MAXIMALITY, DUPLICATION, AND INTRINSIC VALUE Forthcoming in Ratio Sean Drysdale Walsh University of Minnesota Duluth [email protected] Abstract In this paper, argue for the thesis that ‘maximality is extrinsic’ and that moral properties are extrinsic properties (contrary to classical ethical supervenience). Theodore Sider has a number of arguments that depend on his own simple argument that maximality is extrinsic. However, Peter van Inwagen has an argument that can be used to defend the thesis that maximality is intrinsic, and thus I argue that Sider’s simple argument fails. However, van Inwagen’s argument fails against a more complex, sophisticated argument that maximality is extrinsic. I then argue that moral properties are extrinsic properties. Two physically identical things can have different moral properties in a physical world. This argument is a counterexample to a classical ethical supervenience idea (often attributed to G.E. Moore) that if there is identity of physical properties in a physical world, then there is also identity in moral properties as well. I argue moral value is ‘border sensitive’ and extrinsic for Kantians, Utilitarians, and Aristotelians.

I. Sider’s Simple Maximality Argument While I do not, many philosophers take consciousness or personhood or the wholeness of bodies or moral properties to be intrinsic.1 G.E. Moore holds the metaphysical thesis that the ‘intrinsic value’ of a thing depends on its ‘intrinsic nature’, and that if two things have the same intrinsic nature (the same natural properties), then necessarily they have the same intrinsic value (and the same moral properties).2 I will argue that this classical ‘ethical supervenience’ thesis is false, and that Moore’s corresponding ‘method of isolation’ is false as well. I argue moral value is ‘border sensitive’ and extrinsic for Kantians, utilitarians, and Aristotelians.


See Trenton Merricks, ‘Maximality and Consciousness’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66:1 (2003), pp. 150-158, where Merricks argues the consciousness is maximal and intrinsic. See Peter van Inwagen, Material Beings (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), where van Inwagen argues that wholeness of an organism is intrinsic. See G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica: The Revised Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), where Moore argues that normative properties such as beauty are intrinsic and not relational properties. 2 Moore, Principia Ethica, pp. 26-28 and 286-289. Moore himself never actually used the terms ‘supervene’ or ‘supervenience’ in his work.



Theodore Sider gives an argument that ‘houseness’, ‘rockhood’, and consciousness are extrinsic because ‘maximality is extrinsic’.3 Peter van Inwagen, however, articulates an opposing view with his Duplication Principle:   My deepest instincts tell me that composition [of a whole of a certain type out of parts] is an internal relation... If the xs compose something [whole of a certain type], and if the ys perfectly duplicate the xs (both in their intrinsic properties and in the spatiotemporal and causal relations they bear to one another), then the ys compose something [whole of the same type].4 Sider’s argument is inconsistent with van Inwagen’s view that the composition of a whole organism out of parts is a purely internal relation. Sider says: Many ordinary sortal predicates express maximal properties. Consider, for example, the mereological difference between a house and one of its windows. Linguistic intuition assures us that this entity, call it House-minus, is not a house. I own a single house, not thousands. House-minus is a very large part of a thing that is a house, and so it itself is not a house. Being a house is a maximal property. But now suppose that the window is destroyed; or better, suppose it never existed in the first place. In that case House-minus (or something exactly like it, at any rate) is a house, for no larger house contains it as a part. Apparently, then, the property being a house is not an intrinsic property. For inspection of a thing—for example, House-minus—will not reveal whether it is a house; one must additionally inspect whether it is attached to other things that would collectively comprise a house…. Maximality is a special case of being border-sensitive. A property is border-sensitive iff whether it is instantiated by an object depends on what is going on outside that object at its borders. Being a house is border-sensitive because whether something is a house depends on what it is attached to.5 This preceding quote is where Sider presents an outline of his main argument for maximality being extrinsic (and includes the assumption, which I share, that there are no smaller things of kind K, such as a house, that are composed out of the parts of a larger thing of kind K). If an object has an intrinsic 3

Theodore Sider, ‘Maximality and Microphysical Supervenience’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66:1 (2003), pp. 139-149. 4 van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 138. In this passage, van Inwagen is talking about organisms, which according to him are the only types of composite material beings that exist. There is a weaker reading of the passage, on which something is a whole (sans type of whole) in virtue of the internal features of its parts, but van Inwagen also supports the stronger interpretation of this Duplication Principle. 5 Theodore Sider, ‘Maximality and Intrinsic Properties’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63(2001), pp. 357-364, pp. 357-358.



property, then necessarily a perfect duplicate also has the property. Extrinsic properties, which include maximality according to Sider, are properties that are not necessarily shared between perfect duplicates. I will argue that Sider’s argument for maximality as extrinsic fails, but another argument succeeds. It is important for Sider that maximality be extrinsic, since the thesis does important work for Sider in a number of papers.6 Also, I will argue that there are consequences regarding the status of moral properties for the thesis that maximality is extrinsic. Sider says, ‘A property, F, is maximal iff, roughly, large parts of an F are not themselves Fs’ (e.g., a large part of a house is not itself a house).7 Sider’s argument for maximality seems straightforward enough. Sider argues that a microphysical duplicate of a rock (call it ‘Rock-minus’) is not itself a rock if it is surrounded by more strongly-attached rock stuff.8 Thus, Sider argues that whether or not something is a whole rock, as opposed to a mere portion of a rock, depends on what surrounds it. Being a rock is a maximal property, and being a whole rock is not intrinsic to the rock itself. Most kindterms denote maximal properties (e.g., being a body, cat, brain, table, lamp, etc.) that are extrinsic on Sider’s argument. However, I will argue that we have strong reason to reject Sider’s argument as it stands, since no normal rock is like Rock-minus, and classical mechanics can make serious trouble for his counterexample. The typical rock that Sider imagines cannot be physically identical to a smaller portion of the typical, larger rock that Sider imagines (call the large rock ‘Rock’). Let me explain. Consider the following problem with Sider’s simple argument. In Material Beings, van Inwagen argues that if someone really lacked an appendage such as an ear, there would be some sort of physical difference (e.g., the addition of scar tissue) between the relevant ear-head interface area


See Sider ‘Maximality and Intrinsic Properties’, where Sider uses his notion of maximality to argue against David Lewis and Rae Langton’s arguments for their notion of ‘intrinsic’ in David Lewis and Rae Langton, ‘Redefining “Intrinsic”’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58:2 (1998), pp. 333–345. Sider also uses the idea that ‘maximality as extrinsic’ in ‘Maximality and Microphysical Supervenience’ to argue against Merricks’ ‘Maximality and Consciousness’ and argue that consciousness is extrinsic. 7 Sider, ‘Maximality and Intrinsic Properties’, p. 357. 8 Sider gives the rock example in Sider, ‘Maximality and Intrinsic Properties’, p. 362.



of the ‘ear-less’ person and the ‘ear-ful’ person. Thus, van Inwagen argues that the person who lacks an appendage is not a counterexample to the Duplication Principle since such a body is not physically identical to a nonbody which is merely a subsection of a larger whole body. I believe a slightly modified version of van Inwagen’s argument applies to rocks as well.9 After all, any subsection of a rock is being affected by the surrounding rock material, and thus is not a perfect duplicate of a whole rock that lacks such surroundings. This creates an intrinsic difference in the internal subsection. Consider the difference between a molecule of water (HO-H) versus a hydroxide ion (–OH). The hydroxide ion is not physically identical to the proper part of the water molecule that consists of one hydrogen and one oxygen. Being covalently bonded in an H-O-H configuration makes the OH part intrinsically different from that of a hydroxide ion –OH. The same would be true of the intrinsic nature of sodium atom1 bonded to another sodium atom (in a large chuck of sodium metal) versus sodium atom2 bonded to a chlorine atom (in a chunk of table salt). From the point of view of classical mechanics, only a violation of a law of nature would allow a sodium atom to have the exact same internal structure in the cases of sodium atom1 and sodium atom2. Much of the internal structures of atoms are due to what they are next to, including those of the rock. From the point of view of classical mechanics, only a violation of a law of nature would allow a subsection of a rock to have the exact same internal structure as a whole rock. Sider does not respond to such an objection to his simple argument. Sider, however, could reply analogously to van Inwagen’s proposed rejoinder in the voice of an opponent such as Sider: ‘But suppose that at the very instant your counterpart’s ear was cut off, it was replaced with some inorganic appendage that perfectly duplicated the causal powers of the severed ear. Then the atoms


Nota bene that van Inwagen himself makes no such arguments concerning rocks, since he is a nihilist with regard to all composite beings that are not organisms, and thus he does not believe rocks exist. Also note that van Inwagen does not, strictly speaking, believe in ‘bodies’, although for convenience I often use the term ‘body’ as an exemplar of a composite material being, since ‘body’ is more intuitive to say than ‘organism’ and my arguments would apply to organisms just as well. See van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 76.



adjacent to the “interface” would behave exactly as they would have behaved if the ear had not been cut off.’10 Thus, imagine that there is some stuff surrounding the small, whole Rockminus that makes the edges of the rock (intrinsically) mimic the edges of a small subsection of Rock. The problem with this reply is, as van Inwagen puts it for ears: If the ‘appendage’ perfectly duplicated the causal powers of the severed ear, right down to the atomic level, it would have to be an atom-for-atom duplicate of the ear and would thus not be ‘inorganic.’ The atoms that virtually composed it would immediately be assimilated by my counterpart, who would thereby become a perfect duplicate of me. And that outcome would not contradict the Duplication Principle.11 So, to apply this to the case of Sider’s rock, if there was something right next to Rock-minus that causally interacted with it to make its borders intrinsically identical to the border of the non-rock duplicate that is a subsection of the larger Rock, then that stuff would just become a part of Rock-minus. Thus, again Rock-minus would not be a perfect duplicate of that subsection of Rock. Whatever surrounding stuff that exactly recreates the causal powers of the surrounding rock would seem to become part of Rock-minus. Thus, there cannot be a straightforward, simple example of a Rockminus that is perfectly identical to the subsection of Rock. Sider’s simple argument fails, since the small sub-sections of normal rocks are not physically identical to other normal rocks. The borders of the sub-sections of rocks are structured in a certain way because they are surrounded in a certain way by other rock. To mimic those causal powers seems to require adding more rocklike stuff to the borders of the rock (or something else that becomes part of the rock), thereby failing to create a perfect physical duplicate of a subsection of a rock that itself is not a rock.

II. A More Sophisticated Maximality Argument However, I will argue that a more complex, sophisticated argument for the thesis ‘maximality is extrinsic’ succeeds. There are a number of views of

10 11

van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 140. van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 140.



causation (some of which van Inwagen himself endorses) that allows for better counterexamples to the Duplication Principle. I argue that if any one of the following cases can possibly obtain for any number of reasons, maximality is indeed extrinsic: (Case A) Divine (or non-divine) ex nihilo causation occurs which perfectly mimics an ear (or rock part or arm part) that is actually not there. (Case B) One simple, small part spontaneously disappears by annihilation, leaving the surrounding parts momentarily unaffected. (Case C) One simple, small part spontaneously moves far enough away to no longer be a part of a thing (e.g., by an improbable but possible quantum shift), leaving the surrounding parts momentarily unaffected. (Case D) A body or a rock has a small part which is as loosely connected to the whole as possible (but definitely connected) by the smallest thread. The fastest possible cut or separation of that smallest and weakest connection from the main whole severs the part from the whole, leaving the surrounding parts momentarily unaffected. (Case E) A reverse-version of Cases A-D above, in which a part is suddenly added to a whole. According to cases A-D, some group of parts that once did not compose some particular type of thing (e.g., a body or a rock) suddenly composes that type of thing due to a Cambridge change (i.e., a change that does not involve the intrinsic properties of or relations among its parts). In Case E, however, some group of parts that once did compose some particular type of thing (e.g., a body or a rock) suddenly does not compose that type of thing due to a Cambridge change. In what follows, I will focus on cases A-D. Consider Case A. Van Inwagen, for example, accepts the common Christian doctrine that God can create and annihilate ex nihilo, but also accepts that ex nihilo creation and annihilation is broadly possible regardless of theism. Imagine Fred is a whole person (with two arms) and composed of the ys, which are all the parts of Fred. John is composed of the xs and lacks an arm. John’s xs are intrinsically identical to a subset of Fred’s ys because of ex nihilo causation and annihilation. God, or random events, perfectly duplicates the causal powers at the interface of John’s severed limb without having to create an atom-for-atom duplicate of the severed limb. On van Inwagen's view, God in fact has created a number of things ex nihilo in the case of



miracles, and thus has mimicked certain causal powers perfectly.12 The necessary parts and causal fields (such as electromagnetic fields and gravitational fields) come into and out of existence ex nihilo. For example, for John’s missing arm, God could mimic the causal powers at the arm-torso interface by creating ex nihilo the parts that are flowing into the armless John, and annihilating the simples that are flowing out of the armless John. This allows for the xs that compose John to be intrinsically identical to a subset of the ys in Fred. Yet John’s xs compose a whole person and yet the corresponding parts in Fred do not. John should make the Cartesian observation that ‘I obviously exist,’ but if he is a material being (as many including van Inwagen insist) then he is identical to something that does not exist (mainly, some subset of Fred). But this is a failure of the Duplication Principle. Consider a slightly different version of Case A (call it Case A') that illustrates a Cambridge change that creates a new metaphysical entity. Imagine Fred', who has two arms at time t1, suddenly has one arm spontaneously annihilated by God and replaced with an ex nihilo arm at time t2. At time t1 Fred' is composed of the ys, and at time t2 he is composed of the ‘ys-arm’ (the ys minus all the parts of his now missing arm). From the point of view of the ys-arm, there are no changes (i.e., there are no changes intrinsic to ys-arm). And yet now the ys-arm have a new property: they constitute a whole body. Thus, a Cambridge change occurs that makes the ys-arm compose a body. Consider the following solution to save the Duplication Principle in Case A. This solution is a poor one (suggested above by van Inwagen’s final reply that the inorganic ear becomes assimilated into the body), but is nevertheless instructive since I will use it to rule out the move of extending ‘proper parthood’ too broadly. In Material Beings, van Inwagen says that a life is a ‘well-individuated jealous event’13 because ‘[a] life takes the energy it finds and turns it to its own purposes’14 while an ocean wave does not. Van Inwagen thus puts forth this requirement for proper parthood: 12

Van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 159, 165. van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 89. 14 van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 87. 13



x is a proper part of y if and only if y is an organism and x is caught up in the life of y.15 A part of a carbon molecule in sugar becomes ‘caught up in a life’ sometime after one eats sugar. That part is used in metabolism which supports the body’s continuing to live. The part is not only maintained in the living system by surrounding molecules, but also helps maintain other molecules in its surroundings. Now consider the ‘hybridization view’ that God is caught up in and assimilated into John’s life (much as the ‘inorganic ear’ does in the case van Inwagen considers). Now John is a physical-nonphysical hybrid. According to van Inwagen, something is paradigmatically caught up in a life to the highest degree when it is both the object and the subject of robust maintenance and control for a living system. In the miracle case, it seems that God is the subject of that robust maintenance (the ex nihilo arm is functionally equivalent to a real arm in a number of ways, after all) and also might be the object of maintenance (since God is a reacting to the needs of the biological system). However, even if God is not part of John to the highest degree in the most paradigmatic sense, God still may be part of John to a lesser degree and in a less paradigmatic sense.16 This would make John’s parts different from Fred’s, thus avoiding a counterexample to the Duplication Principle. Fred and John still have a set of physical parts that are intrinsically identical, but John has some non-physical part that Fred lacks (mainly, God who is caught up in John’s life but not Fred’s, as God gets caught up in the life of Lazarus in the Biblical story). The Duplication Principle seems saved, but this hybridization solution comes at some cost. First, some composite organisms are no longer material beings (they are physical non-physical hybrids). Seemingly normally shaped bodies like that of Lazarus actually have strange nonphysical extensions (which may or may not be extended in space and time, depending on one’s view of God’s relation to space and time), which violates basic intuitions 15

van Inwagen, Material Beings, p. 94. See van Inwagen’s Material Beings (especially §17-18) on mereological vagueness and varying degrees of being ‘caught up in a life’. 16



about the nature and shape of bodies.17 More importantly, however, this hybridization solution is even less compelling when we consider the cases B, C, and D, and non-divine cases of A and A'. First, consider a non-divine Case A. According to some scientists and philosophers (including van Inwagen18), it is possible, albeit uncommon outside the big bang, for ex nihilo causation (and annihilation) to occur. Or, equivalently for my purposes, it is possible for matter and energy to be suddenly transferred (by quantum randomness) to and from faraway places in a way that mimics the arm (without annihilation and creation, but with just spontaneous movement in unlikely but possible quantum shifts of matter and energy). If John’s ‘ex nihilo arm’ is due to just random (and albeit unlikely but possible) quantum shifts or annihilations and creations, one cannot straightforwardly attribute any additional parts (like the activities of God that are ‘caught up in a life’) to John. John exists and his parts are intrinsically identical to parts of Fred that do not compose anything at all. Consider a non-divine Case A', which illustrates a Cambridge change that creates a new whole body and thus a new property for some set of parts. The hybridization solution for avoiding the Cambridge change in the divine case was to add a part of God to be part of Fred' at t2, so that Fred' is made up of something more that the ys-arm, which themselves undergo no changes at all. If elements of God become an internal part of the body of Fred' at time t2, then the new composition of Fred' (who survives the changes) is due to an internal change in parts (mainly, the addition of elements of God as a part). However, if God’s activities can be mimicked by either (a) random annihilation and destruction of parts or (b) random quantum shifts in matter to and from the interface of the arm of Fred', and these are not jealously caught up in the life of Fred' (since they are random occurrences), then the Cambridge change persists. The body of Fred' is suddenly composed of the ys-arm, which undergo no intrinsic changes themselves, but suddenly gets the new property


However, to these problems it might be replied that these miracle cases are exceptional, and therefore strange nonphysical parts are not so problematic (after all, they are parts for principled reasons, qua ‘caught up in a life,’ etc.). 18 Van Inwagen supports the broad possibility of ex nihilo creation and annihilation, divine or not, in his Material Beings, pp. 159, 165.



of ‘composing a whole.’ After all, at time t2 the ys-arm is all there is to the body of Fred', and Fred' still has a body and is not dead. Now consider the example of Karen and the simpler cases of B and C. In Case B, Karen suddenly and spontaneously loses the smallest possible part by spontaneous annihilation, the possibility of which van Inwagen seems to concede.19 In Case C, Karen’s part spontaneously and randomly quantum shifts to a sufficiently far away location. For a split second in cases B and C, none of the surrounding parts of Karen are affected by or ‘notice’ this loss. Thus, at time t1, Karen’s body is composed of the ys, and at time t2, Karen’s body is composed of the ys-1 (the ys minus one small part). But the ys-1 are the same intrinsically at t1 and t2, and yet they fail to compose a whole at t1 and do compose a whole at t2. Lastly, consider Case D, which does not require anything spontaneously disappear or move far away from the person’s body by a quantum jump. Consider Mary, whose finger hangs onto her body by the smallest possible thread. That thread is cut quickly by a process that, for a split second, does not causally interact with the surrounding parts. The case of Mary works much as the case of Karen in B and C. At time t1, Mary’s body is composed of the ys, and at time t2, Mary’s body is composed of the ys-1 (the ys minus a part). But the ys-1 are the same intrinsically at t1 and t2, and yet they fail to compose a whole at t1 and do compose a whole at t2. In the Karen and Mary cases, like the Fred' case, a Cambridge change creates a body where no body existed previously. This violates the Duplication Principle. Thus, I do not take hybridization solutions seriously (and neither would van Inwagen, for that matter). To generate the problem for the Duplication Principle and motivate the thesis that maximality is extrinsic, only one of these many plausible cases needs to be metaphysically possible. The plausibility of this possibility can come from any one of a wide variety of causal events that obtains for any one of a wide variety of reasons, including: 1. Broadly religious reasons (e.g., it is possible that God could create or annihilate ex nihilo), 2. Broadly scientific reasons (e.g., either random creation or annihilation occurs ex nihilo or any one of a wide variety of interpretations of quantum mechanics obtains), or 19

van Inwagen, Material Beings, pp. 159, 165.



3. Broadly philosophical reasons of metaphysical possibility (e.g., it is conceivable). Given that it is likely that one of the cases is possible for at least one of these three types of reasons, I will assume from this point onward that at least one of my counterexamples to the Duplication Principle is possible, and thus maximality is extrinsic. Thus, we can save Sider’s thesis that maximality is extrinsic by making the argument in favour of it more sophisticated. While a normal rock (a ‘Rock-minus’) typically cannot be physically identical to a subsection of a normal larger rock (a ‘Rock’), it is metaphysically possible that there are extraordinary rocks (in which ex nihilo causation or quantum randomness occurs) and normal rocks in unusual circumstances (analogous to cases in which the rock lose a small part quickly) that are identical to subsections of normal rocks. My argument generalizes for a variety or sortal kinds, and for three and four dimensional views.

III. Maximality, Duplication, and Intrinsic Value What could be more intrinsic than moral properties like moral status or moral goodness? I will now argue that various Kantians, utilitarians, and Aristotelians should hold that moral and normative value is extrinsic, since things such as personhood, beauty, pleasure, and activity are extrinsic because they are ‘border-sensitive’ as maximal things are. I also argue that classical ethical supervenience is false, and that the method of isolation is suspect. Now imagine two possible worlds that are identical except for the addition of a single atom. That atom is part of something that is morally good. So, for example, for a physicalist Kantian, that atom could be part of a person, who is composed from a body. In possible world #1, the person’s moral personhood at time t1 is composed of the ys+1 (i.e., the ys plus the one extra atom). In possible world #2, the person’s moral personhood is composed of the xs, and the xs are physically identical to the ys. In possible world #1, the personhood and moral worth of the maxim supervenes on the ys+1. However, the ys are physically identical to the xs, and yet the ys do not compose a person with actual moral worth.



So, on my view, the xs and the ys can be physically identical and yet have different moral properties, even though the difference between the two worlds that makes this so would not normally make a great normative difference (it is only a difference of one atom, after all). The property of moral worth and having moral status is extrinsic, since inspection of the intrinsic features of the ys cannot itself reveal whether it is indeed a person. One must, as Sider puts it above, ‘additionally inspect whether it is attached to other things that would collectively comprise [it].’ I also reject Moore’s method of isolation test for intrinsic value, which isolates something from anything else and asks whether it has value in isolation. To judge what has intrinsic value and what does not, Moore asks us to imagine the thing exist in complete isolation of anything else. However, if the things that Moore is considering are maximal, then considering them in isolation should leave us with the judgment that it might not be an instance of the thing after all, since that depends on its surroundings. Analogous to what Sider argues for the rock, there are not a thousand overlapping beautiful things that each has so-called ‘intrinsic value’ on Moore’s view. There is only one beautiful thing, the painting. There is only one painting that has value, and it is maximal, and thus fails to have intrinsic value since it depends on its borders. In practice, however, using the isolation test and considering a painting in isolation from other things is really to imagine that the painting is maximal and defined by borders. So one is really imagining an extrinsic border when imagining the painting itself, an extrinsic border that demarcates the painting area from the nonpainting area. So, in practice, by using the isolation test you are not judging intrinsic value strictly speaking, but extrinsic value given the surrounding borders. Note that while Moore’s ‘theory of right’ is utilitarian and as such clearly sees ‘rightness’ as extrinsic (rightness being a property of something that maximizes utility), I am arguing that the value of good things in his utilitarian ‘theory of good’ (beautiful things) is extrinsic. Now consider the feeling of pleasure in a standard (non-Moorean) utilitarian theory of good. Imagine that we accept the following form of functionalism (borrowed from David Lewis) about pleasure: something is a pleasure if it typically plays the



causal role of pleasure for members of one’s own species.20 Also imagine that the full value of pleasure is in complete pleasure, and not parts of pleasures. Now one can see how the xs can play the role of pleasure in one case, but the ys+1 can play the role of pleasure in another (and the xs and ys are physically identical). The xs would have the full value of pleasure, but the ys would not, since the ys are merely a proper part of pleasure (even though the xs are physically identical to the ys). An extension of this idea may lend some support to Jonathan Dancy’s particularist project, in which surrounding context plays a significant role in the moral valence of things. In many of Dancy’s cases, normative value depends on extrinsic properties.21 Whether or not a pleasure is the taking of pleasure in the suffering of others (morally bad pleasure) or taking pleasure in helping others (morally good pleasure) seems to depend on factors extrinsic to the feeling of pleasure itself. The valence of the normative value of something, according to Dancy, may change from one context to the next, and is extrinsic. However, if it turns out that many things that have so-called ‘intrinsic moral value’ (e.g., personhood, moral status, etc.) are actually maximal and thus are extrinsically valuable, then Dancy’s extrinsic moral properties will not seem so odd by comparison. For example, consider the main locus of value in Aristotle’s ethics, ‘activity of soul in accordance with virtue’ (psuches energeia kat' areten) that constitutes ‘happiness’ (eudaimonia). Aristotle believes the value of pleasure depends on the value of the complete activity of which the pleasure is a part (e.g., taking pleasure in the activity of helping others versus taking pleasure in the activity of hurting others). Thus, the value of pleasure is extrinsic and contextual for Aristotle, since it depends on the activity that surrounds it and in which the pleasure plays a certain role. Pleasure has normative value for Aristotle in virtue of the role pleasure plays in the completion of virtuous activity.22


David Lewis, ‘Mad Pain and Martian Pain’, in Philosophical Papers, Vol. I (Oxford University Press 1983). 21 Johnathan Dancy, ‘The Particularist’s Progress’, Moral Particularism, ed. Brad Hooker and Margaret Olivia Little, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), pp 130-156. 22 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1098a16, 1153a30-1153b21.



However, I will now argue that Aristotle’s activity itself is of extrinsic value, since activity itself is ‘border sensitive’, as Sider puts it above. Consider the similarity between an activity and a story. An activity is like a story in that both stories and activities can always go on a bit longer. Thus, you cannot tell the precise point at which an activity or story ends (or begins) by merely looking at the mere inner parts of the story or activity. One needs to know where the story begins and ends; in most stories more can be added to the beginning or the end. For example, Aldous Huxley’s story Brave New World could have ended sooner, but it does not. There is nothing intrinsic to where Huxley actually ended the story that demands that it end exactly there. Activity is similar, in that an activity could have been a bit longer or shorter. What this means is that the Aristotelian value of activity itself is extrinsic, since activities are maximal things that have borders. Importantly, only activities that are complete (telios) have full normative value for Aristotle.23 Whether or not my activity of helping another person ends in more or less than one minute depends on extrinsic factors. However, for Aristotle, there is not multiple complete activities in helping someone across the street; there is but one. That activity’s ending as a complete activity depends on borders that are partly determined by external factors. Thus, the value of virtuous, complete activity is extrinsic, since its existence depends on external borders. Some complete activities are composed of the ys+1, and some by the xs, where the xs and ys are physical duplicates. The ys have less normative value than the xs, since the ys are merely a proper part of a complete activity (and thus they constitute something incomplete), whereas the xs constitute a complete activity with more normative value.

IV. Conclusion I have argued that normative value is often extrinsic for Aristotelians (virtuous activity and pleasure), Kantians (moral worth, moral status, and personhood), and utilitarians (pleasure and the beautiful in the theory of the good). I have argued that Sider’s simple argument for the thesis ‘maximality is extrinsic’ fails, since (analogous to the severed ear case van Inwagen gives) under


Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1097b15-21.



normal circumstances of classical mechanics a subsection of an actual whole is not identical to some actual thing that is smaller. The smaller thing is not surrounded by the same kinds of things, and this affects the intrinsic physical properties of the smaller thing. However, van Inwagen’s argument fails against a more complex, sophisticated argument that maximality is extrinsic. Van Inwagen’s own commitments to various forms of causation and metaphysical possibility can be used to argue that maximality is indeed extrinsic, although not for the simple, mundane reasons that Sider suggests. I then used the ‘maximality as extrinsic’ thesis to argue that many moral and normative properties are extrinsic properties, and thus even in a physical world, the physically identical xs and ys can have different moral properties on a variety of moral worldviews.24

University of Minnesota Duluth Department of Philosophy Duluth, MN 55812 USA [email protected]


I am grateful for helpful discussions of many of these metaphysical matters with Alex Skiles, Tristram McPherson, Jason Ford, and the participants in Peter van Inwagen’s Material Beings seminar.

maximality, duplication, and intrinsic value

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