This work defends an interrelated set of theses in value-theory, normative ethics and meta-ethics. The three Parts correspond to these three areas.
Part One (Value) defends a biocentric theory of moral standing, and then the coherence and objectivity of belief in intrinsic value, despite recent objections. Intrinsic value is located in the flourishing of living creatures; specifically, a neo-Aristotelian, species-relative account is supplied of wellbeing or flourishing, in terms of the development of the essential capacities of one's species. There follows a theory of priorities, or of relative intrinsic value, in which the satisfaction of basic needs takes priority over other needs and over wants, and the interests of complex and sophisticated creatures over those of others, where they are at stake.
Part Two defends a practice-consequentialist theory of the criteria of rightness and of obligation, which leaves room for supererogation, underpins our intuitions about justice, commends population growth only where it is genuinely desirable, and responds better than act-consequentialism to objections like that concerned with the separateness of persons. Part Three sifts meta-ethical theories, rejects moral relativism, and defends a cognitivist and naturalist meta-ethic. In defending analytical naturalism, it takes into account the latest literature on supervenience.
By responding to recent discussions, this study supersedes my
Theory of Value and Obligation (1987). It is equipped with detailed end-notes and an ample bibliography, which could prove a research tool of itself.
”Attfield’s book ‘Value, Obligation and Meta-Ethics’ (Atlanta, Georgia and Amsterdam, Editions Rodopi, 1995) provides the fullest presentation and defence of his extremely impressive ethical theory… [Value, Obligation and Meta-Ethics] is certainly an excellent contribution to normative ethics in general, as well as, more specifically, to environmental ethics.” in:
MIND, Vol. 110, January 2001, pp. 149-153
“…the book is a very thorough engagement with many contemporary debates in moral philosophy.” in:
The Expository Times
Table of contents
Editorial Foreword. Preface. Acknowledgments. List of Abbreviations. ONE. Introduction. PART ONE: VALUE. TWO. The Domain of Morality. THREE. What Is Intrinsic Value? FOUR. Essential Capacities. FIVE. Worthwhile Lives. SIX. Priorities among Values. PART TWO: OBLIGATION. SEVEN. Acting for the Best. EIGHT. The Limits of Obligation. NINE. Justice. TEN. Population and the Total View. ELEVEN. Practice-Consequentialism and Its Critics. PART THREE: META-ETHICS. TWELVE. Moral Cognitivism. THIRTEEN. Comparing Moral Outlooks. FOURTEEN. Foundations. Notes. Bibliography. About the Author. Index.