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Value and ValuesEconomics and Justice in an Age of Global Interdependence$
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Roger T. Ames and Peter D. Hershock

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839673

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839673.001.0001

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Moral Equivalents

Moral Equivalents

(p.185) 9 Moral Equivalents
Value and Values

Kathleen M. Higgins

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the idea of a moral equivalence in the context of value and values. It begins with a discussion of William James's suggestion that enlisting the youth in public service projects could serve as the moral equivalent of war in strengthening the character of young people and making them socially responsible. In his 1910 essay “The Moral Equivalent of War,” James calls for a reevaluation of our institutions in terms of costs and benefits, thus raising a market exchange question: How can we as a society make better deals for ourselves? The chapter uses this capitalist logic of “getting the best deal” to explore the possibility of marketing environmentalism rather than asceticism as the moral equivalent of sacrifice for the common good. It also considers environmentally sound displays of wealth and humanitarian largesse as moral equivalents of conspicuous consumption. The chapter looks at Friedrich Nietzsche's argument regarding the revaluation of values and argues that we should reconsider not only moral values, but also the economic ones enshrined in capitalism.

Keywords:   moral equivalence, value, William James, environmentalism, asceticism, sacrifice, common good, conspicuous consumption, Friedrich Nietzsche, capitalism

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