Rational Moral Agents: Intrinsic or Extrinsic Value

The intrinsic value of anything entails the value that it possesses or that it has for its sake. The philosophers often regard the concept of inherent value to be sufficiently clear in saying that the value of something is for its sake as opposed to being valuable for the sake of another thing that relates to the item in question in some way (Mark Woods, 2010). On the other hand, an object is regarded to have extrinsic value if its value is dependent on something else. Throughout the previous decades, there has been evidence pointing out to the eruption of substantial environmental struggles across Australia. The involvement of some of the philosophers in the campaigns regarding the ecological conservation has contributed significantly to the emergence of the debate on the moral obligations concerning the preservation of the environment. As such, the paper suggests that the rational agents often have the moral responsibility of ensuring effectiveness in the conservation of the biosphere since both the plants and animals have intrinsic moral values.

Intrinsic value

Numerous scholars associate nature with the intrinsic value. The intrinsic value is in some instances considered inherent worth or value. The inherent values often fall within the philosophical domains of metaethics, which refers to the meaning, and position of the moral language. Despite the presence of some level of confusion regarding the meaning of the term ‘intrinsic value,’ ensuring effectiveness in operating through the present uncertainty is crucial to the projects in environmental ethics in addressing the issues that the environment faces.

Some scholars often claim that values tend to be subjectively messy, indecisive, and are best excluded from the seemingly severe scientific and discussions on the policies concerning the issues that the environment faces. There is the necessity for noting that quantifying and measuring values is impossible. Moreover, the value preferences often seem to be no different from the choices for the various flavors of juice. The effectiveness of science is such case is evident in its description and explanation of what encompasses the environmental issues and in predicting what might happen if something happens first. Science is thus incapable of advising what to do and what not to do. There is thus the necessity for ensuring effectiveness in making ethical judgments stemming from our declared values, enter dialogues with one other and ensure arrival at certain form of intersubjective agreement concerning the management of the environmental issues that emerge. The values are thus crucial in facilitating resolution of the different environmental problems that arise.

Studies suggest that there is the consensual acceptance that nature has instrumental value for every individual. Nature encompasses both the consumable and non-consumable natural resources. However, the question of whether nature had intrinsic value tends to raise debates from the different scholars. For instance, Richard Routley created a thought experiment with the aim of determining whether nature has intrinsic value. The thought experiment mainly entails the philosopher asking people to imagine of an Earth survived by only one man. However, before the death of the man, he goes ahead to eliminate every living thing, both the animals and plants. The philosopher proceeds to question whether the activities of the man in such case are morally objectionable. In such instances, if the response is ‘yes’ then you subscribe to the non-anthropocentric environmental ethic whereby the nonhuman nature is associated with an intrinsic non-instrumental a value. On the other hand, if the response is ‘no’ then the respondent in such case subscribes to the human centered environmental ethic whereby only the humans remain as the only things associated with the intrinsic value.

Additionally, beyond the anthropocentrism, one’s location of the intrinsic value often play a significant role in determining the kind of environmental ethics to which a particular individual or group subscribe. The philosophers consider the presence of the intrinsic value amongst the nonhuman animals as a zoocentric environmental ethic. In some instances, it is often regarded as sentientism whereby the focus is mainly on the ability to experience pleasure or pain. The presence of the intrinsic value of non-human animals and plants is often referred to as biocentric environmental ethic. On the other hand, ecocentric ecological ethic mainly refers to the holistic biological and ecological entities that include species and ecosystems having intrinsic values.

The philosopher Dale Jameison considers intrinsic value as the ‘gold standard’ of morality since the items that possesses intrinsic value often have the ultimate moral values. However, the important question that arises from consideration of the perspectives of the different philosophers entails what intrinsic value is in actual sense. There is the necessity for noting that its use is usually common in different senses. The first sense involves its consideration as useful in referring to the non-instrumental values. An item is regarded to have instrumental value if it is capable of being used for another thing. In such case, that something else is considered to have intrinsic value. As such, it is valid to say that money often has intrinsic value for individuals having intrinsic value.

The second sense entails the fact that intrinsic value is applicable as criteria for moral standing. Therefore ensuring that something counts morally or transform into a form that the philosophers regard as morally considerable, it must have intrinsic value. In such case, the intrinsic value refers to the ticket that facilitates the admission of something into the moral community. Mathews, (2010) asserts that people often have intrinsic value and hence are ending in themselves.

The third sense entails the fact that comprehension of the inherent value of the things having intrinsic values is attributable to the fact that the value of such things often depends on the factors that inhere with the thing itself. Mathews, (2010) considers intrinsic value in such sense evident in his consideration of the item as a non-relational property. The non-relational nature of the item mainly arises from the assertion that its value is independent of any other thing. Therefore, in this sense, something associated with an intrinsic value often stands in contrast to the things that have extrinsic value, hence leading to the comprehension of the notion that the extrinsic value tends to exhibit external dependence on something else (Michael, 2014).

The fourth sense argues that the things are having intrinsic values often posses the objective values in the sense that its value tens to exhibit independence of the valuations of individuals that value the items. Such is often regarded as a mind-independent value because the value usually exists in the object irrespective of whether people perceive it or not.

There is necessity for noting that the first and second senses of the intrinsic value tend to appear as if they encapsulate similar idea that another thing having intrinsic value is an end in itself since it has its own moral standing and since it serves as where the instrumental value ends. On the other hand, the third and fourth senses appear as if they are encapsulating another similar notion. The idea is that the things having intrinsic values often tend to exhibit self-sufficiency since its value is not often dependent on anything else and since its value as well is not usually dependent on the human valuers.

The fourth sense of the intrinsic value thus often appears as a realist account since the presence of the value is usually confirmed and in such instance independent of the valuers. However, there is the necessity for noting that the statement that the values exist independently often comes as a surprise to some individuals. Perhaps, there is some intrinsic value whose subsistence is dependent on the valuers. Such is referred to as subjectivist account whereby there is a projection of value as an attitude from a human a subject that in the present case intrinsic valuation of something is possible. Majority of the environmental philosophers often tend to question whether the realist account of the subjective account or intrinsic value of intrinsically valuing is often more satisfactory and makes for a better metaethical grounding for the environmental ethic.

Some of the environmental pragmatists often argue that there is the necessity for giving up on the idea of intrinsic value in its entirety since it is associated with numerous theoretical issues and it is not pragmatically useful for ensuring effective development of the environmental ethics. The ecological pragmatists in such case often propose that all value is often extrinsic and that all that people have are rather webs of value that interrelate. The non-pragmatists often worry that if everything has this kind of value then it seems that the value of every other thing is usually for the sake of another thing (Thomas, 1983). However, there lacks clarity on what that something else implies.

The discussion on the intrinsic value thus plays a significant role in facilitating making of the appropriate judgments concerning conservation of the environment. From the discussion, it is evident that understanding the components of values is a significant step towards resolution of some of the environmental problems that we often encounter. The ecological ethics is thus crucial for ensuring effectiveness in establishing a cause for calling on the world to assume moral responsibility for the ravages wrought by the industrial society on the natural systems.


In conclusion, the efficient resolution of some of the environmental issues that tends to pose a significant threat to the biosphere necessitates new ways of thinking. The new ways of thinking necessitates the inclusion of the new economic models, broad philosophical thought, and scientific thinking. The true hope for the future thus lies in the capability of individuals to recognize the fact that people co-exist with all life within the sphere of intrinsic value. The good inherent nature often plays a significant role in fulfilling the good life of individuals by both the relational and instrumental values. As such, the discussion proves that as relational, moral agents, the humans have the moral obligation of ensuring effectiveness in the preservation of the biosphere since both the plants and animals possess intrinsic moral value.

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