Adding Goods

Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Tooley

Second Advisor

Graham Oddie

Third Advisor

Michael Huemer

Fourth Advisor

Alastair Norcross

Fifth Advisor

John Gibert


G. E. Moore famously warned us that "[T]he value of a whole must not be assumed to be the same as the sum of the values of its parts" (1903, p. 28). In so doing he denied that value is additive. W. D. Ross agreed with Moore and claimed of Moore's doctrine "that its truth in the abstract is unquestionable" (1930, p. 72, my emphasis). Many other philosophers have since followed suit. In the first part of my dissertation I develop various themes from Moore and argue that he made an important mistake which led him to reject the additivity of value. I then offer an account of realism about degrees of goodness and defend an account of intrinsicness and states of affairs that avoids the mistake Moore made. I also present and defend an axiology that entails that a state of affairs is intrinsically good, if and only if, it involves an agent that takes an attitude towards an intentional object such that the attitude fits its object. In the second part of my dissertation I answer three objections that target this additive conception of intrinsic value: these are putative cases of incommensurability, organic unity, and indeterminacy in intrinsic value. If one embraces the metaphysics and axiology that I defend, a very compelling case against these purported counterexamples to the additivity of intrinsic value can be provided. As a consequence moral computation requires only simple mathematics.

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