The Harvard Review of Philosophy

Volume 29, 2022

Philosophy and the Environment

Simon P. JamesOrcid-ID
Pages 45-54

Against Relational Value

In some environmental circles, talk of relational values is very much in fashion. It is said that we must think in terms of such values if we are to understand how such things as canyons, mangroves, and coral reefs matter to people. But that is bad advice. Appeals to relational values are typically misleading in several respects. Granted, those who make such appeals often do so in order to make the important point that some values are neither intrinsic nor instrumental in form, but that point can be made more clearly by referring to other concepts, such as that of constitutive value. To this objection, some may respond that appeals to relational value are nonetheless useful. However, as things stand, their usefulness remains unproven.