Is valuing always a human activity (is it something relative to our purposes), or is value something — say some quality or class of qualities — to which we can become more sensitive? Do we project it, or do we discover it?
Then, you should read Mary Midgley — nearly anything by her — to consider his assertions about value and metaphors from an entirely different perspective.
Asma’s article concludes:
As a naturalist, I resist the theological version of human exceptionalism, but as a philosopher, I’m inclined to recognize that nothing has intrinsic value until we humans imagine it so. Since we cannot find our species’ value objectively by looking at the neutral laws of nature, then we must just assert it. And simply affirm that the universe is more remarkable with us in it.
It is good that he “affirms” that the universe is more remarkable with us in it. It is unfortunate that he cannot go so far as to say that we add value to it. It is also unfortunate that he cannot see his psychologizing of valuation for the metaphysical move it is, and that he cannot see that the bleak imagery he strives to use for his no-poetry stance is essentially another set of metaphors, camouflaged as hard facts. Ensuring empirical controls over poetic use — and that our poetic images are vulnerable to correction — is quite a different matter than endorsing unfettered metaphors — even if they happen to be politically expedient and evolutionarily well-rooted. It is also quite a different matter than a priori asserting that one set of metaphors, disguised as the absence of metaphors, is simply the truth.
Asma really wants to affirm that we have value, but also seems to think that this affirmation is a useful fiction. I do not think this is true; I also do not think that this is a livable position, and so I suspect — of course I do not know — that Asma doesn’t really, at a deeper level, think it is merely a useful fiction. Better answers need to be offered about value.
Header image found here.