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McDonald, Hugh P.: Creative Actualization: A Meliorist Theory of Values.

MCDONALD, Hugh P. Creative Actualization: A Meliorist Theory of Values. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2011. xxvi + 381 pp. Cloth, $110.70--This work examines the field of value theory in almost encyclopedic detail. Its innovative proposals are grounded in classical American Pragmatism.

The preface offers a preview of broad categories of value theories and identifies some of their proponents. It also previews several distinctions that form the backbone of the author's presentation. Value is distinguished from evaluation, locus of value from bearer of value, and norms from values. Instrumental values are distinguished from both intrinsic and inherent values.

The introduction provides a brief discussion of the key concept of the title. Since values that are only potential must be creatively actualized, value is creative actualization. Different modes and acts of value, including those in philosophy, art, science, and politics are brought together under this common theme. The author characterizes his work as continuing the work of "radical environmental ethicists" such as Aldo Leopold, J. Baird Callicott, and Holmes Rolston III.

The first chapter explores the concept of creative actualization in detail. Summum bonum theories are explicitly rejected as reductionist. Creative actualization is said to include "evaluation of worthwhile goals, action and activity in pursuit of such goals, and the creative actualization of goods." Value and evaluation are clearly distinguished. Values are treated as possible sources of facts, and values qua value-regulated goals are claimed to be perceivable.

The second chapter continues this theme, advancing the claim that hierarchical theories amount to a denial of inherent value. The author argues that good is not a property of being, "since the ground of goods is their value, actual or potential." Somewhat more controversially, he also argues that "'Being' is superfluous since the actuality of the good is the result of values ... not the cause of it or basis for it."

The third chapter attacks traditional foundational approaches to values and examines ways in which ethics can be grounded in creative actualization of goals by means of moral evaluation. The difference between moral values and moral valuation is emphasized. The radical value theory advanced in this chapter rests on a thick theory of reciprocity. Moral progress is treated as parallel to technical progress.

The fourth chapter turns to issues that are environmental in the broad sense of the term, and calls for a new philosophical anthropology. The "naturalistic fallacy" of G. E. Moore is itself treated as fallacious. Creative actualization is said to exist in the same world as other natural objects and events, such as rocks, trees, and plant life.

The fifth chapter takes the measure of nonsubjective theories of value, including those based on transcendence, idealism, ontology, intellectualism, vitalism, needs, action, labor, and practicality. Chapter six discusses subjective theories of value, including emotivism and agapism. A central claim of this chapter is that if value is subjective--either "feeling, pleasure, emotion, liking, or attitudes--then the world is devalued." Chapter seven takes up relational theories. Among those discussed are "will" theories advanced by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, "demand" theories of mainstream economists, and the "interest" theory of Ralph Barton Perry.

The final chapter pulls together the themes of the preceding chapters and offers proposals for the reform of value theory specifically, and philosophy more generally. A key claim of this chapter is that "no value rankings, hierarchies included, are possible without value autonomy." Further, "value is proven by the test of creative actualization."

The author's treatment of these issues is clearly within the tradition of classical American Pragmatism, especially the work of John Dewey and C. I. Lewis. Traditional substance/accident metaphysics is rejected in favor of a metaphysics of process. The realism/idealism debate is dissolved by a constructivism that utilizes ideals to create new realities. Creative actualization is meliorist, fallibilist, and committed to value pluralism. The underlying philosophical anthropology is evolutionary. One of the author's key concepts is built on Dewey's distinction between what is simply valued, on one side, and what has been judged to be valuable, on the other.

The author's many excellent examples, most of which are technological, are particularly helpful. His knowledge of the literature of value theory is impressive. The index is helpful, but its lack of secondary and tertiary levels renders it more like a concordance. The bibliography is extensive, but it sometimes directs the reader to abridged or pre-critical editions. Despite these minor defects, however, this work provides a solid and comprehensive analysis of the current state of value theory. It also offers some innovative and well crafted proposals for reform.--Larry A. Hickman, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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Author:Hickman, Larry A.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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