Thursday, December 28, 2006

Griffin: 2. Distinction between prudential value and perfectionist values


The good, almost unavoidable, point in perfectionism is this. There are prudential values that are valuable in any life. There are not enough of them, nor is a specific balance between nthem prescribable universally enough, to constitute a form of life. They are the values on the list of the ends of life.” (70)



Persons differ not so much in basic values as in their capacity to realize them. Some basic values (e.g. enjoyment) depend in part on persons’ individual, varying tastes, [Notice: an aspect of subjective variability is introduced via the concept of taste] but not many depend on taste.[…] This is the unavoidable form of prudential perfectionism.” (70)

[Now we shall ask: what distinguishes perfectinism pure from prudential evaluation, apart from the inclusion in prudential evaluations of matters of taste? What makes an objective account of well-being prudential as opposed to a theory of the good life in a perfectionist sense?]


To get an account of well-being that would be of use in moral theory we have to move beyond forms of perfectionism (even my modest one) and on to what is valuable to the particular person affected in each case we judge. For special reasons about Jessica, autonomy might not be the thing for her to go for. For Nicholas, totally absorbed in his work, with no taste for day-to-day pleasures, enjoyment may count for little and accomplishments for a lot. For Edward, risk stimulates; for Sarah, it is off-putting. [In Jessica’s, Edward’s and Sarah’s case, the sort of subjectivity in question can be interpreted according to the notion of capacity to realize prudential values.] We cannot make any useful judgment about how to act so as to promote well-being without having a notion of well-being that captures these variations.” (72)

Summing up: he difference between the two type of value seems to consist in the following:

a. that prudential evaluation allows more subjective variability than perfectionist evaluation

b. that prudential evaluation includes matters of taste which are excluded from perfectionist evaluation

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