Philosophy 66 (258):525-526 (1991)

Jonathan Westphal
Hampshire College
In ‘Concerning the Absurdity of Life’ Quentin Smith accuses us of contradicting ourselves in our argument against Thomas Nagel. On the one hand we said that Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 is not ‘insignificant’ compared with cosmic radiation. On the other we said that the life of a man of integrity or humanity could be lived without a formal claim to Value, so that there was nothing for Nagel's external perspective to negate. But where is the contradiction? We put ‘emotional value’, used of Mozart's concerto, in scare quotes, to show that we disapproved of the phrase, and we also called the emotional value ‘so-called’ with the same intention. What we said about the life of the man of integrity, as we characterized it, was that no formal claim about Value was made for it—note the capital V. ‘Formal’ was meant to make the same point. We meant neither to assert nor to deny that Value was objectively present in the concerto. If we had asserted it, that would have meant that the concerto was no good. If we had denied it, that would have committed us to a styptic view of what it would be for it to be false that it was no good. Also not wanted was to understand how music has a value , for example in education. Smith did not see that we were gunning for just the kind of analysis he gives of integrity and humanity . Hence that capital V in our reference to ‘Value’. It was meant ironically. Is a man's integrity ‘living by his values’, as Smith says, or is ‘humanity’, as we used it, ‘respecting the value of other human beings’? Integrity is surely, as the OED says, more a certain kind of unbrokenness or wholeness, being uncorrupted, even sinless, or innocent. The OED rightly makes no mention of values. Nor does it mention them under ‘humanity’: kindness, benevolence, humaneness, ‘traits or touches of human nature or feeling; points that appeal to man’. It is not true, let alone analytically true, as Smith says, that the notions of integrity and humanity involve value
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100065189
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