The summer fun continues. Here’s a cool question raised by McT, quoted below:
"Both good and evil are quantitative. …. Good values then form a series, as do evil values. And these two constitute together the single series of values, of which the generating relation is "is better than" or "is worse than". Of any two values, good or evil, one will be better than the other, which will be worse than the first. This raises the question whether, after all, there are in reality two sorts of values, good and evil, or whether there is no such distinction, and no such positive qualities as good and evil but rather only relations of better and worse…. In a series of magnitudes each is larger or smaller than each of the others. But no magnitude is positively large or small. Is the series of values like this?" [Nature of Existence, pp. 409-410.]
This strikes me as a pretty cool question. Grant that there are objective facts concerning whether one thing is intrinsically better than another. Why go further and say that some things are good or bad?
Some side comments: First, McT probably should take the generating relation to be "is intrinsically equal to or better than" instead of "is intrinsically better than". Noting this doesn’t make the question he raised less interesting.
Second, I don’t want to give the impression that I think we have no reason to believe that things are good or bad. I’m curious what people take to be good reasons to hold that things have goodness or badness. McTaggart is also no skeptic, but I’ll hold off on his response until later.
Third, it’s helpful to note that someone who denies that, e.g., pain is bad or pleasure is good, can still say that every pleasure is intrinsically better than any pain, and any pain is intrinsically worse than a state of no sensation. And classical consequentialists, who hold that our sole duty is to maximize intrinsic value, can uphold their view while denying that anything is positively good or bad.