Values in Nature: An Exchange
By Ernest Partridge and Holmes Rolston, III
here here three separate papers: "Values in Nature: Is
Anybody There?" (EP), "Values at Stake: Does Anything
Matter?" (HR). and "Discovering a World of Values"
(EP). The essay
first appeared in Philosophical Inquiry in 1986 and was
reprinted in the second edition of the Wadsworth anthology,
Environmental Ethics, edited by Louis Pojman (1998). Prof.
Pojman invited Holmes Rolston to respond to that article, and
The Gadfly to reply in turn to Rolston. Prof. Rolston has given us
permission to include his paper.
Values in Nature: Is Anybody There?1
Many Philosophers, in a determined attempt to refute an
anthropocentric environmental ethic, have asserted what seems an
extreme axiological assumption; namely, the notion that values can
exist in nature apart from and independent of a conscious
reflection, or even a minimally sentient awareness, thereof. In
opposition to this view, I argue that the very logic of the
concept "value" requires the existence of an evaluator -- a being
aware of the evaluated issue to whom that issue "matters." In
addition I contend that, despite the qualms of many ecological
moralists, this dyadic view of values does not entail
anthropocentrism, or even "sentiocentrism." On the contrary, this
conventional axiology leaves ample room for a nature-centered
("eco-centric") ethic. Moreover, by insisting upon the natural
origin and sustenance of the subject of evaluation, and upon the
natural context of evaluation, an ecological morality employing
the "dyadic view" is quite capable of removing the evaluator from
the central focus of environmental ethics
Is extremism in the defense of the
natural environment a virtue? I think not. In a reasoned defense,
extremism is rarely an intellectual virtue. Yet many philosophers, in
a determined attempt to refute an anthropocentric environmental
ethic, have asserted an extreme axiological assumption; namely, that
values can exist in nature apart from and independent of a conscious
reflection, or even a minimally sentient awareness, thereof. In
opposition to this view, and in concert with what seems to be the
prevailing philosophical opinion, I will argue that the concept of
"value" requires an evaluator -- a being aware of the evaluated issue
to whom that issue "matters." In addition, I will contend that,
despite the qualms of many ecological moralists, this dyadic view of
value does not entail anthropocentrism, or even "sentiocentrism." On
the contrary, this conventional axiology leaves ample room for a
nature- centered ("eco-centric") ethic.
There are, in fact, three basic
viewpoints to be considered here: (1) "Value" is an objective quality
to be discovered in natural things --I'll call this the
"objective-monadic theory" (or briefly, "O-M"). (2) Evaluation is
dyadic, but the value- bearer ("evaluator"?!) need not be conscious
or sentient; e.g., something can be "good for" a plant or a rock
"itself," "in its own right." I call this the "object/object-dyadism"
(or "O/O- D"). (Because these views agree in their denial of the
necessity of a subjective evaluator, they will often be treated
together in this paper.) Finally, (3) the "subject/object-dyadic view
(S/O- D), which I accept, holds both that values are essentially
relational, and that one relatum (the "evaluator") must be at least
According to the S/O-D view, O-M is
describing, not "values" but properties of things that may be value
components (or "valuegens," as Holmes Rolston calls them);3
and O/O-D is describing, not "values,"
but causal relationships or functions.4
The careful reader will notice some
terminological awkwardness in the previous paragraph, which, I
suspect, may be of more than semantic significance. The difficulty is
that there appears to be no term which fits both the "object-relatum"
and "subject- relatum" in O/O-D and S/O-D. In the first case
("O/O-D"), "value-bearer" seems the best of a number of bad choices.
"Evaluator" is troublesome here, since it suggests cognition (hence
"subject-object dyadism"). "Subject-of-values" is unacceptable for
the same reason. "Beneficiary" fails on the ground that an
"evaluator" is not necessarily a "beneficiary" -- (e.g., "I commend
Jones for his kindness to Smith"). Furthermore, to call an object
(say a rock) a "beneficiary" is to beg a point that I wish to dispute
(namely, that an inanimate object can be "benefitted" in "its own
right"). The best solution that I can devise for "O/O-D" is to
stipulate that the alleged "value for" is "for" an object which "has"
that value (or interest), hence the term "value bearer." But notice
that "value-bearer" will not do for S/O-D, while "evaluator" is just
what is called-for, since the latter term directly describes the
subjective component of S/O-D. But for the same reason it also begs
the (exclusively) S/O-D position, since, as noted, the comparable
relatum in O/O-D can scarcely be called an "evaluator." "Value
bearer" (adopted for O/O-D) is unacceptable for S/O-D, since it fails
to convey the "spectator capacity" in S/O-D evaluation (cf. the
"Jones- Smith" example, above). Is it perhaps significant that, over
the ages and despite countless ethical discussions and analyses, no
concept has evolved that fits both the "value-bearer" (in O/O-D) and
"evaluator" (in S/O-D) relata? Perhaps this constitutes an "ordinary
language argument" for (though not a proof of) the S/O-D view.
One of the crucial tests of the
significance of philosophical dispute follows the question: "Does
this make a difference?" I believe that these various views of
natural evaluation do make a significant difference in our
evaluations of natural things. In support of that claim, I offer
these thought experiments: (a) Imagine a planet, orbiting the double
stars of Castor and Pollux, with several moons as various in
composition and appearance as the moons of Jupiter. This planet has a
corrosive yet often transparent atmosphere. These conditions all
combine to create landscapes, sunrises, lunar phases and so forth
which would be of incredible beauty were there anyone to enjoy it.
But there never have been and never will be observers of these
scenes, since the planet is totally and forever inhospitable to life.
Are these conditions, in fact, "beautiful"? Have they any value at
all if they are of value to no one? Suppose an asteroid collides with
the planet, so altering its physical and chemical conditions as to
shroud it in an opaque atmosphere and thus obliterate all sunsets and
landscapes forever. Is this collision a calamity? To whom? To no one!
But if to no one, why regard it as a calamity? Or is it, in some
sense, a calamity "in itself?" Did the asteroid destroy something
"inherently beautiful" and "inherently valuable?" Could it be so with
no one for it to be "beautiful" or "valuable" to? Is the destruction
on this planet in some sense a value "loss" to the natural
(b) Suppose we commit the ultimate
folly of total nuclear war and, as a result, within one hundred years
all that remains of the biosphere is what Jonathan Schell calls "a
republic of insects and grasses" -- no life form more complex than a
cockroach (presumably insentient). Suppose too that sentient life
will never again evolve on the Earth (due to the subsequent expansion
of the sun), and that intelligent life forms will never visit. Given
all this, does it matter that such architectural monuments as the Taj
Mahal will crumble to ruin? Suppose the government of India had
erected a protective dome around the Taj Mahal so that, two hundred
years after the death of the last sentient being, it stood erect.
Other things equal, is the uninhabited planet "better" for having an
intact Taj Mahal on its surface?5
(c) Some brief questions: Was the
Grand Canyon "magnificent in itself," before it was seen by any human
beings? Has the surface of Venus been "littered" and "despoiled"
(made less valuable) by the spacecraft that have recently struck its
surface? Does the sugar sit sweetly on the cupboard shelf?
These cases seem to indicate a
difference in the theories. Defenders of O-M and O/O-D, believing
that values can exist without sentient evaluators, will answer
affirmatively to at least a few of the above questions. To all these
questions, the proponent of the S/0-D position will answer "no".
Those who hold that position, and yet feel an intuitive tug toward
assent, might dispel that inclination by noting that their discomfort
at the thought of the Taj Mahal in ruins, or of steel, titanium and
semiconductor rubbish strewn on Venus, results from a violation of
the stipulated conditions. They "cheat" by importing themselves into
the landscape through their imaginations. Unfair! The ghostly
presence of the hypothetical evaluator evokes, not value, but
"hypothetical value." The S/O-D proponent insists that we take the
stipulation and challenge seriously: no sentient or intelligent
beings are to observe or be affected by these events or
circumstances. Do values apply? To whom? If values are alleged to
"apply," but to no one, then just what might this mean? Can we make
sense of this assertion?
A monadic response to these
challenges is offered by Tom Regan, who insists that "non-conscious
natural objects can have value in their own right, independently of
human interests" Such "inherent value," as he calls it, "is
independent of any awareness, interest, or appreciation of it by any
conscious being," and "the inherent value of a natural object is an
objective property of that object."6
The literalness of this
interpretation is apparent as Regan applies it to specific
The inherent value of a
natural object is an objective property of that object. . .
Certain stretches of the Colorado River, for example, are free,
not subjectively, but objectively. The freedom expressed by (or
in) the river is an objective fact. . . The value of the river's
being free is also an objective property of the river. If the
river is inherently good. . . then it is a fact about the river
that it is good inherently. [Regan's
Accordingly, natural processes may
diminish the value of a river. "For example, because of various
sedimentary changes, a river that is now wild and free might in time
be transformed into a small, muddy creek," which may call for efforts
to "improve upon" nature.8
The appeal to the eco-moralist of
Regan's notion of "inherent natural value" is immediate and
compelling, for the concept suggests a "hard," substantial and
objective status for such values -- a status safely and securely
founded independently of the shifts and drifts of human culture or
personal taste and preference. By this account, "inherent natural
values," like objective facts, are simply "out there" to be
discovered (not invented), and obstinately "there" (in nature)
whether or not we manage to perceive and appreciate
Unfortunately for those finding
comfort in this view, there are problems. Consider, for example,
Regan's attempt to apply the notion of "inherent value" to
[It will not] do to
argue that cars cannot have a good of their own because what
characteristics are good making in cars depends on what our
interests are. For a car has those characteristics it has,
including those that are good making, quite independently of our
taking an interest in them.10
The second sentence simply asserts
what is not in dispute; namely, that cars have properties. It does
not support Regan's contention that some of these qualities are
"inherently valuable." Of course these "good-making qualities" (e.g.
of cars) exist independently; but the value of these qualities are
not "independent" of our taking an interest in them. He writes, "cars
do not become, say, comfortable or economical by becoming the objects
of our interest." Granted, but the value of being "comfortable" or
"economical" is a matter which requires our attention and
A "good" luxury car is not
economical; and a "good" racing car is not comfortable. The
characteristics are independent, but the "goodness" of those
characteristics depends upon our interest in these characteristics.
(Better, perhaps, our "appropriate" or "reasoned" interest in them).
If a good car was produced
by purely natural means . . . that would not make it any less a
good one. It would make it an unusual one. . . If we were to
transport a good car from our world to a world inhabited by beings
who did not have the interests we have, it would not cease to be a
good car, though it would cease to be valued as one. A good car
does not lose its goodness if we lose our interest in
Again, it would be better to say that
the car would not cease to have the qualities deemed (by us) to be
good. Once again, Regan is confusing here certain properties of an
object with the (subject/object-dyadic) judgment (of value) made of
those properties. Shouldn't we instead say that in this strange case
it would cease to be "a good car," even if it's properties were not
altered. When he writes, above, "a good car does not lose its
goodness if we lose our interest in it," all this means is that the
car would keep the properties that we would prize if, contra the
example, we were there to evaluate it -- or, for that matter, would
keep the properties that we now value from our hypothetical
standpoint as hypothetical observers of this fanciful
Next, consider Regan's attempt to
apply his concept of objective "inherent" value to
A luxuriant gardenia, one
with abundant blossoms and rich, deep, green foliage is a better
gardenia than one that is so deformed and stunted that it puts
forth no blossoms at all, and this is quite independently of the
interests other beings happen to take in them.14
If the flower in question is to be
found in a florist shop, it is worth noting that it is an artifact --
an artificial creation, by a botanist, "assembled" from natural
(genetic) "media," and designed to appeal to human tastes. As such,
the "better" gardenia must mean "better for us," since we (or better,
"our horticulturists") selected these qualities for us. Another plant
with less blossoms and foliage might produce more pollen -- better
for a bee. Or more seeds -- better for a finch. It might be "better
for" the gardenia and/or its species (whatever that means) if it were
allowed to go to seed and reproduce! And would this cultivated plant
survive in the wild as well as it's wild relatives? Probably not.
Does that mean that it is not, after all, a "better gardenia"? Note
that these alternative "evaluations" apply differing contexts to our
analysis of the gardenia "per se." Without context, and a relatum, it
just makes no sense to talk of something as blankly
There is still worse ahead. Consider
Regan's claim that the gardenia is "good," not to the florist, or the
bee, or the finch, or even the ecosystem -- but just "good," period.
What, then, is a "bad gardenia"? A bad (or good) anything! How can we
begin to answer such a question, without placing an evaluator into
the picture, at least hypothetically (thus deriving, presumably, a
"hypothetical value"). Without an answer to such a question, or at
least a decision procedure, the notion of "inherent value" is
unbounded. If the concept lacks bounds, then everything is
"inherently good," and "goodness" fails to qualify anything at all.
"That which denotes everything, connotes nothing."
Has Regan an answer to this
objection? While he asserts that "Not everything in nature is
he offers us no means of distinguishing what is from what is
not "inherently valuable." His neglect of this task could not be more
explicit: "Two questions that I have not endeavored to answer are:
(a) what, if anything in general, makes something inherently good,
and (b) how can we know, if we can, what things are inherently
Unfortunately for Regan's argument,
and his concept of "inherent value," these are precisely the
questions that he must answer if we are to make any sense of what he
is saying. Without answers to these questions, his theory has no
meaning or justification. He has, in effect, declared conceptual
bankruptcy, by admitting that he is unprepared to "cash in" his
concept of "inherent value" in the commerce of practical moral
judgment and experience.
We turn next to the
"object/object-dyadic" view which affirms that "evaluation" implies
an "evaluator," but allows that the evaluator might be non-sentient
animals or plants (Kenneth Goodpaster, Paul Taylor), ecosystems and
landscapes (Holmes Rolston, Christopher Stone), or even rocks
O/O-D is implied by the view that
non-sentient life, even things, have "goods of their own" and
therefore interests. (Again, "O-M" holds that "inherent" values are
"in" objects; while "O/O-D" states further that these "values-in" may
also be "values-for" the object). Accordingly, the argument
continues, since such entities can be harmed or benefitted "in their
own right," they are qualified "holders of value." Christopher Stone
makes the case for plants: "The lawn tells me that it wants [or
"needs] water by a certain dryness of the blades and soil . . .
the appearance of bald spots, yellowing, and a lack of springiness
after being walked on."18
Rolston, like Goodpaster, finds value
in the basic processes and functions of life itself: "Every genetic
set is a propositional set, a normative set, proposing what ought to
be, beyond what is, on the basis of its encoded information. So it
grows, reproduces, repairs its wounds, and resists
Goodpaster finds "moral
considerability" in "tendencies" of life forms "to maintain and heal
A recurrent criticism of this
approach is that it is difficult to restrict "value," so conceived,
to life forms, and yet if this restriction is not successful, the
concept of "value- bearer," by escaping such confinement of
application, will lose significance; i.e., if everything "has value,"
then nothing does, since "value" applied to everything would fail to
qualify (distinguish) anything.21
(This is the "denotation/connotation
problem" encountered above with Regan's concept of "inherent value").
But can we "draw the line" at life itself? Consider the above cases.
First, Stone's description of what the lawn "wants" seems much closer
to the description of a car "wanting" a wash- and-wax, than that of a
dog or a human "wanting" a drink of water. Common to the lawn, dog,
and human are some biochemical functional "needs." However, unique to
the dog and the human are neural, sentient "awarenesses" of that need
-- in effect, an additional "need," not for water, but for relief
from the felt discomfort of thirst. Goodpaster's account of the
"tendencies to maintain and heal themselves" applies to physical
phenomena as well. For instance, a desert lake with no outlet has a
"tendency to maintain and heal itself." When overfilled, it extends
its area, thus increasing evaporation, and when "undernourished," it
retreats, decreasing evaporation. Do, say, the Dead Sea, or the Great
Salt Lake have a "need," still more an "interest," in maintaining
their levels? Do they, therefore have "goods of their own"? Do they
thus have "rights" and deserve "moral considerability"?
At the outset, I listed two basic
tasks of this paper: (a) to prove that "the concept of 'value'
requires an evaluator (i.e., "S/O-D), and (b) to indicate that S/O-D
need not entail an anthropocentric environmental ethic. That second
task will be facilitated by recapitulation and elaboration, and by
explicating a distinction within the subject/object-dyadic
Monadic and dyadic views of value are
distinguished by the insistence of the defenders of the dyadic views
(i.e., S/O-D and O/O-D) that values cannot stand alone, but must be
"values for" something -- a "value-bearer" (O/O-D) or "evaluator
(S/O-D). Thus, the dyadic view insists, talk of something being "just
valuable, but to nothing" is simply incoherent, like saying "its not
bigger than anything in particular -- just bigger;" or, to use an
ecological analogy, like attempting to explain "adaptation" in terms
of either "organism" or "environment," but not both.22
S/O-D parts company with O/O-D with
the further insistence that the concept of value implies an evaluator
that is at least sentient (in order to display "non-moral value
preferences"), if not reflective and self-conscious.23
Why this insistence upon sentience
(at the very least)? Because, without at least minimal feeling and
awareness, nothing can "matter" to a being.24
Though commonplace in philosophical
literature, the argument bears repeating: insects, plants, "mere
things" may be said to be "good" in the sense of having properties
"deemed good" by others. But "goodness of" these beings cannot be
"goodness for" them, if that "goodness" makes no difference to them.
To make a difference to them that is a good (or bad) for them (for
them to have "sakes" or "interests"), beings must at least have what
Feinberg calls "rudimentary cognitive equipment."25
Conversely, nothing that happens to
X, matters to X, if X is irrevocably insentient and non-conscious. In
short, if a being has no "stake" in events which affect it (having no
"good of its own"), it has neither "standing" nor "capacity" to
evaluate. It thus makes no sense to speak of such a being as an
Varieties of S/O-D might be
distinguished by their variable emphases upon the relative importance
of the two relata of the dyad. "Soft S/O-D," which emphasizes the
subjective component, is more likely to be associated with
relativistic, subjectivistic, anthropocentric and non-cognitive
theories of value, and with personal preference and aesthetic taste.
In contradistinction, "hard S/O-D," which emphasizes the objective
component, is more likely to be associated with categorical,
objectivistic and cognitivist theories of value. It is, of course,
the "hard," object-oriented S/O-D which is best equipped to claim
compatibility with a nature-centered environmental ethic.
How, then, might "hard S/O-D" be
conceived to be compatible with ecological morality? We might do so
by comparing "evaluation" with two other types of
subject/object-dyadic relations; namely, knowledge and perception.
(a) In the first case, according to "hard S/O-D", both "valuing" and
"knowing" are dyadic ("evaluator/evaluated," and "knower/known").
Both "valuing" and "knowing" identify "hard," recalcitrant components
which do not bend to our will ("facts" in knowledge, and "valued
objects" in evaluation). In both valuing and knowing the objects are
"discovered," and not arbitrarily and subjectively invented. In both
cases the "subject" being ("knower" and "evaluator") cannot be a
lifeless or insentient being. (b) In the second case, the exponent of
"hard S/O-D" might compare "valuing" to the perception of Lockean
"secondary qualities." In both instances "valuing" and "knowing" the
activity is directed "outward," and engages the objective world (in
matters of our concern, the "natural"). As before, in both instances
the content is "recalcitrant" to the will of the subject, and the
"subject" cannot be lifeless or insentient. In all cases, both relata
are necessary: without subject and object there are no values, no
knowledge and no secondary qualities. (A "fact" is not "known" by
itself; the sugar is not "sweet" unless tasted.
With these considerations in mind,
the "hard S/O-D view" is ready to accommodate the eco-moralist who
wishes not to make man the "measure" of his environmental ethic.
Consider some of these eco-moralistic "concerns." First from John
There is beauty . . . in sky
and cloud and sea, in lilies and in sunsets, in the glow of
bracken in autumn and in the enticing greenness of a leafy spring.
Nature indeed, is infinitely beautiful, and she seems to wear her
beauty as she wears color or sound. Why then should her beauty
belong to us rather than to her? [My
"Hard S/O-D" might be willing accord
to such natural values as "beauty," all the "objectivity" of "colors
and sounds" -- which, as secondary qualities, "exist" only when
perceived, and when the subject is in a position to be receptive to
the natural properties and circumstances which evoke these
Holmes Rolston rhetorically asks:
"How do we humans come to be charged up with values, if there was and
is nothing in nature charging us up so?"27
The S/O-D view has no trouble
whatever acknowledging, and even identifying, natural sources and
validations of "natural values" -- and likewise, our percepts,
knowledge and adaptations. Rolston also observes that we realize the
wilderness "to be valuable without our will."28
In light of the foregoing analyses
and analogies, hard S/O-D can agree that wilderness may be "valuable
without our will," but not, the theory insists, without our awareness
-- not that is, without an evaluator. Analogously, something is "red"
without our will but not without our awareness.
We return at last to our opening
question: Does nature, by itself, have value? Can there be "natural
values" without at least a sentient, and better still a personal,
evaluator? Perhaps we are now prepared to identify a naive realism,
similar to that described by epistemologists, at work in both the
monadic and the object/object-dyadic theories of natural value. For
when someone asks: "Does nature, 'by itself,' and/or apart from
persons or sentient beings, have value significance?", the next,
crucial responsive question might be: "Who Asks?! Of course a person
asks. That the question of "the inherent value of nature" be asked at
all means that a person is part of the landscape, if only in
imagination. In a sense, then, inquiring, morally conscious persons
have a "Midas touch" in that by simply inquiring about the value
significance of an object or a landscape, that object or landscape
gains at least potential value significance -- whether the inquiry by
a potential beneficiary, or simply by a disinterested "value
The "naive realism," just suggested,
may thus reside in the notion that one can regard nature, or even
imagine or describe it "apart from persons," and then inquire as to
whether it has value "apart from persons." But in such cases, nature
is not "apart from persons." Even to identify and describe a part of
nature places that part of nature in the context of personal
attention and notice -- to render it, ipso facto, NOT "apart from
persons." To put the matter in the "organic" and "contextual" terms
preferred by eco-moralists, in the evaluation of nature, persons
become necessary ingredients of the nature to be valued. However, to
still the qualms about "anthropocentrism," we might reiterate that
nature too is a "necessary ingredient" of the evaluation. Thus the
error of anthropocentrism may reside not in the acknowledgment that
the existence of values presupposes a subject ("evaluator"), but in a
further insistence that the "subject" of values need be the "center,"
even the arbitrary "creator," of values. This inference is
gratuitous. To say that a reflective (or, minimally, a sentient)
being must be "in the picture" for there to be evaluations, even in
imagination, does not mean that all values are to be justified in
terms of their beneficial effects upon those beings, nor does it mean
that all values exist directly "in behalf of" persons. Both
anthropocentric and nature-centered systems of environmental ethics
are defensible within the conceptual bounds of S/O-D axiology. It is
the further task of the proponents of these opposing positions to
defend their theories, and refute their rivals, within these
To summarize: The S/O-D position
claims that the scrupulous and rigorous philosopher will be unable to
avoid the conclusion that "permanently unperceived and unimagined
nature" is valueless -- "inherently," "intrinsically" and
"instrumentally" valueless. Such a conclusion, the theory insists, is
forced upon us by the logic of the concept of "value." But this is
only half the story. The other, "redeeming," half is that
"permanently unperceived and unimagined nature" is, ipso facto of no
interest whatever to evaluating creatures. Is this an anthropocentric
view? Not necessarily. For the attempt to "deal" with nature as if it
were perceived, known, or valued without human beings is ultimately
inappropriate, even incoherent. Any nature we deal with is touched,
Midas-like, with value or value-potential.
Accordingly, for those concerned with
environmental ethics, the question "are there values without
evaluating beings?" is an idle question. For the core question of
environmental ethics is "What shall we do with regard to nature?" By
its very formulation, the question requires an evaluator. It makes
little sense to claim, on the one hand, that we are seeking a code of
conduct toward nature, and then to pretend that there is any
practical significance to speculation about the ontological or
axiological status of entities in nature that are forever uninvolved
with persons -- or with any sentient beings.
If all this is not enough to reassure
the eco-moralist that his environmental ethic need not be subjective,
relativistic, and anthropocentric, then he might be enjoined to take
his preferred "holistic" perspective and contextual methodology
seriously. He should, in a word, be reminded that evaluation itself
takes place in a context -- a natural context. He might further
reiterate his insistence that human beings, and particularly their
psychological components (their "selves"), are natural entities.
These selves evolve from natural sources, and are sustained by
natural processes. In the evaluation of nature, the subject does not
"encounter" its object, spectator-like, as much as it is "encompassed
by" its object. In short, in natural evaluation, the human subject is
both "within" the natural context of evaluation, and the personal and
phylogenetic product of natural contexts.29
Surely all this provides ample
conceptual and theoretical resources for a non-anthropocentric
An anonymous critic asks: [Isn't
S/O-D really] "an ethical theory that provides a unified setting
for (and thus an account of) various ethical notions? Other theories
(other proposed organizations of concepts, e.g. Regan's) are
possible, and the question is then: which is preferable?"
I reply that this essay is an attempt
to display the "preferability" of S/O-D. But to respond directly to
the question: by describing "value" as he does, Regan is not
describing something that is coherent with normal usage of "value."
Of course, he is entitled to use value in his own way, provided his
unique sense of "value" (as property, or causal function, or
disposition) is clearly defined and seen to be distinct from the
ordinary use of "value." But it isn't. While Regan's notion of
"inherent value" may have a "solid core" of acceptable meaning (akin
to Rolston's 'value-gens'), he attempts to attach thereto some
connotations, senses, qualities and implications of the conventional
sense of "value" (as values to someone), thus "exporting" the notion
of "mattering" into the objective world. That this is more than a
terminological dispute is demonstrated by the "science-fiction
thought experiments" early in the paper. I claim that my concept of
value ("S/O-D) is "preferable" in that it coheres better with (a) our
general understanding of the nature of the physical world, (b) our
understanding of the encounters of living organisms and nervous
systems with that world, and (c) the clear, conventional and
functioning usage of such "value talk" as "subjective," "objective,"
and, yes, "values" and "evaluation."
Values at Stake: Does Anything Matter?
A Response to Ernest Partridge
Holmes Rolston, III
In this essay, Holmes Rolston responds to Ernest Partridge's "conventional"
or "normal" account that something only has value if there is a valuer to
value it. He characterizes Partridge's position as a
"light-in-the-refrigerator” theory. “Nothing inside is of value until I open
the door and the light comes on.” He asks us to consider growth and
maintenance that, without any sentient awareness, still possess a good and
can be benefitted. He then develops his points in terms of evolutionary
Environmental ethics cares about nature, and this requires an account of
values in nature. Ernest Partridge develops the “conventional" or “normal"
account: Values are at stake if and only if something "matters" to somebody
there. He worries about "environmental extremists" like myself, who have a
more radical account, claiming (as I do answering the question "Are values
in nature subjective or objective?") that significant natural values are
already there before anybody, such as an environmentalist, comes along to
evaluate these things. Though Partridge is a friend of many years and though
we both care a great deal about conserving nature, I worry that his dyadic
position is extraneously narrow, a product of lingering Cartesian dualism,
separating mind and matter, too long dominant in Western philosophy. Let's
sort this out.
Certain kinds of valuing indisputably require humans, who are "subjects" in
the philosophical sense, beings with subjective or experiential life. This
is true with artifacts, like cars, which do not have a good of their own but
only a good conferred on them their owners, and even gardenias, if these are
cultivated by florists. This is true with aesthetic experiences of nature,
as of the beauty of autumn leaves. But is it true with all values in nature,
for instance, in the genus Gardenia., with its sixty wild species, evergreen
shrubs in subtropical parts of China, Japan, and Africa? I will set aside
astronomical and geomorphological nature, the moons of Jupiter, or rocks
deep in Earth, or some lifeless canyon or river, and focus on our native
range landscapes, where there is always some biotic community.
Here humans value, or evaluate, various things, and events, such as whooping
cranes or the hydrologic cycle; they take an interest in them. A value
relationship comes into being where it did not exist before. Such valuing can
be either anthropocentric (the hydrologic cycle as instrumental to our water supply) or anthropogenic, generated by humans but
not centered on humans (a whooping crane valued by humans as good by itself
without our making any use of it). Such valuing also requires properties in
nature that are objective (water recycles; the endangered cranes migrate
annually); Partridge wants to be “hard” about these properties.
Are all values in nature of this kind? The answer I am defending is: No,
some values are discovered, found “inherent” in nature (to use the term
Partridge dislikes), and not generated in the interactive experiences of the
conscious human subject. The general strategy of "Are values in nature
subjective or objective?" is to lead the reader across a spectrum of values
that, while remaining relational through much of the course of the argument,
shifts toward less of the human contribution and more awareness of
"properties" that are found in nature, until at length the reader is forced
to ask whether these processes and their products might not be already
valuable before humans are “in the picture.”
Consider a whooping crane defending its own life, or the wild gardenias
synthesizing glucose using photosynthesis, converting this to starch, and
storing energy. The animals, sometimes, will be subjects of their own lives,
and they too will have their preferences, simplified perhaps, but in some
respects more or less like our own. So the humanistic account does have to
be extended to sentient animals – and this will include the cranes. So far,
Partridge will agree. But most animals (crustaceans, insects) have little or
no subjective life, and all plants have only objective life, being devoid of
nervous systems and felt experiences.
Such a living organism is, I maintain, a being with a good of its own.
Something is of value in the biological though not the psychological sense.
This claim Partridge finds extreme and incredible. "Is anybody there?" If
the answer is no, if there is no conscious evaluator, no subject of
experience, not even possibly, then all possibility of value lapses. When
human subjects are not present, the subjectivists give a dispositional twist
to value, Partridge's “hypothetical value." To say that n is valuable means
that n is able to be valued, if and when a human valuer, H, comes along, but
n has these properties, whether or not a human arrives. Intrinsic and
instrumental values in the realized sense emerge relationally with the
appearance of the subject-generator.
But is nothing of any value to, or for, or in a plant? Plants, like all
other organisms, are self actualizing. A plant is not a subject, bur neither
is it an inanimate object like a stone. Plants, quite alive, arc unified
entities of the botanical though not of the zoological kind – that is, they
are not unitary organisms highly integrated with a centered neural control,
but they are modular organisms with a meristem that can repeatedly and
indefinitely produce new vegetative modules, additional stem nodes and
leaves when there is available space and resources, as well as new
reproductive modules, fruits, and seeds.
Plants make themselves; they repair injuries; they move water, nutrients,
and photosynthate from cell to cell; they make tannin and other toxins and
regulate their levels in defense against grazers; they make nectars and emit
pheromones to influence the behavior of pollinating insects and the
responses of other plants; they emit allelopathic agents to suppress
invaders; they make thorns, trap insects. They can reject genetically
incompatible grafts. Such capacities can be "vital," a description with
values built into it.
Partridge protests: Nothing "matters" to a plant; a plant is without
"minimally sentient awareness." But, though things do not matter to plants,
a great deal matters for them. We ask, of a failing plant, what's the matter
with that plant? If it is lacking sunshine and soil nutrients and we arrange
for these, we say, “the tree is benefitting from them"; and benefit is –
everywhere else we encounter it—a value word. Objectively, biologists
regularly speak of the "survival value” of plant activities.
Consider, more fundamentally, the evolutionary ecosystems out of which we
human valuers originated, along with myriads of other species, including
those plants. Can we not view ecosystems or, more broadly, the planetary
biospheric system as value-generating systems, and in a real sense
value-able, able to generate value? In this connection, I use the word
projective to move beyond subjective and objective, a wordplay intended to
stimulate analysis. Project suggests some activity "thrown forward'; earthen
nature is projective nature.(31) Nature
generates the diverse marine and terrestrial environments; solar energy
irradiated over matter produced, primevally, the chemical incubation of
life. Over the millennia, there is natural selection for adapted fit; there
appear the myriads of species filling up their habitats. There is extinction
and respeciation. Forests repeatedly evolve, and so on. That is not
subjective nature; but such nature is not mere object, not passive or inert
until acted upon; it is “projective nature." This generativity is the most
fundamental meaning of the term nature, "to give birth.”
This self-organizing has been called
autupoiesis, and there are excellent scientific analyses of this spontaneous
generation of complex, living order.(32)
Partridge's mistake is to insist on the "necessity of a subjective
evaluator' for all these values, "a sentient, and better still a personal,
evaluator.” I too insist on subjective evaluator for some kinds of natural
values, such as a person enjoying a sunset. But not for all kinds. "The
sugar is not 'sweet' unless tasted,” but the sugar is valuable to the plant
whether or not we ever capture it for our tastes. I do hold that '"’value'
is [sometimes] an objective quality to he discovered in natural things"
(what Partridge terms an O-M theory). I also hold that "something can be
'good for' a plant 'itself,' in its own right” (what Partridge terms an
O/O-D) theory). I prefer here just to say that the plant values its own life
intrinsically (or inherently for those who prefer that term) and makes
instrumental use Of the nutrients and the sunshine. (Even crystals can he
harmed, and some of the earthen generativity that we value is prebiotic, but
let's stay with biology for the present. That will suffice to get us out of
Partridge's psychological fixation.)
Partridge insists that only sentient beings will count as evaluators or
valuer bearers, and preferably those that are "reflective and
self-conscious," his S/O-D theory. There must he somebody there. Value thus
requires subjectivity to coagulate it in the world – the legacy of Cartesian
dualism. But this confuses someone who evaluates and realizes that value is
present whether or not value found to be present was previously there. In
technical terms, this confuses the epistemology of value with the ontology
of value. Those issues can sometimes overlap, with the kinds that do come
into being as and when they are realized and known. But the two do not
always overlap. Value may first be there ontologically and only later
consciously, epistemologically evaluated.
In less technical terms, Partridge has a light-in-the-refrigerator theory.
Nothing inside is of value until I open the door and the light comes on. Put
a little differently, we humans carry the lamp that lights up value,
although we require the fuel that nature provides. In Partridge's metaphor,
humans have "the Midas touch";(33) nothing
is worth anything until our touch turns it into gold. Actual value is an
event in our consciousness, though natural items while still in the dark of
value have potential intrinsic or instrumental value. Perhaps with
refrigerators, what's inside is only of value because the person desires the
food. Perhaps with gold, we humans have to light up a desire for it. But in
nature a great deal is going on in the dark, outside of our evaluating
Well, yes – the subjectivists may reluctantly admit – you have a point that,
in a biological sense, there are functional values in nature, and natural
selection is for survival value. But nevertheless the "scrupulous and
rigorous philosopher will be unable to avoid the conclusion that
'permanently unperceived and unimagined nature' is valueless." The careful
philosopher will put this kind of "value" in scare quotes. This is not
really value at all, because there is no felt experience choosing from
alternatives, no preferences being exercised, nobody there enjoying
anything. Such so-called value is not of interest to philosophers because it
is not a value with interest in itself. These are only "properties" in
plants or in evolutionary ecosystems, not "values" located there.
But why is the organism not valuing what it is making resources of? – not
consciously, but we do not wail to presume that there is only conscious
value or valuing. That is what we are debating, not assuming, and the
scrupulous philosopher will insist on better analysis. The "no value without
a valuer" account can seem persuasive, just as there are no thoughts without
a thinker, no tickles without somebody there. The claim is indeed true of
some kinds of value. But values are not always felt, unlike tickles; and
values do not always have to be thought about. Insentient organisms are the
holders of value, although not the beholders of value.
Partridge's account is too psychological, too personality. Though his
subjective evaluators are sufficient for value, a sentient valuer is not
necessary for value, not in a more biological, ecological, evolutionary
account. Another way is for there to be a life defended, in an individual
and in a species line. Another way is for there to be a value-generating
system able to generate value., such as the panorama of natural history. If
you like, this introduces a revised meaning of valuer; any x is a valuer if
x is value-able, able to produce or defend values.
Man is the measure of things, said Protagoras. "Persons become necessary
ingredients of the nature to be valued," says Partridge, with emphasis.
True, humans are the only evaluators who can reflect about what is going on
on Earth and what they ought to do to conserve it. When humans do this, they
must set up the scales; and in thus sense humans are the measurers things.
Animals, organisms, species, and ecosystems can not teach us how to do this
evaluating. But the axiological judgments that we make do not always
constitute the value, any more than the scientific scales we erect create
what we thereby measure.
Humans are not so much lighting up value in a merely potentially valuable
world as they are psychotically joining a planetary history, finding
themselves "encompassed by" life ongoing. The valuing subject in an
otherwise valueless world is an insufficient premise for the experienced
conclusions of those who value such natural history. The "naive realism" is
not in those environmental extremists who find values really there; it is in
the humanists who think only persons are somebody enough to bring real
values into the world.
Discovering a World of Values
Rarely have I felt more troubled while composing a paper, than I
felt while at work on "Values in Nature," for that analysis of the
concept of "value" led me toward a conclusion that I dearly wished to
avoid, and away from positions that I cherished -- positions defended
and expounded by first-rate eco-philosophers such as Holmes
And yet, how could I make any sense of a "value" without an
"evaluator" that was in any significant sense different from a simple
"property"? Try as I might, I could not. And so, what remained was a
steadfast attempt to avoid the traps of anthropocentrism and
subjectivism that seemed to be entailed by the "soft S/OD" to which
my argument apparently led me. If I was to avoid those "traps," it
would be by insisting that a sentient "evaluator" was not the
center of evaluation but rather a necessary
ingredient thereof ("hard S/OD"); in other words, that
nature is indeed rich in valu-able things, properties,
potentialities and events, ready to be discovered -- all of great
worth, once an evaluator enters the picture, even if only
hypothetically and in contemplation.
Holmes Rolston replies that this is not enough -- that I remain
trapped in my "extremely narrow" anthropocentrism and bewitched by
Cartesian dualism. But is it not possible that our positions are in
fact closer than he contends, and that neither of us are
That will be my contention.
Just what is the nature of our difference? Is it factual,
terminological, or in some sense deeply ontological/epistemological? Rolston sees a "deep" disagreement. I'm more inclined to see much if
not most of our difference to be a matter of language, and scarcely,
if at all, factual.
That our differences are not factual can be recognized at once by
my failure to find any dispute as to the facts presented by Rolston.
All that he reminds us about the properties of plants -- that they
"repair injuries; they move water, nutrients and photsynthate from
sell to cell" (etc.) -- I grant. Similarly, I accept without
qualification his description of the properties of animals, and his
eloquent account of evolution. How could I do otherwise and be
Still more, I do not for a moment deny that "in nature a great
deal is going on ... outside of our evaluating consciousness," and I
fully endorse the naturalistic view that human life, culture and
consciousness have evolved out of, are contingent upon, and are in
constant commerce with natural events and process -- indeed that
human life culture and consciousness are "natural
processes." Thus I find the accusation of "Cartesian dualism" to be
However, when, from my "non-Cartesian" naturalistic perspective, I
encounter Rolston's description of life-processes as
"self-actualizing, I am put on my philosophical guard. While, in a
loose, descriptive sense, I will accept that term of
"self-actualizing," I have some qualms about the Aristotelian baggage
that the term carries with it. Instead, I accept the rather
conventional "history of science" view that Aristotelian "final
causes" (at least in the realm of natural objects and processes)
proved to be much more a hindrance than an asset to scientific
inquiry. The explanatory scheme, "things happen in nature because
that's what they are supposed to do" has proven, historically, to be
a thought-stopper, and the development of modern science has amply
demonstrated that we are well rid of it. The more modern Darwinian
view, which I accept, is that variant individuals with traits
conducive to self-repair and effective defense, have thus survived to
pass these traits on to their successors -- and that these so-called
"self-actualizing vital processes" are therefore the result of prior
conditions ("efficient causes") rather than a fundamental
"entelechy" or "final cause." If it is the latter view that
Rolston defends, then our differences are deep and ontological, and
he posits a foundation for "objective value" that I find
Early in his rebuttal, Rolston elects to "set aside" examples of
"astronomical and geomorphological nature .. [or] some
lifeless canyon or river..." If find this unfortunate, since these
are paradigm cases for my argument. Is this "setting aside" a
concession to my argument? While I would like to believe so, I will
leave that for the reader to judge. For the rest, let us accept
Rolston's ground rules and deal with putative "values" in the "biotic
That Rolston accepts at the very least an "object/object-dyadism"
might be seen through a close examination of his example of the life
of a tree. The so-called "values for" that tree (note my "warning
quotes") are conditions that conduce to the health and long-life of
the tree, including defense and repair mechanisms that will make that
same tree inhospitable to invading fungi and beetles. All this is
"good for" the tree, but "bad for" the beetles. And if the beetles
succeed in invading the tree this is both "bad for" the tree, and
"good for," not only the beetles, but also the woodpeckers which will
feast on them, and the squirrels which will make good use of the
woodpecker holes, and so on. To cite another arboreal example: fire is a "disvalue for" shade-tolerant trees such as oaks,
and a "value for" cottonwoods and aspens. But all this is
commonplace: any good ecologist, such as Rolston, knows that in
nature "you can not do just one thing," and, to state its axiological
corollary, "in nature, there are no simple, unqualified 'goods' and
'bads'." I would go further: the only so-called "values" in the
biotic community, are "values-for" some organism, and by implication
"disvalues-for" some other. There are no detached, ownerless
"values-as such." "Object-monadism" is thus rejected. (Recall that
Rolston has chosen to "set aside" a consideration of abiotic
So, it seems to me that Rolston is committed to dyadism at the
very least. What remains is the question of whether we have a
substantive dispute regarding the alleged distinction between
"subject/object" and "object/object" dyadism.
Rolston contends that there are "values for" organisms without
interests, such as plants and insects, though not for artifacts.
Recall his argument:
"But though things do not matter to plants, a great deal
matters for them. We ask, of a failing plant, "what's the
matter with that plant? If it is lacking sunshine and soil
nutrients, and we arrange for these, we say, "The tree is benefiting from them; and
benefit is -- everywhere else we encounter it
-- a value word.
Unfortunately, this test of our linguistic sense accomplishes too
much for Rolston, for don't we also say as much for artifacts: for
example, "it is good-for your car if you change the oil," or
"it will benefit your car if you keep the ignition tuned up."
It seems, then, that "values talk" migrates from its home base of
"values-to interested beings," to colonize discourse about insentient
life, or even abiotic nature and lifeless artifacts. But does all this
linguistic drift have much bearing on our essential question: namely, "Is
there a significant difference between 'values for'
sentient and contemplative beings (i.e., beings with interests), and
'values for' insentient beings;" a
difference that is worth the attention of philosophers -- whatever
terms we might use to denote this difference.
I submit that there is. Quite simply, the former array of values
matter -- to identifiable beings with interests (which must
exist, if anything is to "matter" at all). The latter set of
"values," until they are (contra hypothesis) noticed or
contemplated by sentient or reflective beings, matter not a bit to
anyone or anything. It does not "matter" to a tree if it is struck
down by lightning, though its vital processes end -- in a manner well
explicated by the science of botany. And it is of little if any
concern to a beetle if it becomes woodpecker food. That these events
are described as "bad for" the tree or beetle, while perfectly clear
in their meaning, does nothing to erase the value distinction
between, on the one hand, the rotting of a live tree on an
undiscovered island, and, on the other hand, a fatal infection of a
If Rolston wishes to describe the former as a "disvalue for" the
tree, I am content with this -- as his chosen usage of the word
"value." Indeed, I'll say as much in my unguarded and casual
conversation. However, to retain this essential distinction, I would
prefer to call such terminal circumstances in the lives of the
hypothetical tree or beetle as "events" or "sets of properties,"
and confine the term "value" to contexts which include "evaluators."
But whatever the exigencies of vocabulary, it is philosophically
essential that this distinction, with the criteria of "interest" and
"mattering" be maintained.
In sum, I remain convinced that the sort of "values" to which an
ethicist should take special note, require an evaluator --
minimally sentient, but with regard to values of most
concern to human beings, an evaluator that is reflective and
rational. Though apparently anthropocentric and subjective, on closer
inspection, the "subject/object dyadism" that I defend is a generous
conception that is less subjectivist, less anthropocentric, and more
compatible with an "ecological point of view" than Rolston contends
it to be. For while evaluators are necessary to evaluation, they are
As "ingredients" in the "evaluation transaction," evaluators do
not create or invent values, they discover
them -- a point of emphatic agreement with Rolston. Our disagreement
appears to be my contention that things unnoticed by and unaffecting
of evaluators are, as such, without actual value, though
they may be of great potential value -- or of
hypothetical value when contemplated.
In this sense, I argue, values are very much like such secondary
qualities as colors, which are "in" things, are discovered,
and yet do not exist except when perceived. (The sugar does
not sit "sweetly" on the cupboard shelf). Regrettably, this
analogy of values with secondary qualities, crucial to my argument,
is missing from Rolston's reply.
If values in nature are as I describe them, then they exist all
around us, in (by definition) all the nature that we can ever
encounter, think about, imagine and cherish. What more value could we
possibly need to totally involve our environmental concern, our
commitment, and our love?
Copyright 1984 and 1996 by Ernest Partridge
Philosophical Inquiry, 1986, 8:1-2, Reprinted in
Environmental Ethics, ed. Louis Pojman (Wadsworth, 1997). This paper has benefitted from critical comments by
Holmes Rolston, Dale Jamieson, and two anonymous referees for the
University of Georgia conference on "Environmental Ethics: New
Directions" (October 4-6, 1984) at which it was read.
2. Actually, this
is something of a simplification of my view of human evaluation,
which is more in tune with C. S. Peirce's triadic analysis of meaning.
However, that interpretation will not be compromised by an adequate
defense here of the simpler subject/object dyadic view, which the
triadic analysis builds upon.
3. Holmes Rolston,
"Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective?" Environmental Ethics,
4:2 (Summer, 1982), p. 139.
4. S/O-D is open
to a wide variety of interpretations, with ethical non-cognitivists
emphasizing the subjective component of the relationship, and
cognitivists emphasizing the objective component. I make use of this
distinction in the final portion of this paper.
5. Dale Jamieson
suggests that the answer to this question might be affirmative, due
to "the preferences of the dead" (when alive) to have the Taj Mahal
preserved. My disagreement with this view may be found in my
"Posthumous Interest and Posthumous Respect," Ethics, 91:2 (January,
1981), pp. 243-64.
6. Tom Regan, "The
Nature and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic," Environmental
Ethics, 3:1 (Spring, 1981) pp 19, 30-1. (Reprinted in All that Dwell
Within, University of California Press, 1982). The following two pages
"import" an excerpt from my critique of that book, "Two Wrong Leads in a Search for an
Environmental Ethic," Ethics and Animals, 3, Sept. 1984.
7. "The Nature and
Possibility of an Environmental Ethic," op. cit., pp
9. Holmes Rolston
(who shares Regan's distrust of the S/O-D approach, but not his O-M
response) forthrightly expresses the eco-moralists' suspicions of
Values, it is typically
said, form no part of nature, but only come with the human
response to the world. This seems at once objective about nature
and humane toward persons, but it also yields a value structure in
the scientific West more anthropocentric by several orders of
magnitude than were any of the value systems of classical,
Oriental, and primitive world views which have succumbed before
Rolston, "Are Values in Nature
Subjective or Objective?" Environmental Ethics, 4:2 (Summer, 1982, p.
10. "What Sorts
of Beings Can Have Rights?", in Regan, op. cit., 177.
11. Because I do
not necessarily wish to embrace an interest theory of value here, I
would say that "attention and interest" are necessary for value,
though not sufficient. Otherwise, we are perilously close to
subjectivism and relativism.
12. "What Sorts
of Beings Can Have Rights?", op. cit., 177.
13. If these
"good" qualities are thought of as "goods of" the car, then the
concept is monadic. If "good for" the car, or "in the interest of the
car," then they may be thought of as object/object-dyadic values. If
this seems a quibble, the triviality of the distinction between "good
of" and "good for" only serves to indicate what I already suspect;
namely, that the difference between O-M and O/O-D is of little
14. "What Sorts
of Beings Can Have Rights?", op. cit., 179.
15. "The Nature
and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic," op. cit., 31.
Goodpaster, "On Being Morally Considerable," Journal of Philosophy,
LXXV:6 (June, l978); Paul Taylor, "The Ethics of Respect for Nature,"
Environmental Ethics, 3:3 (Fall, 1981; Holmes Rolston (as noted
here); Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing, Los Altos, CA:
Kaufmann, 1974; Roderick Nash, "Do Rocks Have Rights," The Center
Magazine, November-December, l977 (Essentially the same essay has
appeared in several different publications).
18. Stone, op.
Rolston, "Values Gone Wild," Inquiry 26 91983): 181-20, p.
op. cit, p. 319.
21. Such is the
criticism of W. Morton Hunt in "Are Mere Things Morally
Considerable?". Environmental Ethics, 2:2 (Spring, l980), pp.
22. Defenders of
the monadic view ("values in"), such as Regan, are by no means
excluded from accepting the dyadic interpretation ("values for") as
well. The lines are drawn by the refusal of O/O-D to embrace O-M, or
of S/O-D to accept either.
23. These, along
with several other traits which constitute personhood, qualify the
being to make "moral value judgments". I could say (and have said)
much more about the significance of "personhood" to moral evaluation,
and of the distinction between "moral" and non-moral" values.
However, space limitations forbid elaboration. (See my "Nature as a
Moral Resource," Environmental Ethics 6:2 (1984), and the
Introduction to Responsibilities to Future Generations (Prometheus,
1981). For views similar to my own regarding the concept of a
"person", see Mary Anne Warren's, "On the Moral and Legal Status of
Abortion," The Monist, 57:1 (Jan., 1973), pp. 52-7. My views
regarding "moral values" and "non-moral values" are reflected in
William Frankena's Ethics, 2nd ed., (Prentice Hall, l973), Chs. I and
24. Feinberg, op.
cit., p. 54.
26. Study in
Realism, Cambridge England: University Press, 1920, p. 129. (Quoted
by Rolston in "Are Values In Nature...," loc. cit, 126.
27. Rolston, "Are
Values in Nature...," p. 138.
"Values Gone Wild," p. 199.
29. For a
splendid account of the "ecology" and the "natural history" of
natural evaluation, see Rolston, "Are Values in Nature ...,"
especially pp. 134-8.
30. These closing
considerations open up a rich panorama of axiological, ethical, and
other philosophical issues, which we cannot pursue this late in the
presentation. I can only note, at this conclusion, that the
literature on the topic of the "natural" origins and affinities of
the self, and of "the ecology of evaluation" is rich, extensive,
suggestive and, I believe, ultimately supportive of at least the
possibility of both a subject/object- dyadic theory of value and a
nature-centered environmental ethic. In my judgment, the best
contemporary work in this field of "environmental axiology" is by
Holmes Rolston, notwithstanding my disagreements with Rolston, explored below.
31. "Projective nature" is also meant contrast with those who take value
to he a "projection" of humans of humans onto nature, something that humans
generate when they encounter an otherwise valueless nature, rather like
Partridge's dyadic account.
32. Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, Autopoiesis and
Cognition: The Realiztion of the Living (Dordrect/Boston: Reidel, 1980; John
Tyler Bonner, The Evolution of Complexity by Means of Natural Selection
(Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press, 1988); Stuart A. Kauffman, The
Origins of Order; Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1993).
33. Perhaps not a happy metaphor, since the fable is about person
who tragically mislocates the sources of value.
34. I hereby repent of the provocative opening
sentence of my 1986 paper, with it's allusion to Barry Goldwater's
generally forgotten 1964 acceptance speech ("... extremism in the
defense of liberty is no sin..."). Perhaps my rhetorical enthusiasm
got the better of me.
35. Yet note Rolston's remark: "Though
[Partridge's] subjective evaluators are sufficient for
value..." Either he has misread my argument, or I have presented it
poorly. Let the reader decide.