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Intrinsic Value

  • By: Mark Woods
  • In: Green Politics: An A-to-Z Guide
  • Edited by: Dustin Mulvaney & Paul Robbins
  • Subject:Environmental Sociology, Environmental Technology, Policy & Management, Environmental Policy & Law (general)

Many people claim that nature has intrinsic value. Sometimes called inherent value or worth, intrinsic value falls within the philosophical domain of metaethics—the meaning and status of moral language. Although there can be confusion about what the term intrinsic value means, working through this confusion is central to projects in environmental ethics to address environmental problems.

Many people claim that values are wishy-washy, subjectively messy, and best left out of serious scientific and policy discussions about environmental issues. Values cannot be objectively measured and quantified, and value preferences seem to be no different than preferences for different flavors of ice cream. However, to claim that discussions about values are not valuable is itself a value claim. In a factual sense, science can only describe and explain ...

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