- Series: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy
- Hardcover: 236 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 30, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 052146207X
- ISBN-13: 978-0521462075
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,064,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Intrinsic Value: Concept and Warrant (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
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"...the discussions of higher goods and moral epistemology are quite useful, and the book as a whole is valuable in offering an unusually systematic treatment of a central concept of ethical theory." Ethics
"In each case the discussion is controlled and acute and the conclusions provide significant challenges." Canadian Philosophical Reviews
"Despite its rather slender size, Professor Lemos's book is philosophically very rich." Paul Eisenberg, International Philosophical Quarterly
This book addresses some basic questions about intrinsic value: What is it? What has it? What justifies our beliefs about it? In the first six chapters the author defends the existence of a plurality of intrinsic goods, the thesis of organic unities, the view that some goods are higher than others, and the view that intrinsic value can be explicated in terms of fitting emotional attitudes. The final three chapters explore the justification of our beliefs about intrinsic value, including coherence theories and the idea that some value beliefs are warranted on the basis of emotional experience. Professor Lemos defends the view that some value beliefs enjoy modest a priori justification. The book is intended primarily for professional philosophers and their graduate students working in ethics, value theory, and epistemology.
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Any book on such a topic is bound to be indebted to Brentano, Moore, Ross, and Ewing; Lemos pays the debt, aligning himself carefully with their tradition and deftly explicating his own agreements and disagreements with each of his forebears. (He also touches briefly on Prichard and Broad.)
He also deals closely with two significant recent works: Roderick Chisholm's _Brentano and Intrinsic Value_, and Panayot Butchvarov's _Skepticism in Ethics_. (I am happy to add that he fields several objections raised by Brand Blanshard in his forgotten opus, _Reason and Goodness_, and not only because I wish that book were more often read. Despite my tremendous admiration for Blanshard -- who was a friend of Ewing's, by the way -- I happen to think Ewing had the better of the argument on several points of ethical theory. Lemos's replies to Blanshard are trenchant and, in my own view, usually correct.)
Lemos defends several important theses in the first part of the book (chapters 1-6). First he argues that intrinsic value may be explicated in terms of (though not necessarily reduced to) the appropriateness or otherwise of emotional attitudes toward the proposed value-bearer. (His analysis of the various sorts of neutrality is especially clear and incisive.) As to what sorts of thing can be bearers of intrinsic value, he holds that among abstract objects, the only plausible candidates are facts -- that is, states of affairs which actually obtain; states of affairs which do not obtain, he argues, are not intrinsically good except in a hypothetical sense that presumes their hypothetical existence. Significantly, he denies that _properties_ can be intrinsically good. He also tentatively denies the possession of such value by "concrete particulars" (individual people and things).
He then sets out a defense of the theory of organic unities (the view, that is, that certain states of affairs may have intrinsic values that are not simple sums of the values of their parts) and the principle of universality (that parts do not change their strictly intrinsic values according to the wholes they are in). His defense of the latter principle places him at odds with Ross, but I think Lemos has much the better of the argument here. Invoking these principles, he finds reason to believe that some sorts of intrinsic value are higher than others and that the "principle of summation" should be rejected.
As to the sorts of state of affairs that have intrinsic value, Lemos devotes one chapter to pleasure and one to such further candidates as morally good emotions, the satisfaction of desire, correct judgment, knowledge, understanding, consciousness, beauty, and -- interestingly -- the flourishing of certain examples of nonsentient life. He concludes that there are various intrinsic goods and that most of his proposed candidates do indeed qualify.
For believers in intrinsic value, most of the controversy here will surround the final item on the list. Ross held that the only states of affairs that have intrinsic value are states of mind and the relations between them; Moore held a different view in _Principia Ethica_ but changed his mind in _Ethics_; Blanshard agreed with Ross and applauded Moore's return to good sense. Lemos departs from the traditional mainstream here and mounts a plausible case that the "consciousness thesis" is false: there are some intrinsic goods which do not depend on the existence of consciousness for their value. (I say his case is plausible, and so it is. But in the end I do not myself find it altogether convincing; I remain unrepentantly of the opinion that Ross was right.)
In the second part of the volume (chapters 7-9), Lemos turns to another crucial topic: our _warrant_ for believing in this or that intrinsic value. Here he offers by turns a defense of nonnaturalism (devoting, for example, several pages to a well-considered reply to David O. Brink's _Moral Realism_); a defense of modest a priori justification for judgments of intrinsic value (including the construction of a moderate alternative to Chisholm's strong conception of a priori knowledge as well as a fascinating development of Lemos's own concept of an "intrinsically acceptable proposition"); and a demonstration of the inadequacy of two major alternatives to his theory of a priori justification (coherence theories, and "empirical" theories that take emotion as their warrant for value-judgments). He concludes, I think rightly, that judgments of intrinsic value do enjoy a modest a priori justification and that this status is at least no more problematic for value-judgments than for other sorts of judgment.
I have said that the volume is tightly reasoned, but it is not for that reason difficult to read. Lemos is a very clear expositor; his book, though aimed mainly at professional philosophers and advanced students, can be in fact read by anyone with a basic familiarity with philosophical ethics. (It is too bad Blanshard's _Reason and Goodness_ is no longer in print, for it makes an excellent introduction to ethics generally.) At any rate, Lemos's volume is an excellent work and one that is bound to be a standard in its field.
It was another Tuesday with Lemos.