Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jerry Gaus Is a Golden God

So in case anyone was wondering how badly I want to go to the University of might be interested in reading this post (which I wrote in April), and then reading this essay (which I just read today). The world is a beautiful place.

Away From Distributive Justice, Towards Collective Responsibility

Here's another cool Hayek quote, from chapter 5 of his New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas, entitled "The Atavism of Social Justice":
"...there can be no distributive justice where no one distributes. Justice has meaning only as a rule of human conduct, and no conceivable rules for the conduct of individuals supplying each other with goods and services in a market economy would produce a distribution which could be meaningfully described as just or unjust. Individuals might conduct themselves as justly as possible, but as the results for separate individuals would be neither intended nor foreseeable by others, the resulting state of affairs could neither be called just nor unjust" (58).

I've been arguing basically that point of view for a while, and this is far from the first time I've heard it articulated by someone else, but I really like the way Hayek put it here. But it also got me thinking. Hayek does use as support for his argument the fact that the results of the market process are not foreseeable. And it does seem to me that a great many people see certain regrettable outcomes of the market process as quite foreseeable enough to dodge this argument.

"Perhaps the precise outcomes of the process are not foreseeable," someone might argue, "but we can easily foresee that certain things will likely occur, like the occasional occurrence of instances of extreme need. Even if, as a society, we think ourselves justified in 'playing the game' of catallaxy (as Hayek puts it on page 60 and later throughout the essay), we nevertheless might be able to point to certain predictable and regrettable outcomes of that game and demand that they be 'cleaned up.' It's on those grounds that I claim that we have some sort of obligation to ensure that no one is left behind 'by' our playing the game of catallaxy. I cannot articulate, necessarily, exactly what that obligation entails, or what is its nature, but to deny the existence of any such obligation seems simply wrong."

I think that would be a pretty fair line of attack, and I think it deserves an answer. I'm not sure what I'll find, but the question seems to become one which is perfectly tractable within my notion of rights and duties. So I pose for myself the following questions: Do we have a duty to help those in desperate need, either collective or individual? How might we understand such a duty, and what would it entail?

I'll be working on an answer to those questions over the coming months.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Law and the Knowledge Problem, a First Glance

Update at the bottom of the post

Here's an interesting quote from Hayek's essay, "The Results of Human Action but not of Human Design," from his book, Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics:
"...the natural law concept against which modern jurisprudence reacted was the perverted rationalist conception which interpreted the law of nature as the deductive constructions of 'natural reason' rather than as the undesigned outcome of a process of growth in which the test of what is justice was not anybody's arbitrary will but compatibility with a whole system of inherited but partly inarticulated rules" (101).

This does seem like a relatively accurate positive assessment of how law has evolved over time. But it does beg the question, then, of whether or not a centralized attempt to administer justice, which would rely on some understanding of what people will accept as just, would be akin to trying to plan an economy. The idea, in other words, is that if our recognition of justice relies on a partly inarticulated set of internalized rules, and those rules change over time and are sometimes contradictory, then the acceptability of any legal judgment will be in some some sense bound to the circumstances in which that attribution was made, and will necessarily fail to reflect the unanimous will of the people. If that's true, then it would seem almost impossible to determine what would be the proper standard of justice within a society at any given time, and so would be impossible to administer justice "properly" in much the same way as it's impossible to allocate resources "properly" through a centralized method of planning.

To make my case, I'll draw on a number of different quotes which I think paint a better picture of the issue than I might be able to do myself (especially given the "reason as I go" approach that generally characterizes these posts). First, from the beginning of David Schmidtz's book, Elements of Justice:
"I have become a pluralist, but there are many pluralisms. I focus not on concentric "spheres" of local, national, and international justice nor on how different cultures foster different intuitions, but on the variety of contexts we experience every day, calling in turn for principles of desert, reciprocity, equality, and need. I try to some extent to knit these four elements together, showing how they make room for each other and define each other's limits, but not at the cost of twisting them to make them appear to fit together better than they really do. Would a more elegant theory reduce the multiplicity of elements to one?" (4).

I jump over to the beginning of Rawls' Justice as Fairness: A Restatement:
"...I believe that a democratic society is not and cannot be a community, where by a community I mean a body of persons united in affirming the same comprehensive, or partly comprehensive doctrine. The fact of reasonable pluralism which characterizes a society with free institutions makes this impossible. This is the fact of profound and irreconcilable differences in citizens' reasonable comprehensive religious and philosophical conceptions of the world, and in their views of the moral and aesthetic values to be sought in human life" (3).

And with that, I jump back to Schmidtz, a few pages later:
"In effect, there are two ways to agree: We agree on what is correct, or on who has jurisdiction - who gets to decide. Freedom of religion took the latter form; we learned to be liberals in matters of religion, reaching consensus not on what to believe but on who gets to decide. So too with freedom of speech. Isn't it odd that our greatest successes in learning how to live together stem from agreeing on what is correct but from agreeing to let people decide for themselves?" (6).
And back to Hayek, this time in his essay, "The Use of Knowledge in Society":
"The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form, but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess" (519).

He continues:
"In ordinary language we describe by the word "planning the complex of interrelated decisions about the allocation of our available resources. All economic activity is in this sense planning; and in any society in which many people collaborate, this planning, whoever does it, will in some measure have to be based on knowledge which, in the first instance, is not given to the planner but to somebody else, which somehow will have to be conveyed to the planner. The various ways in which the knowledge on which people base their plans is communicated to them is the crucial problem for any theory explaining the economic process. And the problem of what is the best way of utilizing knowledge initially dispersed among all the people is at least one of the main problems of economic policy--or of designing an efficient economic system" (520).

And more:
"Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge. But a little reflection will show that there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of particular circumstances of time and place" (521).

Just like how attributions of justice are contingent on a set of partly inarticulated rules, economic actors make their decisions according to their personal interpretations of circumstances, in light of their own value systems. And as they are inarticulated and often contradictory, they cannot be aggregated to form a "social" standard. Hayek writes:
"...the sort of knowledge with which I have been concerned is knowledge of the kind which by its nature cannot enter into statistics and therefore cannot be conveyed to any central authority in statistical form" (524).

So we've sort of gotten to the point I'm trying to make. Basically, if society's acceptance of certain things as just is, as Hayek says, based on compatibility with an internalized, partly inarticulated set of rules, and if these sets of rules are subject to reasonable pluralism and continuous flux, then it's as impossible to get law perfectly right through central planning as it is to get an economy perfectly right through central planning. But then the question becomes, so what? In looking at the economy, Hayek writes:
"We cannot expect that this problem will be solved by first communicating all this knowledge to a central board which, after integrating all knowledge, issues its orders. We must solve it by some form of decentralization" (524).

But is this the right answer for law? That's something I'll have to leave for another day.


Hahahahahahahaha! So this post was written in a sort of "Ah hah!" moment while reading Hayek's "The Results of Human Action but not of Human Design," causing me to jump up from the book and hammer out the above. Turns out that if I had kept reading, I would have discovered Hayek making a nearly identical point in the essay itself. So I'd almost say to forget about this post and go pick up the book.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On Marriage, Some Food for Thought

I guess it's odd for a 22 year old single male with no immediate love interests to say this in today's world, but I've been thinking a lot lately about marriage and how it relates to the way people live their lives. I honestly don't have much to say about it, but I thought it might be worthwhile to link to two really interesting articles on the subject, just in case anyone else is interested.

The first is one I just read on called "She's happily married, dreaming of divorce" (which might explain the motivation for this post), and the other is an article that was published several months ago in The Freeman called "Capitalism and the Family." Actually, the author of the latter article, Steven Horowitz, gave a really excellent lecture on the same subject at FEE's Applying Liberty seminar, which can be found here.

I really don't have anything to add just yet, except to say that I kinda wish I wasn't in the generation that's really going to have to be figuring this stuff out for the first time. Blech.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Three Different Ways of Using Force

So here's the idea: there are at least three different ways that libertarians generally think of coercive force, and I think they've been harmed by treating them as if they were essentially the same sort of thing. The first kind of coercive "force" is the use of someone else's property without their permission, or in direct defiance of their wishes. The second kind is the initiation of physical force upon a person, again without permission or in violation of their explicit desires. The third kind is the threat of physical force directed at coercing a person into doing something against their will. I don't deny that there might be more "kinds," but these three came to mind first, so they're the one's I'll address here.

It seems to me that when many libertarians decry "coercion" or "aggressive force," they do so by means of certain kinds of arguments. These arguments sometimes take the form of identifying the "true nature" of certain kinds of coercive actions, and extending that characterization to other kinds of coercive actions which may or may not fall into different categories of force as expounded above. This, I think, can lead to mistakes.

For example, "Taxation is slavery because the product of your labor doesn't belong to you." The idea here is that the government "steals" some of your income from you (which depends on the rejection of the idea that you voluntarily live on the government's land by living in a country), and this money is the product of your own labor. But you know what you call a system in which you work, but someone else gets the product of that work? Yea, slavery. Blammo, take that government! *high fives from the libertarians*

Except here's the thing. There is exactly one sense in which taxation is like slavery, and it's not the sense that these people are talking about. The way that taxation is like slavery is that the government demands that you, or your employer, or someone not actually on their own staff, actually sends them the money. That is, if you don't put the check in the envelope, stamp it, and send it, you get punished. That's the third kind of force discussed above, where the threat of violence is used to coerce a person into doing something against their will. And that's exactly like slavery.

However, the reason that taxation is like slavery has nothing to do with the fact that the government gets the product of your work. That kind of thinking is not only sloppy, but in many ways anti-libertarian and Marxist. We live in a country where we are told that we will be taxed if we decide to work. In a slave society, slaves are told that they will be taxed and they will work, whether they like it or not. The government does not use the threat of force to make us produce income. That would be like the third kind of force, which is the kind that can be associated legitimately with slavery. We choose to work, and can choose not to do so without any government-enforced consequences.

The idea that the product of our labor should belong to us, even when we are explicitly a part of an arrangement in which it will be taken from us, is an idea that can be traced back to Marx and the labor theory of value. The very same idea is used to explain why capitalists exploit their workers: the workers produce, and the corporation gets the product of that labor. It's like wage-slavery! *high fives from the socialists*

The difference between a voluntary agreement to work and government taxation is not that corporations let you keep the product of your labor and the government doesn't. Rather, the difference is that you don't agree to the arrangement the government enforces upon you (well, under certain conceptions of voluntarity), and you do agree to the arrangement the corporation enforces upon you. In a corporate agreement, you are "paying" your employers with the product of your labor in exchange for them paying you with money that you want more than the product of your labor. In a government agreement, you are paying the government with the product of your labor so that they won't use the first kind of force (the use of your property against your will) or the second kind (the use of physical force against your person).

The slavery part of that bargain is the part where they actually make you pay the tax with the threat of those other kinds of force. If they just went to your bank and took the money from you, the slavery component would be gone. But ostensibly, nobody's complaining because we have to put a check in an envelope and mail it, or fill out a form every once in a while. I mean, that's a pain in the ass, but I really don't think that's the problem. The problem is not that taxation is like slavery, but rather that taxation is like theft.

But if you accept the view that we voluntarily live on the government's land, and part of our contract is that we pay taxes to the government, then even this characterization doesn't apply. The first kind of force (using property without the owner's permission) doesn't apply to situations where the alleged "owner" is party to an agreement through which she surrendered the title to that property, just like it's not the first kind of force when my employer takes the product of my labor without my consent. And the second kind of force (physical force against someone's person) doesn't seem to apply when the person is doing something that they have a perfect right to be doing, and are resisted against forcefully. In a sense, it would almost be self-defense for the government to collect its "rent", just like my employer would have every right to use some reasonable amount of force if I suddenly refused to give up the products of my labor in the middle of the work day (well, more accurately, he would have the right to demand that I appear in court or something similar, and if I were found to be in breach of my contract, some force would be legitimate in enforcing that contract; I'm no opponent of procedural justice).

So we see that "Taxation is slavery" collapses into "Taxation is theft, and they even make me give it to them at gunpoint", which then collapses into "The government doesn't have any legitimate claim to my property." It seems to me that all that would be perfectly clear to anyone willing to think about it for a moment if they would only separate the different kinds of force and consider each in its own light.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Article on Strike-the-Root

An article of mine was published today on Strike-the-Root on drinking-age laws and unintended consequences. Please check it out if you get a chance! Here's the link: The Seen and Unseen of Drinking-Age Laws.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Protecting Others' Rights

So here's the basic idea: It seems like there's a difference between coming to someone's aid when they're asking you to, and coming to someone's aid when you determine on your own that they're being treated wrongly. This difference, I think, is extremely important, and might open the door to an understanding of the libertarian position which would allow for a reconciliation with a lot of historically un-libertarian views. Here's what's up:

I take it that the backbone of any brand of libertarianism is a right to self-determination, such that individuals are entitled to non-interference in the absence of morally significant justification for doing so. But it's immediately clear that this exposition of the fundamental libertarian principle leaves its two core components somewhat indeterminate: it's unclear what constitutes a "morally significant" justification for interfering, and also what is meant by the "entitlement".

To illustrate how the distinction is supposed to work, without solving the problem posed by this indeterminacy: I think that most libertarians would want to recognize something like a "right to self-defense," which seems like it would be derivative from the right to self-determination. That is, it's because I have the right to self-determination that I have some right to self-defense. I am entitled to self-determination, so if others act to infringe upon that right, I am entitled to use some degree of force to stop them.

But notice that my doing this infringes upon the aggressor's right to self-determination. My use of force upon this individual would normally be unacceptable; they do have the right to self-determination. In this instance, however, they are in the process of infringing my right to self-determination. I take it, then, that this constitutes a morally significant justification for infringing their right. So it is acceptable for me to do so.

Now, here's why I like to think about it in this way: If someone wanted to object to my use of force -- to my infringement of the aggressor's right to self-determination in self-defense -- they would want to say something like "You used too much force" or "Two wrongs don't make a right." The former objection, I think, can be very informatively understood as contending that the degree to which I infringed the aggressor's rights was not justified by the circumstances under which I did so. And the latter can be understood as contending that "The fact that the aggressor was infringing your right to self-determination does not constitute a morally significant reason for using force in the way that you did." So the point is, even though I might disagree, the objections would still be stated in terms of the overarching framework for understanding rights, and we would be able to isolate the actual source of the disagreement.

Okay, so hopefully that makes sense. On, then, to the core of the discussion. Many libertarians accept the idea that if it would be permissible for me to use force against you in response to your infringing upon my rights, then it would be permissible for me to ask someone else to use that same force against you on my behalf, and for them to infringe upon your rights. It is on this basis, they argue, that we can justify things like security guards or coming to the rescue of someone who's being robbed, attacked, or raped.

I see no compelling reason to object to this doctrine, except the possibility that the person being defended might potentially not be justified in defending herself in certain situations, and a third party might not be able to know whether this were the case, and so would face a degree of uncertainty in intervening. But imagine that a businessman hires a delivery person to pick up a package from the garage at someone's home. The delivery person arrives at the house, which is empty, and sees the package sitting in the garage. She picks up the package and takes it to the businessman. Now imagine that it turns out that the package did not actually belong to the businessman, and what the delivery person has done is to steal the package on behalf of the businessman. It seems to me that the delivery person is completely innocent here, and that any accusation of wrongdoing should be aimed at the businessman. So too, then, it seems like the person who intervenes on behalf of a victim who is asking for help is guilty of no wrongdoing, even if victim were not actually in possession of the right to defend himself. The principle, then, would be that the person who transfers the justification which does not belong to him is the one who acts wrongly, and not the person who acts on the justification which they believe they have.
So, then, we can dismiss the one objection I can think of to the idea that others should be able to act as our agents in infringing the rights of others in order to protect ourselves. Shifting to the perspective of the third party, we can say that individuals are justified in intervening to protect entitlements at the request of an apparent victim, even though we must inherently face some uncertainty about whether or not the alleged victim actually has the entitlement we believe them to have (of course, standards of negligence would have to apply here).

As I have discussed in a past essay, Paul Taylor discusses two ways to conceive of rights and entitlements:
According to Taylor’s first account, there are several necessary components of rights...First, Taylor argues that to have a right, it must be possible for us to conceive of the rights-holder asserting the moral legitimacy of the claim represented by a right...Second, he claims that we must be able to conceive of the holder of a right being able to think of herself as being inherently worthy of that right...Third, Taylor contends that we must be able to conceive of a rights-holder as being able to choose whether or not to exercise his right...Finally, Taylor explains that having a right involves an entitlement to “…register complaints, demand redress, or call for legal enforcement of their rights…” whenever they are violated.

Where the first view understood duties possessed by others as the corollary of rights recognized and asserted by the rights-holder, Taylor’s alternative conception of rights holds them to amount to recognitions of duties towards others which result from taking proper account of their inherent worth.

To be clear, Taylor was talking about whether or not plants and non-human animals could have rights. But it seems clear to me that the sort of example we've been working with so far, where a victim asks a third party for help, conforms very much with the first way of understanding rights. The victim perceives a rights violation, registers a complaint, and demands intervention to rectify the violation of his entitlement.

However, it should be readily apparent that there are situations in which individuals perceive a justification in intervening in situations which do not fit this form. For a first example, if you saw someone being beaten, and they were unconscious, it seems reasonable to think that you would be justified in intervening. For a second example, if you saw a child being groped in a sexual manner by a much older individual, it seems like most people would think that intervention would be acceptable. For a third example, if you saw a severely insane individual being beaten or sexually groped by a member of his institution's staff, many people would feel that intervention would be legitimate. The account of why you would be justified in intervening in each of these situations is of critical importance for understanding how intervention should work.

There are two kinds of explanations that come immediately to mind here. The first explanation, which is still in line with Taylor's first account of rights, is that the alleged victim, in the absence of "transactions costs," would ask you to intervene on their behalf, and that in situations where you can be almost certain that this is the case, you can legitimately go ahead and intervene even without being asked. But the second explanation, which falls more in line with Taylor's second account of rights, is that the person whose actions the intervention is meant to interfere with is acting improperly or unjustly, and can legitimately be stopped.

It seems to me that the aforementioned examples grow increasingly difficult to interpret through the lens of the first explanation, the the point where the third example is almost impossible to think about in that way (as is discussed in the previously mentioned essay). The first example, where the alleged victim is being beaten while unconscious, seems like a simple enough case where transaction costs are relatively uncontroversially preventing the victim from asking for help, and if the victim were physically able to, it's pretty reasonable to assume that he would ask for help.

In the second example, where the child was being sexually abused, this might be less clear; a child might not understand that she is being sexually abused by an adult, and may not understand until much later why she should have registered a complaint and requested protection. But still, one might argue that if the child were made to understand the true nature of the situation at hand (which may or may not actually be possible), she would almost certainly ask for help, and so it would be justifiable to intervene.

In the third example, however, we run into serious problems. As I wrote in the previously mentioned essay:
Some insane and severely mentally handicapped individuals are certainly unable to conceive of “legitimacy,” to see themselves as being inherently worthy of respect, to choose whether to exercise or waive a right, to complain about violations of their rights, to demand restitution, and to call for the enforcement of their rights. Accordingly, Taylor’s first view would deny that we can possibly conceive of these individuals as having rights.

But nevertheless it seems clear that we would often think ourselves justified in using coercion to protect these individuals. And it does seem that the kind of situation in which we would feel justified in doing this lines up quite well with Taylor’s second conception of rights. That is, we coercively intervene to protect the insane and the severely mentally handicapped when we feel that they are being treated by others in a manner which fails to take proper account of their inherent worth. If we feel that this practice is based on a manner in which those individuals are entitled to be treated, then it seems to follow that we recognize them as having rights, in spite of all of the objections that Taylor’s first account has to offer, and that these rights are of the kind suggested by Taylor’s second account.

If I am right about this, then it seems like what we are suggesting is that in some instances where an alleged victim would not ask us to intervene on their behalf, we would nevertheless be justified in intervening. We cannot think of this sort of thing as a voluntary transfer of justification for using force from a victim to a third party intervenor, or even a potential voluntary transfer: I take it to be uncontroversial that where we cannot conceive of some "victim" transferring some right, we cannot base a view on the potential transfer of that right by the victim. It seems, then, that we are basing our justification on the second kind of explanation: we intervene because what the "aggressor" is doing is wrong, and it would not be unacceptable to put a stop to it.

If we accept this, however, then we arrive at the conclusion that we are justifying the use of force not only to enforce that to which individuals are entitled, but also to enforce others' duty to respect things with inherent worth. And if this is the case, then an entirely new range of potentially legitimate uses for force seems to open up which would be prohibited by a simple Non-Aggression Principle (unless one takes the rather implausible view that the only things that have inherent worth are individuals' rights). For example, it would open libertarian philosophy up to the idea that environmental ethical or utilitarian concerns might play a role in justifying the use of force. But I'll have to address that another time. For now, I think I need some time to digest all of this.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Subjective Valuation and Intrinsic Value

Some more on this never-ending debate...

In ascribing value to certain things, we acknowledge that they matter to us -- they have weight in our calculations about what we should do. But it seems to me that there are two (not mutually exclusive) ways in which we do this. The first is the way that we mean when we talk about matters of "taste." When we evaluate things in this way, the account of why we value them is autobiographical. For example, I like coffee because it tastes good to me; it makes me feel cheerful and alert; it helps me focus on tasks that I want to perform.

In order to dispute my evaluation, someone would need to similarly couch their objections in features about me. For example, I might announce that I want to eat a cheeseburger, because I like the way they taste. In order to argue with my choice, someone would need to alert me to some feature about my tastes that they believed I was failing to acknowledge. For example, they might point out that the last time I ate a cheeseburger, I felt sick, and told everyone how I never wanted to eat a cheeseburger again (this is, of course, a fictional story; cheeseburgers are delicious). The point is that with regard to discussing matters involving my own tastes, the entire focus is on me, the valuer.

The other way that people often ascribe value to things is to claim (or implicitly claim) that they are the appropriate objects of valuation, and to ascribe to them the value -- the weight in our moral calculations -- that we believe is fitting of their nature or properties. Not only are these things valued, but they are seen as valuable: to "fail" to value these things would be, in some sense, inappropriate, unbecoming, or wrong. The reason given here for an evaluation is no longer autobiographical, but cites some quality inherent in the valued object as if it were the explanation for the evaluation. For example, a parent feeds his child "because" she is hungry, and her health and wellbeing depends on being fed. The implication here is that the parent thinks that to fail to feed the child would demonstrate insufficient consideration of the fact of the child's hunger. Clearly, this sort of valuation is inherently normative: it is understood as involving an acknowledgment of how we ought to act.

When I talk about actions that are "self-interested," I refer to those actions where the account of why the action was undertaken makes reference to the first kind of valuation (the one which identifies the tastes, wants, and desires of the valuer as the explanation for the valuation). When I call an action "non-self-interested," I refer to actions taken for reasons understood in terms of the second sort of valuation (where objective features of a set of circumstances are cited to explain the valuation). As I suggested before, these sorts of valuations need not be mutually exclusive. But there is a sense in which they are taken as being separate from each other. For example, we might find someone saying "He's a really nice guy, and he's never done anything bad to me, but I just don't like hanging out with him." The implication here is that niceness and blamelessness are being seen as somehow worthy or demanding of consideration and positive valuation, but that the negative valuation conveyed by the person's "tastes" is acting as a counterweight. Now, if the person who made the above statement decided to hang out with the guy who she discussed, we might imagine her saying, "He was just so nice; when he asked, I had to say yes." Her action here would be non-self-interested. If, on the other hand, she decided not to hang out with the guy, we might imagine her saying, "As nice as he was, I just couldn't bring myself to put myself through spending another minute with him." Here, her action would be self-interested.

When I talk about something having "intrinsic value," I'm making reference to qualities or objects identified by the normative kind of valuation as providing justification for a choice. Most ethical theories (those with a "realist" component) rely on this sort of valuation to provide a basis for their claims: ethics involves the acknowledgment or recognition of the appropriate responses to certain features of things or situations. (I should mention, in passing, that one need not claim that there actually are appropriate responses or anything like that; see, for example, quasi-realism.)

It's important to distinguish here between intrinsic value and what might be called "objective value" or the "objective component" of value. When we talk about objective values, we mean that a thing can be valuable independently of anyone valuing it. This does not seem possible to me, as value seems to be, by nature, a relationship between an evaluating mind and some object (I don't mean physical object, just a "something" which is being valued). If I'm correct about this, there could be no such thing as objective value. But the concept of an objective component of value is different. This idea relies on the possibility that certain features of objects (especially where objects can be taken to also refer to concepts in our minds) cause a reaction in us which leads us to value those objects. For example, a guy might meet a beautiful, intelligent, and entertaining woman at a bar, and come to want certain things not because he chose to want them, or something more mysterious, but rather because it was natural for him to want those things upon acknowledging certain features of the woman. Her objective features caused a reaction in the man, whose value judgments would thereby be affected (though, of course, the valuation still only exists in the man's mind; it is still subjective).

It might be immediately clear that a parallel exists between the concept of an objective component of value and the concept of intrinsic value, as I alluded to in identifying the realist component of many ethical theories. But the two concepts are not necessarily identical. The man in the bar might desire a particular beer, for example, because he wants a drink and because it strikes him as satisfying the criteria of being a drink. But it would be slightly odd for him to attribute any intrinsic value to the idea of him having a drink: He would need to say, "I want that beer, and therefore it would be immoral of me to not go get it." Certainly there are people who would be comfortable saying this (anyone who would call themselves an "egoist" or a "hedonist" would immediately come to mind). But I take it that most people don't think that way. There is a difference between what we want (what is a matter of our tastes) and what we ought to want (what is a result of our attributions of intrinsic value).

There's clearly a lot more to say on this, but I figure this will do for now.
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