Symbolic Values

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 5 (4):449-467 (2019)
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When a symbol is a marker of a primary bearer of value and, secondarily, a bearer of value itself, then it has symbolic value. Philosophers have long been suspicious of symbolic values, often regarding them as illusory or irrelevant. I suggest that arguments against symbolic values either overgeneralize or else require premises that can only be supported if the normative significance of some symbolic considerations is presupposed. Humans need symbols to represent identity facts to themselves and others. Symbolic values thereby contribute to individuals’ control over their own agency.



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