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
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
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
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