Thomas Hill, Finding Value in Nature


1.      OVERVIEW

2.      Human virtue of “appreciating the good” entails that one ought to value nature for its own sake (good people “find value in nature,” that is, value nature intrinsically)

3.      Not metaphysically weird

         a.      This does not entail a commitment to “metaphysically weird” objective intrinsic value in nature

         b.      The idea that value exists in the world as one more property of things (like their weight, size etc)

         c.      Hill’s paper is employing Jamieson’s distinction between IV-1 (as end valuing) and IV-3 (as objective value)

4.      Not problematically anthropocentric

         a.      Nor is this basis for valuing nature anthropocentric in any problematic sense

         b.      Hill rejects idea that only factors morally relevant to env problems are human rights and welfare (human costs and benefits)

         c.      Nature has value “independently of human rights and welfare”

         d.      But not independently of human valuing

                   i.       Rejects idea that value of nature is prior to and totally independent of human capacities for appreciation



6.      Hill takes a virtue ethics approach to env problems

         a.      “What sort of a person would do that?” (Viz., despoil nature)

7.      Attitudes can be objectionable even if do not violate anyone’s rights (deontology) or cause harm (consequentialism)

         a.      E.g., Ungrateful heir who spits on his grandmother’s grave

8.      Env attitudes can be objectionable, even if not violate human rights or welfare

         a.      Can be rooted in ignorance, self-importance, aesthetic insensitivity (vices)

         b.      Instead of proper humility, gratitude and aesthetic appreciation/sensibility

9.      Virtuous persons will value nature for its own sake, in sense that (at least) they are not value nature simply as a means to human welfare or as a way to respect human rights (e.g., property rights)


10.    Proper valuing of nature is essential to a broader human virtue of “appreciation of the good”

         a.      Virtuous people value love and respect among friends, acts of courage and kindness innocent pleasures of children at play

         b.      And many type of natural entities



12.    False dichotomy: Values either purely objective or purely subjective

         a.      Values are neither

                   i.       Objective properties that pre-exist in nonhuman world

                   ii.      Simply things we create or mere reflections of our subjective tastes


13.    Ways of valuing nature he wants to defend that move beyond subjective tastes (w/o commitment to objective value in the world)

         a.      Believes items in natural world (redwood groves) are not simply something we want to see, but something we value for own sake and not just for their utility to us or our aesthetic delight

         b.      They would be intrinsically valuable in this way

                   i.       Even if everyone became crassly materialistic and valued them only instrumentally

                   ii.      Even if all humans disappeared form earth (last man argument)

14.    Can value nature in this way w/o believe in an obscure and unhelpful “metaphysic of independently existing intrinsic values”


15.    Desiring is not the same as valuing

         a.      Desire to look at dead body, but not value it (think it is debasing to do so)

         b.      Desire drugs, but not value them

         c.      Desiring something may not involve having a reason to follow the desire (one may reject one’s desires), whereas valuing does


16.    Valuing something intrinsically not same as being intrinsically valuable

         a.      To assert the latter is more; involves idea

                   i.       That we are not making mistakes (confusion/bad reasoning) about our valuing

                   ii.      That the thing has features that make it “worthy” of being valued even when it is not actually being valued

                            (1)    E.g., Unfashionable poem, secret act of kindness, redwood forests

17.    To say something is worthy of being intrinsically valued

         a.      Is not to claim it has a metaphysical property of intrinsic value

         b.      But empresses speaker’s endorsement of valuing object for own sake

         c.      Expectation that other reasonable people will share this attitude (because they too see and value the worthy making features)

         d.      Believe no mistake in valuing it this way



19.    Hill believes it is features of objects that make them worthy of being IV

20.    But also believes their value also depends on (human) valuing

         a.      The value is explained as a relation between features judged worthy and dispositional features of actual/potential judges/valuers

21.    This meta-level philosophical issue about nature of value is not what is at stake in env. disputes about whether nature is valuable in itself

         a.      That is usually just the issue of whether its value reduces to the promotion of human rights and welfare


22.    Senses of human centered

                   i.       Nature exists solely for benefit of humans

                   ii.      Nature exists solely for humans, including their aesthetic and spiritual benefit, as well as material benefit

                   iii.     All valid concerns about nature derive from human rights and duties to respect human interests

Hill rejects i-iii

                   iv.     It is good for humans (a human virtue) (and not other creatures) to value nature intrinsically

                   v.      All moral obligations/blame/praise are attributable only to humans

                   vi.     Ultimate justification for thinking we should value nature non-instrumentally appeals not just to facts about nature and our place in it, but also to nature of moral justification (dependent on human reason, sensibility, experience)

                   vii.    Moral justification is not just a matter of perceiving value existing in the world

23.    Hill:

         a.      Env should protest 1st three senses

         b.      4th is env friendly as endorses valuing nature intrinsically

         c.      5th is a debate about moral psychology

         d.      6 and 7 about ultimate justification for moral judgments (including about nature) are not issues env need to worry about