"The model of impact [...] holds that the value of a good life consists in its product, that is, in its consequences for the rest of the word [...]My impression is that here Dworkin collapses two distinctions which are logically independent and could prove more useful if kept separate:
The model of challenge [...] argues that the goodness of a good life lies in its inherent value as a performance." (Sovreign Virtue, p. 251)
- On one hand, the model of impact differs from the model of challenge in terms of what we may call the perspective in which we understand the value of the actions it includes (or is made of). Namely: the value of a life according to the impact model is measured in "agent-neutral" and global terms, while the value of a life according to the challenge model is measure in "agent-relative" and local terms (more explanation to come).
- On the other hand, the distinction between the two models appears to have to do with the distinction between a consequentialist perspective and a non-consequentialist ones.
Dworkin argues that the impact of a person is "the difference his life makes to the objective value in the world" (ibid, 251.). So far this only tells us that in order to know the ethical value of a life, we need to be able to make some evaluation of value on a global scale: we must look at the total change of value in the world brought about by a life. This evaluation is conceived by Dworkin in terms of "agent-neutral" terms, even if in order to notice this one must look at the way the opposition between the two models is defined. The other aspect of the model of impact is that the value it ascribes to a life is a reflection of the value of the consequences which follow from it. Although Dworking does not state this clearly, they way he speaks about the model of impact suggests that value resides, ultimately, upon the consequences of action, and that the actions of the individual are valuable only instrumentally or at most have a "derivatively" that is to say, they have some value "in themselves" which is the "reflection" of the consequence they produce. This is expressed clearly by several passages:
"A life can have more or less value, the model claims, not because it is intrinsically more valuable to live one's life in one way rather than another, but because living in one way can have better consequences" (252)and
"The model hopes to dissipate the mysteries of ethical value by tying it to another, apparently less mysterious, kind of value: the value that objective states of affairs of the world can have." (252)
"The model of impact [...] holds that the ethical value of a life [...] is parasitic on and measured by the value of its consequences for the rest of the world."According to the model of challenge, on the contrary:
"a good life has the inherent value of a skillful performance.[...] The idea that a skillful performance has an inherent value is a perfectly familiar as a kind of value within lives. We admire a complex and elegant dive, for example, whose value persists after the last ripple has died, and we admire people who climbed Mount Everest because , as they said, it was there. The model of challenge holds that living a life is itself a performance that demands skill, that it is the most comprehensive and important challenge we fact, and that our critical interests consist in the achievements, events, and experiences that mean that we have met the challenge well." (253,)
The model of challenge differs from the model of impact in two dimensions. First of all, it differs from it in terms of the criteria of evaluation of a life's worth. According to the model of challenge the criteria of evaluation we adopt are agent-relative and local , while according to the model of impact they are agent-neutral and global. According to the model of impact the worth of an individual performance or act is a function of an agent-neutral value, the value of the (global) state of affairs that the individual performance produced. On the contrary, according to the model of challenge, it is also a function of circumstances in which that performance took place. The measure of worth is - in a sense - indexed with respect to local aspects of the world, such as the proximate situation in which the performance takes place.
Notice that the difference between the two models does not coincide with the difference between valuing a life in virtue of only its "intrinsic" vs. also "extrinsic" properties. On both models, the worth of a life depends from features that are extrinsic to it: in the model of impact, it is a function of the total change of value brought about in the world, while in the model of impact, it is also a function of the circumstances in which the performance takes place. What really changes is, rather, the dimension of the reality which contributes to determine the worth of an individual life: according to the model of impact the worth of a life depends on features of the world at large, while according to the model of challenge it depends on local features of the world.
The other dimension involved by Dworkin's discussion concerns what we might call as the primary bearer of value. According to the model of challenge the primary bearer of value is the life understood as a performance itself, rather than its consequences. This thought it expreseed by comparing the value of a life to the value of an elegant dive, by saying that it is value "within" a life, and by connecting it to our admiration for people who climbed a Mountain just because "it was there". This aspect of the model of challenge is also stated by the following quote:
[...] a good life has the inherent value of a skillful performance. So it holds that events, achievements, and experiences can have ethical value even when they have no impact beyond the life in which they occur." (253)Since even according to the model of challenge, the value of a life is not uniquely a function of its intrinsic properties, as we have seen, the suggestion seems to be that lives, according to the model of challenge, have some sort of final or non-instrumental value; this fits the comparison with the activity of climbing Mount Everest, performed because it was perceived to be good in itself, and not as means to a further end.
Summing up, the two models differ along two distinct dimensions. On one hand we have the difference between
A. a "neutral" and "global" standard of value (impact), VS a local and "indexed" one (challenge).
on the other hand we have the distinction between:
B. valuing activity as a means to further consequences and as having at most secondary and dependent intrinsic worth, VS viewing activity as a skillful performance or adequate response, and therefore as an end in itself.
The question we should ask is, therefore, whether these two dimension are independent and orthogonal, and if this is true, why Dworkin thought that they had to go together in the way he envisaged.
In order to discover whether these two dimensions are logically independent and orthogonal, we should attempt to construe a table of this sort:
primary locus of value
We therefore obtain the following four cases:
- a1. the value of one's life, considered as an end in itself, as the quality of a performance or of a response, is measured in relation to local parameters. The amount of worth of a life does not depend from how every other subject in the world has or will react to analogous challenges. So if your artistic performance (regarded as worthy in itself, life diving) is mediocre in a global scale, you do not have to worry about that.
- a2. the value of one's life, considered as an end in itself, as the quality of a performance or of a response, is measured in relation to global parameters. The amount of worth of a life depends from how every other subject in similar circumstances has or will react to analogous challenges. So if your artistic performance (regarded as worthy in itself) is mediocre in a global scale, you have to worry about that.
- b1. the value of one's life, considered as a sum of acts, is only instrumental or at most a reflection of the value of the consequences of those act. However the value of those consequences is evaluated in terms of an indexed or local parameter. So if you do not produce great works of arts and your life did not contribute to the world's cultural heritage, you do not have to feel bad about it.
- b2. The value of a life, considered as an activity or sum of acts, is only instrumental or at most a reflection of the consequences of those acts. The value of those consequences is evaluated in terms of global and neutral parameters. So if you do not produce great works of arts and your life did not contribute to the world's cultural heritage, you do not have to feel bad about it.