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Darwin, Meaning and Value

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In response to Alan Holland's 'Darwin and the meaning in life' (Environmental Values 18: 503-518) I argue that there can be room in a Darwinian world for talk of value, in the sense of interpersonal reasons to promote, preserve or cherish some of the states of that world, or to be glad about those states. Darwinian theorists can recognise a range of intrinsically valuable states of affairs, from the pleasure or the happiness of creatures to their flourishing, and need not discard axiology in general. The context of the passage criticised by Holland is explained to show that I was attempting to supply a vocabulary (such as 'reasons to be glad') usable by religious sceptics as well as believers, for comparing worlds with parasitism and predation and worlds without them; the shape of such comparisons is further delineated. Reasons for being tentative about trans-world comparisons are also supplied.

Keywords: Darwinism; axiology; biological systems; parasitism; predation; reasons to be glad; reasons to preserve; value; value-language

Document Type: Discussion


Publication date: 2011-08-01

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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