Can we be right in viewing ourselves -- our lives, our decisions, our contributions to social issues -- as important, if that means important, period, not just important *to* someone? I mean, I'd feel meaningless if what mattered to me mattered only to me, or to any particular people...but is there a sensible way to view ourselves as important, with a capital 'I', to no-one in particular?

I think that it’s very difficult to make sense of the idea that I amimportant, period. It used to bother me that I couldn’t make sense ofthis idea, but now I’m perfectly content with the idea that I’mimportant to those I care about, or that I make an importantcontribution to projects that I care about. I’d like to think thatthese people and projects are themselves important, and I think thatthey are, but only because they are important to themselves or toothers– that is, genuinely important to themselves or to others, not just thought by me (or others) to be important in these ways.

The thought that one is important to X won't endow our lives with value unless X itself has some value. (That I'm important to the tiny organisms living on my skin just doesn't make me feel all that important.) If X's value in turn consists in X's being important to Y, then we'd want to know in what Y's value consists. So it seems that nothing will really be important unless we can find something whose value doesn't consist in its being important to something else, that is, unless we can find something that is, as you say, "important, period".

God? God's value goes without saying. And so perhaps we're important in virtue of being important to God. (I believe many people feel this.)

But this is unsatisfying for two reasons. First, God's judgment is not arbitrary. If God deems us to be important, then that is because we are important. God doesn't make something important by judging it to be important — that would be to view God's judgments of importance as capricious and without foundation. If God judges me to be important, that's because I am important.

Second, if we are prepared to accept that God is "important, period", that such a notion of value does after all make sense, then why couldn't I be such a creature? Once we admit as intelligible the notion of "importance, period", then we open the possibility that I am important, period. I may or may not be, but at least it's now a question that makes sense to ask.

Thus, appeal to God doesn't really help us understand the situation, except in so far as it suggests that, contrary to what one might have thought at the outset, the notion of absolute value, of "importance, period", is one that makes sense to us and indeed is perhaps even presupposed by all our talk of importance.

Alex is suggesting that unless something is “important, period,” nothing can be important at all in a way that gives meaning to human lives.

We might understand Alex’s argument for this conclusion as a kind of reductio of my suggestion that I could be reasonably satisfied with the meaning of my life if I were important to things that I cared about, things that I believed were themselves of value and importance. If, as Alex adds, the value of those to whom I am important depends on their importance to something else of value, then unless something’s value is a matter of its “importance, period,” my life’s meaning never gets grounded: the value of my life depends on my importance to Xs who are valuable because they are important to Ys who are valuable because they are important to Zs, and so on ad infinitum.

However, this regress goes on ad infinitum only if it can never turn back on itself. Certainly, I wouldn’t think that my life had much meaning if I were important only to myself, but it’s not like this (I hope). I would believe that my life had meaning if I believed that I was interconnected with many people (and perhaps also dogs) through relations of mutual importance and if I believed that I was involved in projects that were of importance to many (projects of genuine importance, not just perceived importance, but relational importance (importance to them), not anything like absolute importance (“importance, period”)).

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