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
[Edit] Oh, and don't do an internet search.
That way lies madness, or at least stupidity. The internet is full of
wrong. Don't trust it. Don't go there.
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
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 tell.
Copyright © 2010 by Martin C. Young
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