Irreplaceability and Unique Value

Philosophical Topics 32 (1&2):111-129 (2004)
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This essay begins with a consideration of one way in which animals and persons may be valued as “irreplaceable.” Drawing on both Plato and Pascal, I consider reasons for skepticism regarding the legitimacy of this sort of attachment. While I do not offer a complete defense against such skepticism, I do show that worries here may be overblown due to the conflation of distinct metaphysical and normative concerns. I then go on to clarify what sort of value is at issue in cases of irreplaceable attachment. I characterize “unique value” as the kind of value attributed to a thing when we take that thing to be (theoretically, not just practically) irreplaceable. I then consider the relationship between this sort of value and intrinsic value. After considering the positions of Gowans, Moore, Korsgaard, Frankfurt, and others, I conclude that unique value is best understood not as a variety of intrinsic value but rather as one kind of final value that is grounded in the extrinsic properties of the object.

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Christopher Grau
Clemson University


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