Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 7, pp 1911–1922 | Cite as

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

  • Miles TuckerEmail author


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.


Final value Intrinsic value Sentimental value 



Many thanks to Peter Graham, Maya Eddon, Kim Soland, Bob Gruber, Jordan Kroll, Luis Oliveira, Ed Ferrier, Daniel McGloin, Dennis Kavlakoglu, and an anonymous referee from Philosophical Studies for their many thoughtful comments. I am especially grateful to Fred Feldman, Jean-Paul Vessel, and Lisa Tucker for all their help on this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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