Robert Elliott

“Instrumental Value in Nature as a Basis for Intrinsic value of Nature as a Whole”


1.      Overview of the issue

         a.      Valuing something instrumentally= XV(for its consequences or results) is not the same thing as valuing it intrinsically=IV (for its own sake, not as a means to something else)

                   i.       I value the music because it puts me to sleep versus I value the music because it is beautiful

         b.      Can value things in both ways at the same time (but for different reasons)

         c.      Is it possible that a thing’s instrumental value to me could be the ground/reason of my valuing it for its own sake?

                   i.       Seems weird?

                   ii.      Because the music puts me to sleep (because I value the music as a means of sleeping) I value it intrinsically (for its own sake)?

                   iii.     A thing’s instrumental value seems like a strange reason for valuing it intrinsically

         d.      Less or not weird is that a thing’s instrumental value to other things (nature as a domain of instrumentality) might be a basis of my valuing it (nature) intrinsically

                   i.       Though even here, if I value the other things intrinsically (an animal), and the thing that contributes to them (a tree) because it contributes to them, then this latter valuing would seem to be instrumental not intrinsic


2.      Abstract

         a.      Nature has IV as a whole

         b.      Nature gives rise to much with IV (e.g., animals)

         c.      Value producing work of nature (its instrumentality/usefulness to produce things with intrinsic value), imbues nature with a value that is more than merely instrumental (namely, intrinsic value)

         d.      Thus a thing’s XV could be and arguably is a basis for its IV

3.      Claims Rolston’s systemic value involves saying nature has non-XV in virtue of fact it is creative of entities with IV


4.      Varner’s objections: XV need not give something IV

         a.      That a hurricane has XV (cleans up a lagoon) and creates something of IV (a beautiful lagoon)

         b.      Or that pollution has XV by creating more beautiful sunsets (with IV)

         c.      Are not reasons for thinking the hurricane or pollution has intrinsic value


5.      Objection: Since IV is nonrelational and XV is relational, XV can’t be grounds for IV

         a.      Confusing senses of IV (1 and 3)

6.      Relational properties can be basis of IV in sense 1 (end-valuing)

         a.      Being rare, naturally evolved, most beautiful of its kind relational properties that contribute to a things IV

         b.      Rejects the idea that external properties (relational properties) like being rare, naturally evolved or the most beautiful of its kind can’t be value adding (that is, can’t contribute to intrinsic value)