Workshop: Value Exploration

Josef Albers Structural Constellations, 1959 Vermont marble, gold leaf 16 x 61 ft. (4.9 x 18.6 m) Corning Glass Building, 717 Fifth Ave, New York © 2024 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Josef Albers Structural Constellations, 1959 Vermont marble, gold leaf 16 x 61 ft. (4.9 x 18.6 m) Corning Glass Building, 717 Fifth Ave, New York © 2024 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Master in Philosophy

15 Aprile 2024

Value and its varieties, values, are often viewed as magnitudes. However, value magnitudes appear to be unlike familiar, physical magnitudes such as mass. The Workshop on Value Exploration aims to develop a better understanding of the specific nature of value magnitudes based on the latest findings in value theory, the metaphysics of value, the philosophy of mind, and cognitive science.

Date: 3 – 5 June 2024


Room 0.5, FTL Building
USI West Campus, Via Buffi 13
Lugano, Switzerland

Registration info:

You can register for the event by writing to [email protected]
This workshop will also be streamed on Zoom, to get the link, write to: [email protected]

Invited Speakers:

Ralf M. Bader (Fribourg), Organic wholes and organic parts.
Krister Bykvist (Stockholm), Value magnitudes and incomparability.
Olivier Massin (Neuchâtel), The Conservative Value Boost.
L. A. Paul (Yale), Value by acquaintance.
Peter Schaber (Zürich), Consent as a normative power.
Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers-New Brunswick), Chisholm's theory of organic unities.


Monday, June 3

10:00–10:10 Biscotti e caffè.
10:10–10:15 Welcome, Prof. Damiano Costa, Director of the MAP.
10:15-11:00 L. A. Paul
11:00-11:15 Comments from master student 1.
11:15-12:00  Discussion.
13:30-14:15 Ralf M. Bader
14:15-14:30 Comments from master student 2.
14:30-15:15 Discussion.
15:15-15:30 Pausa.
15:30-16:15 Peter Schaber.
16:15-17:00 Discussion.

Tuesday, June 4

09:15-9:30 Biscotti e caffè.
09:30-10:15 Olivier Massin.
10:15-11:00 Discussion.
11:00-11:15 Pausa.
11:15-12:00 Krister Bykvist.
12:00-12:45 Discussion.
14:15-15:00 Dean W. Zimmerman.
15:00-16:15 Discussion.
16:15-16:30 Pausa.
16:30-17:15 Alain Pe-Curto.
17:15-17:30 Comments from master student 4.
17:30-18:15 Discussion.


Wednesday, June 5


  1. Morning hike, including work-in-progress presentations.
  2. Paddling on Lake Lugano from 2h30 pm to 3h30 pm (registration and swimming ability required).
  3. Research-oriented meetings between master students, researchers, and guests.
  4. Theology-Philosophy Meeting with Dean W. Zimmerman: 17:30-19:00.

Further activities blending philosophy with sightseeing are scheduled for June 5. They will involve keynote speakers, workshop participants, and MAP students. For all information:

Accomodation: Help finding accommodation is available, and a limited number of spots in very affordable accommodation may be available for those with insufficient travel funding.


Abstracts of the Workshop Value Exploration:

Organic wholes and organic parts
Ralf M. Bader (Fribourg)

Holism in the theory of value holds that value can vary across contexts. This can happen either because different values interact such that their combination has value in its own right, or insofar as the individual values themselves are grounded in the context. This paper provides an abstract characterisation of holism that subsumes the two and identifies the choice point at which they diverge. It argues that hybrid approaches that attempt to combine both types are unstable and then shows that contextualist approaches are to be rejected, since they are committed to an extreme form of holism.

Value magnitudes and incomparability
Krister Bykvist

Recently, there has been a (very) small revival in taking value magnitudes seriously. Values have been accepted as abstract entities in their own right rather than just equivalence classes of equally good items. As has been shown by myself, Jake Nebel and Brian Hedden, this value magnitude realism has many virtues. For example, it can (a) easily explain cross-time, cross-world, and inter-theoretical comparisons of value, (b) define goodness, badness, and neutrality without falling into the pitfalls of standard definitions, (c) provide qualitative versions of measurement axioms that seem easier to satisfy, and (d) provide qualitative versions of the axioms of social choice that enables us clarify the role of invariance conditions and to escape some central impossibility theorems.
However, since in general all magnitudes of the same kind are assumed to be comparable – e.g., one weight is either greater, lesser or the same as another weight – value magnitude realism seems to be committed to full comparability of values of the same kind. This would rule out intuitive value judgments. We can no longer claim that Mozart is neither better than, worse than, nor equally as good an artist as Michelangelo.
In my talk, I am going to explore the prospects of denying value comparability while accepting value magnitude realism. I shall argue against accounts of incomparability that explain incomparability by identifying overall value with vectors or distributions of certain elements (as is done by Justin D’Ambrosio, Brian Hedden, Daniel Muñoz, and Graham Oddie). However, it turns out to be difficult to find a way of understanding the nature and structure of these elements without falling prey to serious objections.
The choice for the value realist is to (1) insist on comparability and explain away the phenomena of incomparability, (2) find some other way to explain incomparability, or (3) argue that the incomparability need not be explained. I will say something about each of these options.

The Conservative Value Boost
Olivier Massin

The conservative displays a prejudice in favour of the actual. Not in the ontological sense that Meinong originally intended with this expression, but in an axiological sense: the conservative "overvalues" the actual, "gives priority to existing value", is "biased in favour of existing embodiments of value", to use G. A. Cohen's terms. My aim is to understand this conservative value uplift.

Having rejected the hypotheses that the conservative ascribes more or higher value to existing things, as well as the hypothesis that he ascribes value to exemplifications of values, I will propose that the conservative does in fact ascribe stronger value to existing things, in a sense to be explained. If this hypothesis is correct, then conservatism shows a closer link with optimism than is usually thought: while conservatives are often described as pessimistic, I will argue that in some ordinary sense of optimism (basically, seeing the glass half full), the conservative is optimistic about existing values.

Value by Acquaintance
L. A. Paul

I argue that the distinctive relationship between knowledge-that and knowledge-how, recognized by anti-intellectualists and intellectualists alike, implies an analogously distinctive relationship between knowing that something has value and knowing how it has value. I then show how recognizing the importance of expertise in knowing how to value, as viewed through a computational lens, gives us a richer perspective on reasoning and decision making.

Consent as a normative power
Peter Schaber (Zürich)

This talk deals with the question of how consent makes acts permissible. I will argue that consent alone transforms wrong into permissible acts only in cases where no reasons speak against performing the act the consent-giver has consented to after consent. If there is still a reason not to perform the act after consent, the permissibility of the act depends on whether the reason is defeated by reasons speaking in favor of performing the act that has been consented to. 

Chisholm's theory of organic unities
Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers-New Brunswick)

Inspired by Brentano and G. E. Moore, Roderick Chisholm constructed a theory of organic unities.  He distinguished between two ways in which an intrinsically bad state of affairs could be subsumed within a larger state of affairs that is, overall, good.  The mere balancing off of a bad state of affairs by good states of affairs involves additional goods that outweigh the badness; while the defeat of a bad state of affairs within a larger state of affairs is supposed to be more than a mere outweighing of the badness.  A defeated evil is tied constitutively to some overall good in a way that could provide a morally acceptable reason for allowing it; while goods that merely outweigh an evil seem less potentially exculpatory.   Chisholm took this distinction to be crucial to the task of theodicy.  Although the contrast Chisholm draws — between defeating evil and merely outweighing it — is intuitive, the details of his theory of organic unities are sufficiently precise to be tested; and there are problems.  I explore the foundations of Chisholm’s theory of intrinsic value and his conception of organic unities to see whether further Chisholming might solve these problems.


Theology-Philosophy Meeting on June 5 on “Omnipresence and Special Modes of Divine Presence” with  Dean W. Zimmerman (Distinguished Professor, Rutgers Center for the Philosophy of Religion, Rutgers-New Brunswick) Abstract and details available here:



Kevin Mulligan (USI)
Alain Pe-Curto (USI)
Léon Probst (USI)
with generous support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Project: Alain Pe-Curto, TMPFP1_210654).

An event of the Institute of Philosophy (ISFI)



Josef Albers
Structural Constellations, 1959
Vermont marble, gold leaf
16 x 61 ft. (4.9 x 18.6 m)
Corning Glass Building, 717 Fifth Ave, New York
© 2024 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



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