In James Wright (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition). Elsevier. pp. 21-26 (2015)
Abstract‘Value pluralism’ as traditionally understood is the metaphysical thesis that there are many values that cannot be ‘reduced’ to a single supervalue. While it is widely assumed that value pluralism is true, the case for value pluralism depends on resolution of a neglected question in value theory: how are values properly individuated? Value pluralism has been thought to be important in two main ways. If values are plural, any theory that relies on value monism, for example, hedonistic utilitarianism, is mistaken. The plurality of values is also thought to raise problems for rational choice. If two irreducibly distinct values conflict, it seems that there is no common ground that justifies choosing one over the other. The metaphysical plurality of values does not, however, have the implications for rational choice that many have supposed. A charitable interpretation of value pluralist writings suggests a ‘nonreductive’ form of value pluralism. Nonreductive value pluralism maintains that in the context of practical choice, there are differences between values—whether or not those values reduce to a single supervalue—that have important implications for rational choice. This article examines the main arguments for metaphysical value pluralism, argues that metaphysical value pluralism does not have certain implications that it is widely thought to have, and outlines three forms of nonreductive value pluralism.
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