I could not give a better name for this theory, so I call it "Instrumentalist value theory". According to this theory nothing is intrinsically valuable. Nothing and no one can be treated as ends, but only as means. This in no way means being disrespectful towards others, because it is possible to get positive experience from respecting others (and therefore being respectful acquires instrumental value).

Satisfaction and dissatisfaction also are not intrinsically valuable: they helped people to survive and pass natural selection. Passing natural selection also is not intrinsically valuable... In the end for something to be intrinsically valuable there must be prime cause, but even if there is one, it is incomprehensible for our minds.

Further, there is no difference between "morally bad" and "bad in amoral sense". E.g. a bad pen is the one that does not write. The purpose of pen is to write and we want a pen to write, that's why the pen that does not write is bad. A human is bad when [s]he does what we wish them not to do: commiting crimes, abuse others, being greedy, etc. Animal also can be bad: rabid dog is bad because it's dangerous. There should be some actions taken in order for that dog not to infect people with rabies.

There can be some values which are universal: no sane person wants to live in unstable society where you can easily be killed, robbed, raped, etc. But there are some subjective and emotive values as well: some people do not like LGBT, while some people (not necessarily LGBT themselves) find it acceptable for them to exist.

Anything can be valuable only on a two-dimensional scale: aesthetical dimension and effective dimension. "Aesthethical" describes things which people like or don't like without any explanation. Why is pizza tasty? No reason. "Effective" describes what is useful or harmful. Mercury ointment is a harmful medicine, because it does not cure, but only causes more health problems. Effective values, in contrast with aesthetical, always can be shown by "because". While aesthetical values can be taken for intrinsic, nothing exists for its own sake. So, they are instrumental.

The one who wants to kill me at the same time choosing inflatable sword as a weapon over real knife, is wrong in effective sense. At the same time his actions are aesthetically unpleasing to me, because I do not want to die.

In this case "moral" can be seen as some kind of subset on given scale. But I find "morality" redundant. Like we don't need a separate term for a broken guitar, we don't need moral values, because everything can be shown to lie on this two-dimensional scale.

This theory denies the use of "morality", yet produces some propositions about actions considered moral/immoral. This leaves me the question: is this theory morally nihilistic? Is it philosophical or scientific? Ethics are considered to be a philosophy but if I reject morality, do I put it to the science?

  • A rabid dog is not bad it is just in an unfortunate situation for the dog, it's good for the rabies! Jun 1, 2018 at 9:14
  • @CallumBradbury, it's bad for the society and many individuals. Bad is not universal concept. Lion is bad for its prey, too fast animal that can run away from the lion is bad for the lion.
    – rus9384
    Jun 1, 2018 at 9:17
  • This is definitely philosophy and not science, but the rest is too vague to say. "Nothing is intrinsically valuable" can even cover religious ethics, it is God that supplies the value, and ethics with socially constructed values are typically not considered nihilistic. Some do use the term Ethical Instrumentalism, see Biehl 's paper.
    – Conifold
    Jun 1, 2018 at 22:58
  • @Conifold, then if we assume any value could have its price (in currency, just an extreme example) this would not be nihilistic?
    – rus9384
    Jun 2, 2018 at 0:44
  • 1
    Moral nihilism means, literally, that nothing is morally wrong, there is no morality of any sort, not that there are no "intrinsic" values or "objective" norms. That is simply the denial of moral realism/objectivism. Not even moral skeptics, like Hume or Mackie, are nihilists, one is a sentimentalist, and the other a consequentialist. I am not sure what "value having its price" means outside of utilitarian context, but utilitarianism is not nihilism either. And denying that, say, humor is objectively intrinsic to some texts need not be nihilism about humor.
    – Conifold
    Jun 2, 2018 at 1:10


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