The pen, the dress, and the coat: a confusion in goodness

Philosophical Studies 173 (7):1911-1922 (2016)
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Abstract
Conditionalists say that the value something has as an end—its final value—may be conditional on its extrinsic features. They support this claim by appealing to examples: Kagan points to Abraham Lincoln’s pen, Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen to Lady Diana’s dress, and Korsgaard to a mink coat. They contend that these things may have final value in virtue of their historical or societal roles. These three examples have become familiar: many now merely mention them to establish the conditionalist position. But the widespread faith in such cases is, I believe, unjustified. This is because, surprisingly, the pen, the dress, and the coat cannot have final value. I argue that the problem is internal: these cases are ruled out by every conditionalist account of final value. Further, the problem with these well-known cases applies to most other supposed examples of extrinsic, final goods. Thus nearly all cases given to support the conditionalist view cannot succeed. I suggest a kind of diagnosis: I claim that these examples are best seen as instances of sentimental value, rather than final value. I close by providing a brief account of sentimental value and explain how it relates to instrumental, intrinsic, and final goodness
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2016
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Archival date: 2019-03-09
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