Volume 35, Issue 2, Fall 2021
On the Value of Life
That life has value is a tenet eliciting all but universal agreement, be it amongst philosophers, policy-makers, or the general public. Yet, when it comes to its employment in practice, especially in the context of policies which require the balancing of different moral choices—for example in health care, foreign aid, or animal rights related decisions—it takes little for cracks to appear and for disagreement to arise as to what the value of life actually means and how it should guide our actions in the real world. I argue that in no small part this state of affairs is a consequence of the infirmity of the foundations that the claim respecting the value of life supervenes upon once its theological foundations are abandoned. Hence, I depart radically from the contemporary thought and argue that life has no inherent value. Far from lowering the portcullis to Pandemonium, the abandonment of the quasi-Platonistic claim that life has intrinsic value, when understood and applied correctly, leads to a comprehensive, consistent, and compassionate ethical framework for understanding the related problems. I illustrate this using several hotly debated topics, including speciesism and show how the ideas I introduce help us to interpret people’s choices and to resolve outstanding challenges which present an insurmountable obstacle to the existing ethical theories.