The Value of Value.

Make sure you read the whole prompt for this topic. Most people who pick this topic get it horribly, horribly wrong at first because they don't get that they are supposed to actually define value, not just talk about what things they value, and how different people value different things. This isn't defining value, any more than saying "my height is sixty-six inches, and different people have different heights" defines what height is.

For comparison, suppose you ask me to define the alien word "squarb," as in "my squarb is fourteen plodarks." Do I define it by saying "some people's squarb is eleven plodarks, others are thirteen plodarks, and so on?"

Here is the prompt: What is "value?" What does it mean to say that something has "value?" What are the "highest" values? Is there such thing as a "transcendent" value, in which something is valuable whether on not any actual person values it? (The study of values is called "axiology," but this information might not be helpful.) If you take this topic, DO NOT say things like "value is money." Money is commonly reckoned to be valuable but it sure isn't value. You can start thinking about the topic by thinking about what makes money, and other valuable things valuable, but you'd better go on and think about what value is in itself. For comparison, suppose you asked someone "what is 'weight?'" and he answered "M1 tanks and neutron stars are weight." The things are heavy but they are not weight, just as gold and emeralds are valuable, they are not value.

Don't get hung up on the assumption that you don’t have to explain what value is. Many people seem to think that by talking about what you value, and how different people value different things, that will somehow magically transform into an explanation of what value is. This is like trying to explain what height is by merely saying that you have a certain height and that different people have different heights. This doesn’t makes sense until you say that height is the dimension, measurable in inches, enetemetres and so on, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head when taken while standing.

Saying that you value something is not saying what it means to value something.

Think about it this way. You are an astronaut in a space station secretly observing an alien species on their planet. No-one can understand the alien’s language, but you can observe them in all their actions and interactions. You are asked to prepare a preliminary report making some progress towards describing what things the aliens value, and what things they don’t. Based only on observations on behavior, how would you determine what things are valued by the aliens, and what things are not valued by them? You can watch these aliens in all theire daily activities, in all the ways they handle things, and all the ways they intereact with each other. How would an alien treat a thing they value differently from a thing they don't value? How would an alien treat a person they value differently from a person they don't value?

If you think you would not be able to tell what aliens value and what they don't, think again. If you know what "value" means, you'll be able to tell.


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