Volume 18, Issue 3, Fall 1996
The Source and Locus of Intrinsic Value
In the literature of environmental philosophy, the single most potent argument that has been made against the claim that nature may possess intrinsic value in any objective sense is the Humean thesis of projectivism and its associated view that human consciousness is the source of all values. Theorists, in one way or another, have to face up to this challenge. For instance, J. Baird Callicott upholds this Humean foundation to modern Western philosophy. However, by distinguishing between the source and locus of value, he makes it possible to argue that nature is the locus of intrinsic value without at the same time compromising the thesis that human consciousness is the source of all values. On the other hand, Holmses Rolston, III, another eminent environmental philosopher, criticizes the distinction as well as challenges the Humean foundation itself. In this article, I attempt to resolve the disagreement between Callicott and Rolston over this particular distinction, thereby doing justice to the insights which each theorist, undoubtedly, has brought to bear on the issue of intrinsic value, at least as far as individual organisms is concerned. However, I am also critical of both for having failed to draw out the full implications behind certain crucial distinctions that should be made about the notion of intrinsic value itself.