Does "intrinsic value" - i.e., the value that nature has as of itself, as opposed to a value for humans - exist? The concept seems like an oxymoron. Nature also has economic values, which include "existence value", being the value that people place on knowing that nature exists even if they never use it. This may be expressed by a hypothetical "willingness to pay" for nature to continue to exist. I am wondering if nature conservation organisations around the world have got the two concepts confused. If so, this would have practical consequences for the way in which funding for conservation is sought.

For the most part, I agree with you that there's a lot of confusion out there about the notion of intrinsic value. As I see it, value can only occur through a valuer or group of valuers. No valuers, no value. The idea that value exists independently of valuers is incoherent.

Having said that, I don't think that the concept of "intrinsic value" to be utterly worthless or non-sensical. It's a useful concept for contrasting against "instrumental value" or "commercial value." Hence "intrinsic value" may be used meaningfully to describe what you point to in your question under the rubric of "existence value"--value accorded the natural world as not used, even when it's not used, or because it's not used. But I also think it epxresses a kind of value humans recognize that isn't well expressed through economic categories like "willingness to pay" or "price" or "market value." Translating values, costs, and benefits into monetary figures is notoriously difficult, and I think for good reason. So, it's useful to retain a concept to express important values that resist monetary formulation but remain relevant to the considerations at hand. I'll grant you, however, that a term besides "intrinsic" would be preferable. Perhaps it would be best to stick with "non-monetary," "non-amortizable," or "non-marketable" value, dry as they are.

"Intrinsic value" is also, misleadingly I think, used to refer to the value aspects of the natural hold for non-humans--such as the value of a habitat for the spotted owls that inhabit it. Here I think we might better think of as non-human instrumental value, or again as non-marketable value (since owls can't express their valuations in the market).

"Intrinsic value" might also be used to describe something's value to God. Again, I think this a misleading formulation (better, if one believes in such things, to say "the value God places in it"); but it does point to a kind of value different from common instrumental value.

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