The Disjunctive Hybrid Theory of Prudential Value: An Inclusive Approach to the Good Life

Dissertation, McGill University (2018)
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In this dissertation, I argue that all extant theories of prudential value are either a) enumeratively deficient, in that they are unable to accommodate everything that, intuitively, is a basic constituent of prudential value, b) explanatorily deficient, in that they are at least sometimes unable to offer a plausible story about what makes a given thing prudentially valuable, or c) both. In response to the unsatisfactory state of the literature, I present my own account, the Disjunctive Hybrid Theory or DHT. DHT answers to and remedies each of the above inadequacies in a way that no other approach can. This account has the following general structure:Disjunctive Hybrid Theory (DHT): Thing x is basically good for person P if and only if x is either a) cared about (sufficiently and in the right way) by P, b) a bearer of (the right kind of) attitude-independent value, or c) both.Although it follows other recent accounts in combining elements from objective and subjective theories, DHT is a hybrid theory of a quite new kind. This is because it denies both subjective necessity (the constraint that, if thing x is to be basically good for person P, P must have some pro-attitude toward x) and objective necessity (the constraint that, if thing x is to be basically good for person P, x must have some attitude-independent value). I argue that the rejection of both necessity claims is called for if we are to move beyond the enumerative and explanatory limitations of existing accounts.I begin by outlining the general structure of DHT. I then argue, against various recent authors, that desire-satisfactionism remains the most appealing subjectivist approach to prudential value, in that it is best able to capture the central subjectivist insight. This insight is that a person can confer prudential value upon things by caring about them (sufficiently and in the right way). The subjectivist strand of DHT will thus be a version of desire-satisfactionism, which must be interpreted in line with what I call the object, as opposed to the combo, view. I move on to further motivate and develop the second, objectivist strand of DHT. This part of the theory involves a commitment to robustly attitude-independent prudential goods. I close by addressing some puzzles for the theory, and considering some of its more specific applications.
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Archival date: 2018-08-28
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