Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 507–524

The Case Against Objective Values


DOI: 10.1007/s10677-007-9098-y

Cite this article as:
Goldman, A.H. Ethic Theory Moral Prac (2008) 11: 507. doi:10.1007/s10677-007-9098-y


While objective values need not be intrinsically motivating, need not actually motivate us, they would determine what we ought to pursue and protect. They would provide reasons for actions. Objective values would come in degrees, and more objective value would provide stronger reasons. It follows that, if objective value exists, we ought to maximize it in the world. But virtually no one acts with that goal in mind. Furthermore, objective value would exist independently of our subjective valuings. But we have no way of measuring amounts of such values independently of the ways we value objects. While a subjectivist can account for mistaken values, a fully impersonal viewpoint, from which objective values would appear, seems instead to cause all values to disappear. Nor does the moral point of view, which requires more impartiality than agents usually exhibit, reveal fully objective values. The paper closes with an examination of the most widely endorsed candidates for states having positive and negative objective values: pleasures and pains. It concludes again that, once we adjust for worthiness of the object and desert of the subject for such states, there is no way to measure their supposed objective value.


Objective valueValuesReasons

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCollege of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA