The Goodness of Means: Instrumental and Relational Values, Causation, and Environmental Policies

Last changed: 29 March 2019

This paper contributes to a central discussion on the value of biodiversity in environmental policy. Patrik Baard here provides a nuanced picture of instrumental value.

Article: The Goodness of Means: Instrumental and Relational Values, Causation, and Environmental Policies

Writer: Patrik Baard, CBM

Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10806-019-09762-7

 

Methods and results

The background of this paper is two-fold. First, the distinction between intrinsic and instrumental value is often central in environmental ethics, and this paper intends to clarify and analyze central aspects of instrumental values, which are often neglected. Second, there are some who claim that we should go beyond the distinction between instrumental and intrinsic value, and instead discuss relational values. In this paper I suggest that instrumental values can accommodate relational values.

Practical relevance

Whether biodiversity has instrumental or intrinsic value is a much-debated discussion in environmental ethics. The Convention on Biological Diversity (UN 1992) recognize the intrinsic value of biological diversity. Still, there are many reasons to be cautious about such a proposition, since it has a quite unclear justification, and may lead to counter-intuitive implications. Yet, even if biodiversity has instrumental value, it is still extremely valuable.

The paper contributes to a central discussion on the value of biodiversity in environmental policy.

Many may have a hard time digesting whether species, or ecosystems, have intrinsic value. Here, I offer another solution, namely that they have instrumental value. Traditionally, if something has 'mere' instrumental value, it is substitutable, and so on. However, here I show that this is not necessarily the case for all entities that have instrumental value.

Abstract:

Instrumental values are often considered to be inferior to intrinsic values. One reason for this is that instrumental values are extrinsic and rely on two factors: (a) a means–end relationship that is (b) conducive to something of final or intrinsic value. In this paper, I will investigate the conditions under which bearers of instrumental value are given different value or owed different levels of respect. Such conditions include the number of means that are conducive to something of final or intrinsic value as well as the form of causality that is implied. It will be suggested that different numbers and causal relations will imply different degrees of reverence or respect to the bearers of instrumental value. I will also critically investigate recent proposals such as relational values that allegedly go beyond the distinction between instrumental and intrinsic value. Drawing from this critical analysis, a nuanced picture of instrumental value will be provided.


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