Wartość życia podmiotowego z perspektywy nauki

Przeglad Filozoficzny - Nowa Seria 18 (3 (71)):81-96 (2009)
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In the evolution of the vertebrates and probably a few other animals (Metazoa), biological values have been translated (subjectivized) into affective experience that necessarily involves the consciousness of external objects/events (as different from one’s body), which is tantamount to the origins of subjectivity. Mammals, birds and other vertebrates are experiencing subjects even though their negative and positive experience greatly vary in scope. Some mammals are capable of vicarious experience and may act as empathic agents, and some of them, at least the great apes, use true reflective self-consciousness and thus perceive themselves as agents, which generates attributive feelings. The balance of positive and negative experience determines the intrinsic value of (an individual) life. Every subjective life is autotelic in striving to maximize this balance. A subjective life may also have a social value that is measured in terms of the impact on intrinsic values of other lives. The social value of life is contingent upon an agency, that is, conscious intentional actions that impact intrinsic value of other lives. The difference between the social value of a subjective life and an instrumental value of an individual comes down to the difference between agent causation and event causation. The moral agency refers to a subcategory of agent causation that involves the awareness of impact on another subject’s wellbeing (interests). The moral agency is at present known only in the hominids (including the chimpanzees) which understand causality and use reflective self-consciousness, which in turn enables them to perceive themselves as agents and attribute to themselves responsibility. The moral agency originated as a motivational mechanism of reciprocity execution , and thus as an adaptation for group life, which is why it favors ingroup members and often promotes norms that harm other groups. The human moral agency is frequently used by third parties to implement group norms that are based on ideologies (religious or secular) and may actually harm both group members and the entire groups. Any received, bioculturally evolved morality is unlikely to be good in either absolute or universal sense. Therefore, the moral capacity alone does not make a human life categorically more valuable, even if human motivation were dominated by moral agency (which is true only of some people). The life of a vertebrate has, therefore, two values, intrinsic and social. Each can be negative or positive, and may vary to a large extent independently of the other, whereby a joint value of a subjective life cannot be sensibly assessed and compared without prior assessments of the intrinsic and social component separately. In the absence of objective reasons to rate the intrinsic value of a human life as categorically higher than that of other mentally advanced mammals, and in consideration of the observed range of social values of human lives, some of which approach zero and some are highly negative (lower than any thinkable negative values of non-human lives), the doctrine of extraordinary and inalienable (innate) human „dignity” is groundless and unethical, as it leads to a depreciation of the lives of non-human subjects, and often preempts the need to impart a real social value to one’s own life.

Author's Profile

Andrzej Elzanowski
Warsaw University


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