Hume and Intrinsic Value

Philosophy 65 (254):419-437 (1990)
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Abstract

In this essay an ‘objective’ account of intrinsic value is proposed and partly defended. It is claimed that a kind of value exists which is, or may reasonably be supposed to be, a property of certain objects. The presence of such value is not to be wholly accounted for as the ‘projection’ of certain human feelings elicited by the object thought to be of value, nor by the object's meeting certain operative human conventions prescribing what is to be admired, nor by its being conformable, in some way, to human needs or desires. Hume, of course, would have none of this. It is hoped to show that if one adopts Hume's account, then his attempt to show that there nevertheless will be convergence in the long run as to what is of aesthetic value is forced and unsuccessful. By contrast, on the ‘objective’ account convergence is to be expected. This, of course, only shows the superiority of the ‘objective’ account so long as there is an expectation of long-term convergence. This is not an expectation of most contemporary value ‘subjectivists’, and therefore the argument will not be directly relevant to their positions.

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