Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Force of Worth?

Just a quick thought. Might value be a force in the ethical domain akin to gravity in the physical domain? I'm reading Thomas Nagel's The View From Nowhere for class, and something about Chapter VIII of the book, where he says we might as well assume that there is objective ethical truth because, after all, we assume that there is objective physical truth and it gets us pretty far, made me think of this. I haven't really refined it in any way, but haven't blogged in days and wanted to get back.

As a first stab, I'll just leave it at the idea that maybe almost everything in the universe has value, just like (almost) everything in the universe generates a gravitational field. But saying that all masses have a gravitational field doesn't mean that all masses have the same gravity field: a planet exerts more gravity than a dust mite. Nor does it mean that a given mass's gravitational field will have the same effect on surrounding masses at all times and in every configuration of the universe: the nearer one gets to an object and the further one gets from other objects, the more impact that closer object's gravitational field has on one.

Maybe this give a rough analogy for a theory of relative worth? In many cases that we usually encounter, the value of a human is worth far more than the value of bacterium. But in some cases, we may consider it a reasonable loss to lose a human if the result is a bacteria that leads to a medical advance.

As I say, rough thoughts. The vocabulary and examples need to be cleaned up and the implications thought through. But I think the key takeaways for me are that different 'objects' can have different, but fixed, levels of various 'values'. And even though the level of that value may be fixed, the effect that the value of an object has on its environment varies depending on the content of that environment.

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