intrinsic/instrumental

Moral Values and the Idea of God

  • William Ritchie Sorley
1913 to 1915
University of Aberdeen

The subject of WR Sorley's Gifford Lectures is the relation between existence and goodness. Their aim is to make plausible a reversal of the order in which fact and value are normally related, making the world of value fundamental and seeking to establish on its basis the intelligibility of a world of fact. Thus, instead of beginning with science and drawing ethical or evaluative conclusions on the strength of its findings, Sorley bases the nature of ultimate reality on an investigation into value. This amounts to claiming that a knowledge of how reality is, can only be arrived at by asking first how ideally it ought to be.

Sorley identifies happiness, truth, beauty and goodness as the four fundamental values, and pays particular attention to the relation between these and persons. Other important themes discussed include the contrast between intrinsic and instrumental value, the nature if imagination, and pluralism versus monism.

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