Values and Intentions: A Study in Value-Theory and Philosophy of Mind

By J. N. Findlay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTORY AND PROGRAMMATIC

(I) PLEA FOR A TELEOLOGICAL ETHICS OF VALUE

The aim of this book is to discuss the old question of the general pattern of the ends and counter-ends of rational wish and endeavour. It proceeds on the assumption that, while there may be vast disagreement on the relative choiceworthiness of various characters of activity, experience or states of affairs, and extremely great disagreement as to what is to be sought, chosen or preferred in the individual case, there is none the less a consensus--remarkable or unremarkable as one chooses to regard it--as to the characters of things that confer on them their desirability or worthwhileness, or the reverse. While the detailed content of desirable living may be infinitely debatable, or open to personal decision, its general direction (or range of directions) seems much more uncontroversial. We seem always ready to justify our preferences by appealing to a relatively small number of 'reasons', all of which show much interconnection and mutual kinship, and are as readily appealed to by other persons as by ourselves. Thus we might successfully justify our preference of A to B by holding A to be more agreeable to someone, or to afford greater insight and mastery in some field, or to involve less arbitrariness than its rival: we should not try to justify it by holding it to be more nearly a square, or to require a greater amount of chewing than B, or to be a considerably greater distance west of Greenwich. Or if we did give such reasons we should feel it obligatory to justify them by bringing in further grounds. While our first reasons in justification of our preferences vary immensely, and are not necessarily acceptable or intelligible to others, they are for that reason also felt to be insufficient, and we are soon ready to justify them by falling back on one or other of a comparatively small range of reasons, which are in general acknowledged by others as well as ourselves. And this general acknowledgement has a queer air of the self-justifying and self-evident, just as its refusal would have a strange air of the absurd. While the last reasons cited are not mere synonyms of desirability, and while

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