If moral norms, including those prohibiting such evils as murder, rape, torture, enslavement, and genocide, are what they purport to be—namely, principles for guiding human choices and actions—then there must be a point to abiding by them; they must have some rational basis. Do they? What could provide such a point and basis?
At the foundation of our moral thinking is our understanding that some things are worth doing or pursuing for their own sake. It can make sense to act to promote or realize them even when we expect no further benefit from doing so. In other words, they give us more than merely instrumental reasons for acting. When wesee the point of performing a friendly act, for example, not for any ulterior reason, but just for the sake of friendship itself—or when we see the point of studying abstract mathematics, the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare, or the structure of distant galaxies just for the sake of knowledge—we understand the intrinsic valueof such activities. We grasp the worth of friendship and knowledge (to take just two of many possible examples) not merely as means to other ends, but as ends in themselves. Unlike money or insurance coverage, these goods are not valuable only because they facilitate or protect other goods. Rather, they are themselves constitutive aspects of our own and others’ fulfillment as human persons.>>>Continue Reading