Authored by: Kevin Mulligan

The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics

Print publication date:  April  2009
Online publication date:  April  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415396318
eBook ISBN: 9780203879306
Adobe ISBN: 9781134155866


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We often refer to values and ascribe value properties. We refer to injustice and the sublime and say of one thing that it is valuable or of an action that it is evil. Or so it seems. But perhaps there are no values. If nihilism about values (sometimes called “axiological nihilism”) is correct, then there are no tragedies, no murders, no sacrifices, no injustice, no costs, no goods, no evils, no vices, no ugly films, no mediocrity, no heroes, no geniuses, no saints and no heroic deeds. “And a good thing, too,” say some. But of course they should not say this if axiological nihilism is correct. For then nothing is a good thing. Nihilism about values occupies one end of the spectrum of possible views about value (Mackie [1986: 15–41] argues for axiological nihilism about what he calls “objective” values). At the other end of the spectrum there is the view that there are values and objects which have positive and negative values; many of these values are what they seem to be, if experience and ordinary language are any guide, that is, monadic properties of their bearers which are not relative to persons or other animate creatures (Hartmann 1932). Another possibility is that nihilism is false but values are not what they seem to be. Perhaps a murder is just a type of action which is frowned on or is the object of other negative attitudes.

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