Sunday, February 20, 2011

What is your costs and benefits? Random thoughts on intrinsic and instrumental value

Can all intrinsic value be traced back to instrumental value? The point was brought up that everything we value can be traced back to how that value benefits us. The benefit can serve us directly (I value oak trees over oak tables) or indirectly (I want to save the Mona Lisa because other people value it), but eventually the motivation deals with how it effects my life.

To contrast this egocentric view and create some faith in intrinsic value, Professor Tantillo brought-up the example of parent-child relationships. The basis is that the child is the end in itself and not a means to an end. I am hardly qualified to talk about why people have children, but I can see that there are a long list of costs and benefits including: innate desire to pass on genetic material, child will take care of parent in long run, cost of clothes/food/education, emotional satisfaction, ext. I will say that it seems much more noble to raise a child out of intrinsic value then instrumental value. Maybe instrumental value means that the energy put in equals the benefit, whereas intrinsic value is when the energy put in is not considered lost, but part of the experience. I keep finding is that it might be admirable to raise the child on intrinsic value but people (at least initially) value the instrumental factors as part of the equation.

The problem goes back to the question of whether intrinsically something is valued because someone is there to value it or if it exists independent of a valuer. To say that something has intrinsic value independent of a valuer doesn't seem right because humans cannot not seriously consider what things would be like without a valuer, or at least without us valuers. It reminds me of the topic that we don't know what it is like to be a bat and any judgements we make on behalf of the bat are just humans trying to be bats. The reason intrinsic value comes back to instrumental value is because humans can only make choices as we see them and not from a completely unbiased view. Perhaps I connect instrumental value with being heartless and calculating and this whole post was to help me to understand that it is human to view things as instrumental value because I can't view the world without being aware of how it will effect me.

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