a blog by josef johann

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Intrinsic Values

Haven't posted in a bit, but I might as well share my participation at other blogs. I just posted this as a comment over at Atheist Ethicist, home of the philosophy of desire utilitarianism.


I have only just encountered your philosophy this week, so I apologize in advance if I don't characterize it accurately. You say:

If those beliefs are false then there is a chance that you are not fulfilling the most and strongest of your desires as you could be.

Supposing all desires were equally desirable (and bad desires correspondingly undesirable), one would prefer those which encouraged, numerically, the greatest number of good desires and suppressed the greatest number of bad desires.

However, there is such a thing as a stronger or weaker desire. Which appears to mean a single strong desire could thwart desires numerically larger and still have reason for being promoted, provided it is sufficiently strong.

Doesn't that mean there is a coin of the realm that desire must consist in such that it can be weaker or stronger than other desires? And that, whatever this coin is, it cannot be (exclusively) a quantity of other desires, but something that those desires terminate in which is itself desirable?

I think the pleasurable experience is an obvious candidate (or perhaps a combination of things, of which the pleasurable experience is one).

This would be an opening for the insertion of intrinsic values where pleasure counts as an intrinsic value, and is real because it is or corresponds to a brain state in the same way a desire, which is real, does.

It might be the case that pleasure is intrinsically pleasurable, but not intrinsically valuable if its realization is bound up in a subsequent chain of pleasurable and non-pleasurable experiences, and what is "valuable" is any state of affairs that returns a positive balance of pleasure after subjection to the utilitarian calculus.

It may be too much an abuse of the word "intrinsic" to say that a state of affairs with a whole mixture of consequences yielding a positive amount of pleasure could be "intrinsically valuable." But there remains an intrinsic quality that the objects of desires ought to consist in, that they might be stronger or weaker than one another.

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