Research Article

Some Difficult Intuitions for the Principle of Universality


a1 State University of New York at Fredonia [email protected]


The Principle of Universality asserts that a part retains its intrinsic value regardless of the whole in which it is a part or even whether it is part of a whole. The idea underlying this principle is that the intrinsic value of a thing supervenes on its intrinsic properties. Since the intrinsic properties remain unchanged so does the thing's intrinsic value. In this article, I argue that, properly understood, the Principle of Universality can handle seemingly troublesome intuitions about the relative intrinsic value of a vicious person having pain and his having pleasure. I specifically argue that the intuition that the former state is better is explained by the nature of the basic intrinsic-value states, which involve a person having a level of well-being and desert at a time. One implication of this is that given the nature of such basic intrinsic-value states, pleasure and pain are not value-bearing parts of virtuous and vicious attitudes.