care to wane/disappear strikes me as simply absurd. The case in which she has a choice to either eliminate their suffering while not caring anymore, or caring but preserving their suffering, then, seems to me a red herring if what we’re after is a focus on the nature of caring, value, and the carer’s well-being.
1. I think you are right that revising (G) as suggested makes the problem cases go away; but the revisions do not fully capture Frankfurt’s position. He doesn’t just want to assert that that everything I care about is relevant to the value of my life; he also asserts that everything that is relevant to the value of my life is (or is connected to) something I care about.
2. “For Frankfurt there is no value without love. . . . For Frankfurt, love has no value for the person who loves nothing, since it is a life devoid of value.” It’s odd to say that love has no value for that person –
that seems to suggest that even if he started to love something, that love would still have no value. It seems more accurate to say that this person cannot enjoy or participate in the value of love, since there is no love in his life. What is uncontroversial is that on Frankfurt’s view, the life of the person with love is better than the life of the person without love – the latter has no value at all. But this means that for Frankfurt, the value of love is a species of objective value: it is true for everyone that her life’s value would be enhanced by love.
I think I can use my reply to David W.’s (2) as a reply to your comment as well. “[S]ince Apathetic does not care about anything, there is nothing that enhances the value of her life; by the same token, there is nothing that damages the value of her life either!” Regardless of how we decide to split the hairs regarding the word ‘damages,’ it is clear that on Frankfurt’s view, Apathetic is missing out on something – love – that would make her life better, despite the fact that she cares neither about love, nor about the fact that she is missing love. Again, this seems to make love a species of objective value. As Frankfurt writes, “[L]oving as such is valuable . . . It follows quite strictly that loving something is necessarily
. . . better than not loving it, and, of course, better than loving nothing.” (“Reply to Susan Wolf,” 245; my emphasis)
I see the psychological oddity of the person who cares for her children, but who does not care about the fact that she cares for her children, but I still do not see its incoherence. In fact the general claim that my caring about X must entail my caring about the fact that I care about X seems quite implausible. Suppose, for instance, that I have a terrible headache. I care very much that the headache go away, but I don’t think I care that I continue to care that it go away! In fact I think it would be nice if I could somehow get myself to not care whether it went away or not (as Epictetus suggests). Now you might say this is a different sort of caring; and I think you are right – there is something about the fact that our example concerns caring for one’s children that makes it especially odd to consider the truly Selfless mother. But again, this seems only to refer back to psychological facts about human beings, or – at best – facts about what we think parents ought to care about; but not to facts about what they cannot care about. One more note: some virtue ethicists (Aristotle may have been one) suggest that to the extent that the moral agent cares about the fact that she is, say, compassionate, she actually fails to be genuinely virtuous; the genuinely virtuous person is not concerned at all with her own virtuous response, but only with the suffering of the person before her. Regardless of whether you agree with the normative claim, I don’t think we should rule out the very possibility of such an agent on conceptual grounds.
“1. I think you are right that revising (G) as suggested makes the problem cases go away….”
So far so good!
“…but the revisions do not fully capture Frankfurt’s position. He doesn’t just want to assert that that everything I care about is relevant to the value of my life; he also asserts that everything that is relevant to the value of my life is (or is connected to) something I care about.”
We are agreed on the first half, just not the second. I think, again, the problem is one of on what level you take the claim “everything that is relevant to the value of my life is (or is connected to) something I care about” to be on. Let me slightly formalize this statement as follows: If P is something that is relevant to the value of A’s life then P is something A cares about (or is connected to something A cares about).
For the person who loves no one and nothing, nothing is relevant to the value of their life. It is a life devoid of value. So if the Red Sox win, her life is no better or worse. If the Red Sox lose, her life is no better or worse. If her kids die a slow and painful death, her life is no better or worse. If she wins the lottery, her life is no better or worse. Etc….
“But,” I hear you say, “what about plugging in ‘If she starts to care about the Red Sox’ into this sentence? Surely then her life becomes better, right?” Yes, but only because a new value that did not exist for her before has been created. Remember, you have to throw off your objectivist tendencies to truly get what Frankfurt is saying. Caring about something is what creates value and then (G) is what determines how much of that value is realized or frustrated. It is a subsequent question, so you cannot apply the question of adding things that are cared about to it. (L) answered how that affects value for her.
“2. It’s odd to say that love has no value for that person – that seems to suggest that even if he started to love something, that love would still have no value.”
No. It only says that if you presuppose that what does or does not have value for a given person is fixed for all time, and either it does or does not have value. But that is the objectivist claim, not the subjectivist one. The subjectivist can quite happily say that it did not have any value whatsoever before, but now has immense value. Love has no value for that person at the time that she loves nothing. At the time that she does love something, then love both creates value and (likely) has value for her.
“What is uncontroversial is that on Frankfurt’s view, the life of the person with love is better than the life of the person without love – the latter has no value at all.”
This is true, but in a sense that is tautological. It is true if what you mean by “better” is “has more value to the person living the life,” and since in one case there is no value to the person living it and in the other there is positive value, then yes, it is a better life. But, again, this is because love creates value, not because love has value whether or not the person in question loves anything.
“But this means that for Frankfurt, the value of love is a species of objective value: it is true for everyone that her life’s value would be enhanced by love.”
You seem to want to say that for everyone if they love something then they have more of the value that is already objectively present. All Frankfurt is saying is that for everyone if they love something then they have more value than they had before because the fact of loving creates new value that did not exist for that person before. It might seem like a subtle difference, but it is all the difference between being an objectivist and a subjectivist about value.
Troy: First, I’d suggest that your case of caring about the pain going away isn’t a case of caring at all, but rather a case of a desire (a strong one, most likely). Caring doesn’t strike me as something that goes away at the moment of some satisfaction, and it’s also long-lasting. Second, in my original comment I tried to make clear that, when one’s caring is at least *partially constitutive of one’s identity*, it seemed incoherent to think of some such care about which one didn’t care. If what has value for one’s life is the issue, then it seems plausible to connect up identity to well-being in this way. Third, to the virtue stuff, I’ve always thought that the Artistotelian worry was that compassionate people not be concerned about whether they *appear to be* compassionate, not that they don’t care whether or not they care about others. Indeed, that’s another example that seems incoherent to me: a truly compassionate person who doesn’t care whether or not he cares about others.
But I’ll stop now….
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