Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 1033–1046 | Cite as

Holism about value: some help for invariabilists

  • Daniel HallidayEmail author


G.E. Moore’s principle of organic unity holds that the intrinsic value of a whole may differ from the sum of the intrinsic values of its parts. Moore combined this principle with invariabilism about intrinsic value: An item’s intrinsic value depends solely on its bearer’s intrinsic properties, not on which wholes it has membership of. It is often said that invariabilism ought to be rejected in favour of what might be called ‘conditionalism’ about intrinsic value. This paper is an attempt to show how invariabilism might be filled out in ways that allow its proponents to answer their conditionalist opponents. The main point consists in identifying how some amount of extrinsic part-value may contribute to whole-value that is nevertheless intrinsic. This enables an invariabilist to explain how the intrinsic value of a whole may differ from the sum of its intrinsic part-values, without abandoning the Moorean doctrine that intrinsic value supervenes on intrinsic properties (the proposal is nevertheless consistent with the view that invariabilist and conditionalist accounts might exist side by side). I finish with a brief explanation of how the main proposal could help construct invariabilist accounts of particular organic unities, looking beyond the more general argument they have with conditionalists.


Moore Holism Intrinsic value Extrinsic value Invariabilism Organic unity 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented to audiences at Stanford University and the 11th conference of the International Society for Utilitarian Studies, held at the University of Pisa. I’d like to thank those who attended for their helpful feedback. For valuable conversations and/or comments on earlier drafts, I’d also like to thank: Ralf Bader, William Beals, John Broome, Joshua Cohen, Thomas Dougherty, Guy Fletcher, Nadeem Hussain, Krista Lawlor, Gerard Vong, and Anna Wilkinson. The paper was also helped by the comments of an anonymous referee for Philosophical Studies.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Historical and Philosophical StudiesUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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