Value, Obligation, and Meta-Ethics

BRILL (1995)
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Abstract

This work defends an interrelated set of theses in value-theory, normative ethics and meta-ethics. The three Parts correspond to these three areas. Part One (Value) defends a biocentric theory of moral standing, and then the coherence and objectivity of belief in intrinsic value, despite recent objections. Intrinsic value is located in the flourishing of living creatures; specifically, a neo-Aristotelian, species-relative account is supplied of wellbeing or flourishing, in terms of the development of the essential capacities of one's species. There follows a theory of priorities, or of relative intrinsic value, in which the satisfaction of basic needs takes priority over other needs and over wants, and the interests of complex and sophisticated creatures over those of others, where they are at stake. Part Two defends a practice-consequentialist theory of the criteria of rightness and of obligation, which leaves room for supererogation, underpins our intuitions about justice, commends population growth only where it is genuinely desirable, and responds better than act-consequentialism to objections like that concerned with the separateness of persons. Part Three sifts meta-ethical theories, rejects moral relativism, and defends a cognitivist and naturalist meta-ethic. In defending analytical naturalism, it takes into account the latest literature on supervenience. By responding to recent discussions, this study supersedes my _Theory of Value and Obligation_ (1987). It is equipped with detailed end-notes and an ample bibliography, which could prove a research tool of itself.

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Robin Attfield
Cardiff University

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