Graham Oddie: "Holism, Shapelessness and the Uncodifiability of Value”

  • Date: –13:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - Eng2-1022
  • Organiser: Department of Philosophy
  • Contact person: Erik Carlson
  • Seminarium

The Higher Seminar in Practical Philosophy

Graham Oddie, CU Boulder och SCAS: "Holism, Shapelessness and the Uncodifiability of Value”

Value particularism seems to involve three components: 

1) the holistic nature of value;
2) the shapelessness of value with respect to nature;
3) the non-existence of codifiable axiological principles.

The plausibility of these components, and the relations between them, depend crucially on the what the central terms mean, and particularists do not always make it clear what they mean by them. I offer plausible explications of holism and shapelessness, and show that, on this understandings of the terms, there is an interesting connection between them. I illustrate this by constructing a model of a radically holistic value structure, and show that it brings extreme value shapelessness in its wake. It is harder to pin down what the intended notion of codifiability in this context is. But my little model of radical holism is governed by axiological principles that are clearly codifiable on any plausible understanding of that notion. So holism and shapelessness are clearly compatible with codifiability. Of course, compatibility does not establish the codifiability of the actual structure of value, which may turn out to be much more complicated and messy than it is in my little model. To settle this one way or the other we would need both a precise and acceptable notion of codifiability and a much clearer idea of the actual structure of value. I make a suggestion as to what particularists are really trying to get at with the third component. On this suggestion the issue of codifiability could resolved in principle, but it turns out to be extraordinarily difficult to resolve it in fact.