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Abstract

We, human beings, sometimes distinguish between ends that we value—like helping our friends—and ends that we do not value—like smoking cigarettes. What accounts for the distinction between what we value and what we don’t? My dissertation argues that ends we value are those we desire rationally. In making rational desires constitutive of valuing, I integrate two basic intuitions: (1) that what we value consists in what we desire; (2) that we value what we consider justified. These two intuitions have often been seen as incompatible, giving rise to an ongoing debate between a Kantian tradition that privileges the first at the expense of the second, and a Humean tradition that maintains the reverse view. I intervene in the contemporary iteration of this debate between neo-Kantians and neo-Humeans by arguing for a third, neo-Hegelian account, according to which the two intuitions are not only compatible but bound together. On my account, one values desired ends one conceives of as justified, and the way they are justified is through their furthering and sustaining relations to other ends that one desires. In other words, the justificatory and desiderative characteristics of valuing are interdependent. To flesh out this interdependence, I develop a holistic account of justifications, inspired by Aristotle’s doctrine of the unity of virtues, in which desired ends mutually justify each other and determine the contents of each other. Moreover, I demonstrate that this kind holism—organic holism—is immune to the long-standing objections of circularity leveled against holistic accounts of justifications.

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