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Title:What Does Value Matter? The Interest-Relational Theory of the Semantics and Metaphysics of Value
Author(s):Finlay, Stephen F.
Director of Research:Wallace, James D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wallace, James D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Schacht, Richard L.; Ebbs, Gary; McMahan, Jefferson
Department / Program:Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
interest-relational theory
moral semantics
practical reason
normative reasons
moral absolutism
fact-value distinction
moral contextualism
Abstract:Value and reasons for action are often cited by rationalists and moral realists as providing a desire-independent foundation for normativity. Those maintaining instead that normativity is dependent upon motivation often deny that anything called '"value" or "reasons" exists. According to the interest-relational theory, something has value relative to some perspective of desire just in case it satisfies those desires, and a consideration is a reason for some action just in case it indicates that something of value will be accomplished by that action. Value judgements therefore describe real properties of objects and actions, but have no normative significance independent of desires. It is argued that only the interest-relational theory can account for the practical significance of value and reasons for action. Against the Kantian hypothesis of prescriptive rational norms, I attack the alleged instrumental norm or hypothetical imperative, showing that the normative force for taking the means to our ends is explicable in terms of our desire for the end, and not as a command of reason. This analysis also provides a solution to the puzzle concerning the connection between value judgement and motivation. While it is possible to hold value judgements without motivation, the connection is more than accidental. This is because value judgements are usually but not always made from the perspective of desires that actually motivate the speaker. In the normal case judgement entails motivation. But often we conversationally borrow external perspectives of desire, and subsequent judgements do not entail motivation. This analysis drives a critique of a common practice as a misuse of normative language. The "absolutist" attempts to use and, as philosopher, analyze normative language in such a way as to justify the imposition of certain interests over others. But these uses and analyses are incoherent - in denying relativity to particular desires they conflict with the actual meaning of these utterances, which is always indexed to some particular set of desires.
Issue Date:2001
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Rights Information:Copyright 2001 Stephen F. Finlay
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-05-13

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