The Value of Humanity

ISBN : 9780198832645

L. Nandi Theunissen
160 Pages
135 x 135 mm
Pub date
Dec 2019


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  • A refreshing take on the foundational question of the value of humanity
  • Presents a provocative, non-Kantian account of the topic
  • Tightly argued with a focus on much discussed topics in value theory (relational value, good as good for someone)
  • Far-reaching implications with regard to normative ethics, history of philosophy, and meta-ethics

L. Nandi Theunissen develops a non-Kantian account of the value of human beings. Against the Kantian tradition, in which humanity is absolutely valuable and unlike the value of anything else, Theunissen outlines a relational proposal according to which our value is continuous with the value of other valuable things. She takes the Socratic starting point that good is affecting, and more particularly, that good is a notion of benefit. If people are bearers of value, the proposal is that our value is no exception. Theunissen explores the possibility that our value is explained through reciprocal relations, or relations of interdependence, as when—as daughters, or teachers, or friends—we benefit others by being part or constitutive of relationships with them. She also investigates the possibility that we can be said to stand in a valuable relationship with ourselves. Ultimately, in The Value of Humanity, she proposes that people are of value because we are constituted in such a way that we can be good for ourselves in the sense that we are able to lead flourishing lives. Intuitively, a person matters because she matters to herself in a very particular sort of way; to appropriate a phrase, she is a being for whom her life can be an issue.


1: Common Humanity
2: Of Absolute and Relative Worth
3: Must We Be Just Plain Good?
4: On Valuing and the Good Life
5: The Normative Significance of Human Beings

About the author: 

L. Nandi Theunissen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburg

"The Value of Humanity is a deep book, and its engaging style and deft engagement with a wide literature will help win it a large audience. It will be at the center of debates about the foundations of normative theory, the good life, and the ethical significance of humanity." - Richard Kraut, Northwestern University

"How should we understand goodness, so that we don't just account for the good book and the good action, but also for the special value of persons? This book makes the novel and ingenious proposal that the value of humanity is an integrated dimension of value theory in general. According to The Value of Humanity, the relation of benefit explains goodness in all cases." - Katja Maria Vogt, Columbia University

"Literate, scholarly, and daringly original, The Value of Humanity will engage and enlighten any philosopher or student of philosophy thinking about the value of humanity-or, indeed, about value in general. It makes a welcome advance in ethics and moral psychology." - J. David Velleman, New York University

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