Is consciousness intrinsically valuable?
There are some things that we think are intrinsically valuable, or valuable for their own sake. Is consciousness—subjective, qualitative experience—one of those things? Some theorists favor the positive view, according to which consciousness is intrinsically valuable. According to a positive theorist, consciousness itself accrues intrinsic value, independent of the particular kind of experience instantiated. In contrast, I favor the neutral view, according to which consciousness is neither intrinsically valuable nor disvaluable. The primary purpose of this paper is to clarify what is at stake when we ask whether consciousness is intrinsically valuable, to carve out the theoretical space, and to evaluate the question rigorously. The secondary purpose is to show why the neutral view is attractive and why certain arguments for the positive view do not work.
KeywordsConsciousness Intrinsic value Value theory Experience Phenomenology
Many thanks to Matthew Liao, who has provided feedback across multiple drafts of this article. Thanks also for comments from Kyle Blumberg, David Chalmers, Daniel Hoek, Ben Holguin, Rob Hopkins, Arden Koehler, Sam Lee, Rob Long, Adam Lovett, Thomas Nagel, Sam Scheffler, Sharon Street, David Velleman, Jake Zuehl, and audiences at NYU and Institut Jean Nicod.
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