X-Message-Number: 16847
Date: Tue, 03 Jul 2001 06:14:52 -0700
From: Lee Corbin <>
Subject: Re: Does inherent value exist?

Dave Pizer writes

>What I am struggling to understand and develop further is
>an understanding of value or worth that is independent of
>everything else - if there is such a thing.  I am having
>trouble putting together the words "inherent" and "value."

Good luck.  I think that "value" can only mean "value to

>An example that comes to mind is, perhaps, a universe that
>is not accessable from the outside that has the answers to
>all mathematical theorms and nothing else in it.  In other
>words it just has some wonderful information in it but no
>one to receive that information.  Is that universe valuable?
>Valuable in itself, not to any person?  If you think
>information is valuable for its own sake...

Unless it has self-aware structures, it's almost a complete
waste.  But here is why I say "almost":  one of my values
is complexity.  Therefore an Amazon jungle is a little better
than a vacuum, even if there are no entities around who can
appreciate it.  What we might do is to try to find a common
ground among all evolutionarily derived peoples, and persuade
them that they really do value complexity (if they are to be

>If you grant that life has inherent value, then you would
>probably grant that life keeps that inherent value, and a
>specific life keeps it too, as long as that specific life
>never harms any other innocent life.

I grant that a life has inherent value BECAUSE that life is
valuable to itself, even if not to anyone else.  And I agree
with your "eye for an eye" here: someone's life ceases to
have much value if they are a menace to a lot of other lives.
I think you are also subtly alluding to cooperation:  we
don't want to deprive others just as we would not want to
be deprived.  Therefore I urge everyone to value so-and-so's
life, partly because I want him to urge everyone to value
my life.

>(Trying to combine the best of inherent value theory with
>a libertarian principle.  This may not work because then
>I have to say that "good" life has inherent value and "Bad"
>life doesn't - there goes the inherent part?  I need help

Yup.  I just stumbled over that myself.  I'm afraid that

to Joseph Stalin, Joseph Stalin's life has inherent value
no matter how many others he doomed.  (But that's all right!
When we advance to a yet higher morality than we currently
have, we'll see clearly that even Stalin and Hitler should
be resurrected.)

>*The power of the inherent value argument comes from the
>position, that if someone denies this, he/she is saying
>his/her own life has only conditional value, if it has
>any value at all.*

Well, if that's the truth, then that's the truth, and we're
stuck with it.  I just can't see that out amongst the swirling
atoms there are any Cosmic Purposes or Cosmic Values.  How
could there be?  It just seems patently clear that value is
"value to someone".

>I think we would all like to think of our lives as more than
>that.  Our lives are more valuable if they have absolute value.

Yes, but engaging in wishful thinking only hurts in the long
run.  Probably in the short run, too.


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