An Account of Extrinsic Final Value

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  1. 1.

    I will take these expressions as equivalent. Others do too: Wlodek Rabinowicz and Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen, “A Distinction in Value: Intrinsic and for Its Own Sake,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (2000); Shelly Kagan, “Rethinking Intrinsic Value,” The Journal of Ethics 2(4) (1998). For defense of extrinsic final value, see Dale Dorsey, Intrinsic value and the supervenience principle, Philosophy Studies 157: 267–285 (2012); Guy Fletcher, “Sentimental Value,” The Journal of Value Inquiry 43: 55–65 (2009); Karen Green, “Two Distinctions in Environmental Goodness,” Environmental Values 5: 31–46 (1996); Kagan, op cit; Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000, op cit. See also: Christine Korsgaard, “Two Distinctions in Goodness,” in Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) which partly generated the debate over extrinsic final value. See Jonathan Dancy, Ethics Without Principles (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Rae Langton, “Objective and Unconditioned Value,” The Philosophical Review 116: 157–185 (2007), p. 164n10; and Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000, op cit. pp. 36–38 for helpful discussion of Korsgaard, op. cit., in connection with the topic of extrinsic final value.

  2. 2.

    Kagan op cit., pp. 280 and 285

  3. 3.

    Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000 op cit., 41.

  4. 4.

    Fletcher op. cit., p. 56.

  5. 5.

    Ibid., 61

  6. 6.

    Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000, op cit., 41.

  7. 7.

    Kagan op cit., 286. There are other objections that have been presented to the view that objects can have extrinsic final value. Michael Zimmerman, for instance, denies that objects such as Abe Lincoln’s pen or Princess Diana’s dress have extrinsic final value because, more generally, concrete objects are not the sorts of things that bear such value. Instead, only states of affairs bear final value (Michael J. Zimmerman, The Nature of Intrinsic Value (Lanham Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001, pp. 33–45). Miles Tucker argues that, according to three definitions of final value, entities such as Lincoln’s pen or Princess Diana’s dress cannot have such value (Miles Tucker, “The Pen, The Dress, and the Coat: A Confusion in Goodness,” Philosophy Studies 173: 1911–1922 (2015), p. 1913). Another line of objection stems from the fact that the existence of extrinsic final value may be incompatible with the principle of universality (see: Noah Lemos, Intrinsic Value (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 40–47 and Dancy op cit, p. 168).

  8. 8.

    Fletcher op cit., p. 62.

  9. 9.

    Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000 op cit., p. 41

  10. 10.

    Kagan op cit., p. 286

  11. 11.

    One might be able to develop such an account by drawing on things that Korsgaard says in her (1996 op cit.). Very roughly, the view would be that certain objects are “desirable as ends” under various conditions, including sometimes the instrumentality of the objects (op cit., pp. 265–267). If one’s desire for such an object passes the “criterion that reasons be universalizable,” as well as satisfies other conditions, then the object comes to be valuable for its own sake (ibid., p. 268). I do not go on to offer a version of this account because it does not prove all that helpful for explaining why there is a reason to value the above-mentioned entities for their own sakes rather than merely for the sake of other things. For, one should wonder why or how something comes to be desirable as an end on account of its extrinsic features.

  12. 12.

    For instance, while I focus on the value of heirlooms and memorabilia, I do not assume that my account applies to the final value something has in virtue of its instrumentality, as both Korsgaard op cit. and Kagan op cit. suggest. I also leave open whether my discussion applies to the idea that rarity, which depends on extrinsic relations, can increase an entity’s final value. Thank you to an anonymous referee for pressing me to clarify this.

  13. 13.

    In spelling this idea out, I am influenced by T. M. Scanlon’s description of what he calls irrationality in the “clearest” or “narrow” sense. He says: “Irrationality in the clearest sense occurs when a person’s attitudes fail to conform to his or her own judgments” (What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 25). I am taking the converse of this—an attitude is “reasonable” in a narrow sense when it conforms with one’s other attitudes.

  14. 14.

    Kate Abramson and Adam Leite, “Love, Value, and Reasons,” in Chistopher Grau and Aaron Smuts, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Love (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

  15. 15.

    Ibid., p. 4.

  16. 16.


  17. 17.

    I grant that more needs to be done to support this, and more generally to get a full sense of what warranting reasons are. An anonymous referee raises a number of questions regarding this. They ask: if one is warranted in valuing something for its own sake but one does not in fact value it, does that object have final value? And if one is warranted in valuing something, but is not required to do so, does this imply that one would also be warranted in not valuing it? These are interesting questions and I need to leave exploration of them for a later date. In what follows, I will focus on cases where one does value the heirloom for its own sake and is warranted in doing so.

  18. 18.

    Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen group a number of different attitudes under the heading of what they call “pro-attitudes.” Among these are “love, liking, admiration, or respect,” as well as attitudes like preference and desire (“The Strike of the Demon: On Fitting Pro-attitudes and Value,” Ethics 114: 391–423 (2004), pp. 391 and 2000, op cit., p. 45). I am influenced by them here, though I do not talk in terms of “pro-attitudes.” For endorsement and discussion of the idea that there are many different ways to value things, see Elizabeth Anderson, Value in Ethics and Economics (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1993); Christopher Grau, “Irreplaceability and Unique Value,” Philosophical Topics 32: 111–129 (2004); Christine Swanton, Profiles of the Virtues. In Virtue Ethics: a pluralistic view (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

  19. 19.

    In saying this, and in much of the following, I am heavily influenced by Samuel Scheffler’s account of non-instrumental valuing. See: Samuel Scheffler, Equality and Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

  20. 20.

    See also: Fletcher op cit., p. 62.

  21. 21.

    Scheffler, op. cit., p. 23.

  22. 22.

    Ibid., p. 29.

  23. 23.

    Thank you to an anonymous referee for pushing me to clarify this.

  24. 24.

    This way of distinguishing valuing something for its own sake from valuing something merely for the sake of another thing is likely to be contentious. I do not have space to fully defend it here. An alternative view could hold that valuing something for its own sake is distinguished from instrumental valuing (broadly construed) in virtue of involving a belief that the entity is good for its own sake. I do not adopt this view partly because I doubt that valuing something for its own sake always involves such a belief (for related discussion, see Robbie Kubala, “Valuing and believing valuable,” Analysis 77: 59–65 (2017), pp. 59–65). Additionally, adopting this view is not particularly helpful in the present context. For, to show that there is a reason to value an object for its own sake given its extrinsic features, one would need to show that there is a reason to believe that the entity is good for its own sake given its extrinsic features. Yet this does not get us very far—it remains to be shown what it is to believe that the object is valuable for its own sake, particularly if it is not the same thing as believing that the entity has intrinsic value.

  25. 25.

    Scheffler op. cit., p. 29.

  26. 26.

    Ibid. See note 24 for related discussion. For views that differ from Scheffler’s, see Harry Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 42; David Lewis, “Dispositional Theories of Value,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63: 113–37 (1989); and Michael Smith, “Dispositional Theories of Value,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 63: 89–111 (1989).

  27. 27.

    Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000 op cit., p. 41, emphasis mine.

  28. 28.


  29. 29.

    Fletcher, op cit., pp. 56–57, emphasis mine.

  30. 30.

    I talk of admiring instead of idolizing because the latter seems to be a morally questionable attitude to take towards someone, whereas the former is not. The importance of this will become apparent in Section 5 when I note that one’s attitude towards the person must be warranted for there to be a normative reason to value some related object for its own sake.

  31. 31.

    Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen offers an account of what he calls personal value (Personal Value (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). An object has this sort of value when it is fitting for people to “favor” the object for someone’s sake. He goes on to suggest that, in certain cases, it might be fitting to favor an object for its own sake for the sake of someone (ibid., p. 58). The idea I will present regarding heirlooms is different from Rønnow-Rasmussen’s notion of personal value because I am interested in why it is reasonable to value an object for its own sake but not for someone’s sake.

    Miles Tucker would object to my using heirlooms to show that things can have extrinsic final value. He says that “it is uncontroversial that final value is a kind of impartial value, a kind of value a thing has ‘from the perspective of the universe’” (op. cit., p. 1920). A family heirloom only has value for some people, such as those in the family, so it will not be a case of impartial value. Yet I am skeptical that final value is always impartial. People love their partners and children for their own sakes and their loved ones can be said to have final value. But the reasons to love their partner or children are arguably not shared by everyone. Tucker responds: if I am not focused on impartial value, then my argument does not present a challenge to Moore’s account of intrinsic value because he was only interested in impartial value. I am happy to concede this. I am interested in showing that there can be a reason to value things for their own sakes, at least according to how I have described this manner of valuing. Even if Moore would not take issue with this goal there are still concerns about it and my aim is to respond to one of them.

  32. 32.

    Of course, there are many things which could serve as a reminder of my mother, some less expensive and easier to take care of than this clock. Be that as it may, there is at least some reason to value the clock as a reminder.

  33. 33.

    I adapt this idea from Swanton’s discussion of the “modes of moral responsiveness.” She suggests that an important feature of virtue-ethical pluralism is that it captures the fact that “we are not only active beings hell-bent on change, but also passive in a sense: in our openness to, receptivity to, and appreciation of value and things” (op cit., p. 23).

  34. 34.

    Swanton op cit., p. 23.

  35. 35.

    Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen op cit., 36 and 38 italics original.

  36. 36.

    Ibid., pp. 36–37.

  37. 37.

    Tucker (op. cit.) would reject this account because he holds it is fitting to care about something for its own sake (he uses ‘caring’ instead of ‘valuing’) “just in case (i) it’s fitting to care about it and (ii) it’s not fitting to care about it because it is fitting to care about something else” (op. cit., p. 1917). By contrast, I am tying the reasonableness of valuing the clock for its own sake to the reasonableness of the attitudes I take towards my mother, thereby failing to satisfy (ii). Tucker does not provide an argument, though, for why we should follow him in holding that (ii) is a condition on the fittingness of valuing something for its own sake. In fact, it is not obvious that an attitude such as admiration will satisfy (ii), and yet this seem like a good candidate for a way in which one can value something for its own sake. For instance, it seems plausible that it is fitting to admire a person partly because it is fitting to admire their good deeds or their virtues. Additionally, because he does not offer an argument for (ii), I am unclear as to how his discussion functions as an argument against extrinsic final value. For, one version of the very thesis that defenders of extrinsic final value put forward is that it can be fitting to value something for its own sake on account of, or because of, its relation to a person that one values, where I assume that such authors think that valuing the person is fitting (again, see Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000 op cit., p. 41 and Fletcher op cit., p. 56).

  38. 38.

    Thank you to Allen Wood for suggesting this example.

  39. 39.

    There are presumably exceptions to this, such as when a personal belonging is related to the philosopher’s work (e.g. the piece of wax Descartes talks of), or when the philosopher is so famous that people do not merely admire their intellectual work.

  40. 40.

    Thank you to Marcia Baron for suggesting this example.

  41. 41.

    Although a significantly different sort of case, it is interesting to note the similarities between this example and the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Originally, the wall was put in place to help support the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 CE. I think it is plausible that part of the reason it is reasonable for certain people to value the wall today is that it is one of the few things that remain from the temple’s construction. If there were many other parts remaining, it might not be fitting for people to value the Western Wall in the manner in which they in fact do. Yet it is reasonable to value it in this way given the actual context, even though it served a roughly similar role that the plank of wood does for my mother’s clock—physically supporting something important.

  42. 42.

    Thanks to Marcia Baron for presenting this line of thought.

  43. 43.

    Fletcher, op cit., p. 57.

  44. 44.


  45. 45.

    I still do not assume that this is a fully general account of extrinsic final value. It may not cover, say, the final value something has on account of its rarity.

  46. 46.

    Regarding nature, see Green op cit., John O’Neill, “The Varieties of Intrinsic Value,” The Monist 75 (1992); Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2000 op cit., 41. Regarding artworks, see Korsgaard op cit., pp. 259, 263–264.

  47. 47.

    Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, trans and ed. Mary Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 6:443.

  48. 48.

    For statements of this worry with respect to Kant’s view, see Cheshire Calhoun, “But What About the Animals?” in Reason, Value, and Respect: Kantian Themes from the Philosophy of Tomas E. Hill, Jr., ed. Mark Timmons and Robert N. Johnson (Oxford Scholarship Online, 2015), p. 197; Marth Nussbaum, “Beyond ‘Compassion and Humanity’: Justice for Nonhuman Animals,” Animals Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Ed. Martha C. Nussbaum and Cass Sunstein (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 300; Emer O’Hagan, “Animals, Agency, and Obligation in Kantian Ethics,” Social Theory and Practice 35(4): 536 (2009); J Skidmore, “Duties to Animals: The Failure of Kant’s Moral Theory,” The Journal of Value Inquiry Vol. 35, No. 4 (2001), pp. 556–557; and Toby Svoboda, Duties Regarding Nature: A Kantian Environmental Ethic (New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 147. There is a large literature on “wrong reasons” more generally. For a sampling, see: Stephen Darwall, The Second-Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect, and Accountability (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 15–17; Pamela Hieronymi, “The Wrong Kind of Reason,” The Journal of Philosophy, 102, 9 (2005); Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2004 op cit; Joseph Raz, From Normativity to Responsibility (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), Ch. 3; and Jonathan Way, “Transmission and the Wrong Kind of Reason,” Ethics 122: 489–515 (2012).

  49. 49.

    I owe much to Marcia Baron, Sandra Shapshay, Allen Wood, Zak Kopeikin, an anonymous referee, and audience members at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress for comments on previous drafts.

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Tenen, L. An Account of Extrinsic Final Value. J Value Inquiry 54, 479–492 (2020).

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