So, again, I’m dropping the ball, but with your forgiveness, I will now submit to you the rest of my paper that I gave you the teaser for a week ago. For Part 1, click the hyperlink.
To begin, it may be appropriate to first define the term “intrinsic value” for ease of discussion. Intrinsic value is often defined as the value of an object “‘for its own sake’ and ‘itself’” (Beardsley 1). Robert Edgar Carter describes it as “the fulfillment of the singular concept” (Intrinsic Value, 511). The first would describe an object, including a person, as valuable simply because the object exists; the latter only if the object completed a task. This second theory is more closely related to extrinsic value and Consequentialism which “views the values and acts of persons strictly in terms of the results produced by them in a particular state of affairs” (Card 258). It also begs several questions, including, “What is the singular concept?” Carter responds to this by allowing each person his or her own concept of his or her own self, which is congruent with postmodern thinking. The questions which inevitably follow this explanation cast significant doubt on its validity. Do persons who are unable to develop a concept of themselves—such as a severely mentally retarded person—possess intrinsic value? Do persons with inaccurate concepts of themselves—such as ethnic cleansers or jingoists— possess intrinsic value? This subjective concept of value creates no universality or objectivity to the value of human life, and is therefore inadequate.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “intrinsic” as “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing” (614). Even this does not provide a specific enough meaning in and of itself. Later, this definition will be coupled with the definition of “human” to determine if together they may offer a support for the existence of intrinsic value in humans.
Ben Bradley offers a more concrete set of definitions for intrinsic value by presenting principles of value. The first is the Supervenience Principle, which states that the degree to which an object possesses intrinsic value depends on the intrinsic nature of the object. This is a good starting place, because it is essentially a rewording of this paper’s inquiry and leads the discussion to the Isolation Principle wherein an object “has intrinsic value if and only if it would have value in complete isolation” (Bradley 23). This is akin to Elizabeth Anderson’s definition of intrinsic good: “a value that is valuable apart from the valuation of any other thing” (Card 259). The third principle is the Necessity Principle, which, according to Bradley, means an object “has its intrinsic value whenever and wherever it exists” (23). For example, Susan would be just as valuable a person in France in the 15th century as she would in South Africa in the 20thcentury. Bradley groups these three Principles into what he calls the Moorean View, because they are based off of his study of the work of G. E. Moore. If these principles are taken in reverse order, there is a coherent order of value. If an object has intrinsic value wherever it exists, then it would have value in isolation, and if in isolation the object’s nature is intrinsic, then it would possess intrinsic value. However, even with its coherency, it is an incomplete theory because it only states the hypothetical yet fails to address the conclusive. There must be a logical defense of the object’s possessing the intrinsic value or being of an intrinsic nature to begin with.
Bradley points out that “philosophers… have argued that something’s intrinsic value may depend on its extrinsic properties” (24). This corresponds with the Conditional View presented by Shelly Kagan and Robert Elliot, who argue that something’s historical importance or rarity could “endow it with intrinsic value” (Bradley 24). For instance, artwork becomes more valuable after the death of the artist since genuine reproduction is now impossible. The Louisiana Purchase is likewise important because it affected the history of the United States. Unfortunately, if we define intrinsic value by the standards of Webster, Carter, and Moore, intrinsic value cannot be attributed to objects by extrinsic properties or values. If an object has value for its own sake or belonging to its own constitution, then historical significance and rarity have no standing in determining the intrinsic value of the object. If we use the Isolation Principle, then historical significance and rarity are immediately nonexistent properties. The Supervenience Principle is dependent upon the Necessity Principle and the latter renders an object valuable regardless of its extrinsic properties; it either is valuable or it is not. Therefore, the conclusion may be reasonably drawn that for intrinsic value to exist, it must do so by an objective and universal standard. The next step of this investigation is to ascertain what the standard is and where it comes from.
So, the origin of intrinsic value in human life must be addressed and determined in order to confirm the value’s existence. First, the concept of value as determined by the dominance of mankind over other living organisms will be considered. According to the theory of natural selection, humans are the zenith of evolution; however, this does not attribute any intrinsic value to humans, because natural selection deals only with extrinsic properties like intellect and physical strength or agility. According to the same theory, humans are the product of time, chance, and the evolution of natural processes, all of which generate only extrinsic properties and values within the human being. Indeed, the term “human” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as “a bipedal primate mammal; any living or extinct member of the family to which the primate belongs” (564). This definition supports the theory of natural selection as it pertains to macroevolution, but it in turn reduces the value of human beings to being purely extrinsic. In contrast with the definition of “human”, the definition of “person” consists of “the body of a human being;… the personality of a human being; [or] one… that is recognized by law as the subject of rights and duties” (Webster 867). If the 4th and 5th are used, the person is subject to the same essential identity as the human. In the context of the last, a morality must be invoked, which will be discussed later. If, by dint of these definitions, intrinsic value does not come from the widely-accepted theory of human origins, can it come from somewhere else?