SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Properties and the Value of Persons
(Ethics, English)

Properties and the Value of Persons


We, persons, are of value, at least in the sense that we warrant non-instrumental moral concern. Philosophers have attempted to explain this value of persons with accounts of what I'll call "the grounding property": the property of persons that grounds the value of persons. For example, many philosophers have argued that we have value in virtue of certain rational capacities, while others have claimed our value is grounded in the capacity for certain welfare states.

Here, however, I turn to a closely related but largely overlooked question: How do properties ground the value of persons? Specifically, what is the relation between any given person, x, and the grounding property, p, such that x has value in virtue of p? As I show, this is a question that is prior to identifying the grounding property. For one, it is a question that can be settled independently of an account of the grounding property, and moreover, how we conceptualize the grounding relation will limit the properties that could plausibly be identified as the grounding property. Identifying the grounding relation is thus a question that must be settled prior to identifying the grounding property, and which, correspondingly, can be used to critique existent accounts of the grounding property.

Indeed, I argue that most accounts of the value of persons fail precisely because they rest on untenable conceptions of the grounding relation. Most accounts assume what I call "the derivative model" of the grounding relation: that the value of persons is derived from the value of some property. But this is backwards: it is persons that are primarily of value, not properties. Hence, derivative models fail as accounts of the grounding relation, as do the accounts of the grounding property that assume this model.

Consequently, what is needed is an account of the grounding relation that does not sublimate the value of persons to the value of a property. I consider recent proposals made by Christine Korsgaard and Nandi Theunissen, but show that they also fail to avoid this problem. I therefore end by tentatively proposing what I call "the constitutive model": the properties that ground our value must be properties that are constitutive of our very identity. Moreover, this means the problems of personal identity and of the value of persons are intertwined.

Chair: Silvana Pani
Time: 11:20-11:50, 08 September 2022 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.005
Remark: (Online Talk)

Shmuel Gomes 
(University of California, Riverside, United States)

Testability and Meaning deco