Environmental Ethics

Volume 14, Issue 2, Summer 1992

J. Baird Callicott
Pages 129-143

Rolston on Intrinsic Value
A Deconstruction

Central to Holmes Rolston’s Environmental Ethics is the theoretical quest of most enviromnental philosophers for a defensible concept of intrinsic value for nonhuman natural entities and nature as a whole. Rolston’s theory is similar to Paul Taylor’s in rooting intrinsic value in conation, but dissimilar in assigning value bonuses to consciousness and self-consciousness and value dividends to organic wholes and elemental nature. I argue that such a theory of intrinsic value flies in the face of the subject/object and fact/value dichotomies of the metaphysical foundations of modem science—a problem Rolston never directly confronts. The modern scientific world view is obsolete. A post-modem scientific world view provides for a range of potential values in nature actualizable upon interaction with consciousness. The best that a modem scientific world view can provide are subject-generated—though not necessarily subject-centered—values in nature.