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Radically Inept
Thursday, October 07, 2004
  Continuing down the rabbit hole

So, I guess the first question is, "How do we establish values?" Or, maybe it should be phrased, "What is the basis for value creation?"

To a certain extent, the question may well put us in the nature vs nurture debate. How much of our values are taught vs how much might be ingrained biologically? Is it possible to to determine which is which?

For instance, I believe it was a book I was rading by Francis Crick, wherein he makes a reductionist arguement in support of us being the product of our brains. If memory serves, he went so far as to say something to the effect that freewill waas illusionary, and it all boiled down to the biochemistry of our brains. I didn't like it when I read it, and I still don't buy it. I find it hard to buy that people like or dislike professional golf based solely on the brains biochemical reaction to the sport, but I don't have the expertise to refute it in any scientifically sound manner. Intuitively, I know/feel it can't all be reduced to that. But then, I'm not much of a reductionist by nature, and really have never liked that approach to science, as a sole approach. It has value, but it leaves a lot to be desired when looking at things on a system level.

Anyway, if I was more of a historian or anthropologist, I might have some could cultural examples to cite of cultures which never developed anything like sports fanship. I know there are a lot of similarities between Rome's 'games' and our society's treatment of sports stars and the like, but since Rome, Greece, and others had such a huge and lasting influence on our modern culture, I think they not real valuable to support a universality of the phenomena. For instance, did the Mayans have a sports culture wherein sports stars were given elevated status in their culture? Or the Incas, or...Well, I don't know.

Do societies/cultures require a critical population density for individuals to begin to live their lives through 'famous' proxies? Is there any similar behaviour to be found in any of the other primates, or elsewhere in the animal kingdom? Again, going back to "Questions I ponder, and perhaps a little progress", I can find what appears to be an appreciation for aesthetics in the animal kingdom, but I'm not sure I've seen animals live their lives vicariously though other individuals. Going back to the nature vs nurture question, why would nature, or perhaps how would nature come develop a trait in a species which causes/allows some members of the species to find joy(?) in the activities of other species members, even if they receive no concrete/material benefits from the active members activities. I don't get a new car, nor eat better, because Tiger Woods wins a match. So why should I derive pleasure from his activity?

As I said below, there is a great deal of economic activity generated by large numbers of individuals consumed with knowing about the activities of a few favored individuals. If money is a valid metric for 'value', than who Britney Spears is currently screwing has value. and that seems odd.

And that reminds me, I should probably develop a list of potential metrics for determining 'value'. Money is an obvious one, and one that's easy to measure. But it's not always available in all situations. The pleasure I feel from 'x', say feeling the sun on my back, is not something that I think is easy to assign a monetary value to. I think 'pleasure' might be it's own metric, possibly measured by the amount of chemical change (release of endorphins, for instance), albeit harder to assign anything approaching an objective measuring system - how much pleasure one person feels may be very different from the pleasure another individual feels from the same activity even if the same amount of chemicals are released. And if plesure, well than pain.

I beginning to think developing a list of metrics may not be all that easy afterall. And than there is the whole question of defining value and, let's capitalize this one - Value. Hell, out of laziness, I think I'll start with Dictionary.com: val·ue Audio pronunciation of "value" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (vly)
n.

1. An amount, as of goods, services, or money, considered to be a fair and suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return.
2. Monetary or material worth: the fluctuating value of gold and silver.
3. Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit: the value of an education.
4. A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable: “The speech was a summons back to the patrician values of restraint and responsibility” (Jonathan Alter).
5. Precise meaning or import, as of a word.
6. Mathematics. An assigned or calculated numerical quantity.
7. Music. The relative duration of a tone or rest.
8. The relative darkness or lightness of a color. See table at color.
9. Linguistics. The sound quality of a letter or diphthong.
10. One of a series of specified values: issued a stamp of new value.


tr.v. val·ued, val·u·ing, val·ues

1. To determine or estimate the worth or value of; appraise.
2. To regard highly; esteem. See Synonyms at appreciate.
3. To rate according to relative estimate of worth or desirability; evaluate: valued health above money.
4. To assign a value to (a unit of currency, for example).


[Middle English, from Old French, from feminine past participle of valoir, to be strong, be worth, from Latin valre. See wal- in Indo-European Roots.]valu·er n.

[Download or Buy Now]
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

value

see at face value.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

val·ue (vly)
n.

1. A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable.
2. An assigned or calculated numerical quantity.

And then might as well look to Wikipedia's definitions of Value: Value is a term that expresses the concept of worth in general, and it is thought to be connected to reasons for certain practices, policies or actions. The concept can be understood as a verb, as an adjective, or as a substantive noun. So, "I value my life" is the verbal sense, which expresses a valuation. "My life is valuable" is an adjectival use of the term. "My values are all messed up" is the substantive use of the concept.

The concept can also be understood in a descriptive, stipulative, or revisionary sense. So called "social scientists," for instance, might do a study to find out what people in fact value, or more generally, how they might define value. To think that what people value determines what makes something valuable is to be a conventionalist about value. One could simply stipulate a definition of value, instead. So, for instance, in economic theory value is often defined as "willingness to pay," despite the fact that few people actually assent to such a definition, or even exhibit such an understanding of value in their lives. Game theorists often define value in terms of desire, again contrary to ordinary value practice.

A revisionist sense of value will try to take value practice as a starting point and revise the conception where this is rationally defensible to do. There is generally thought to be a fundamental distinction in values between something being valuable as an end, or intrinsically, and something being valuable as a means, or extrinsically. The general idea here is that I might say that I value my happiness for its own sake, but I value having a good job as a means to my happiness.

Some thinkers believe that the notion of intrinsic value, or being valuable as an end, is connected to ethical action. So, consequentialists, for instance, who define acting rightly or wrongly in terms of the amount of value brought about as a consequence of those actions provide an example of this. Even nonconsequentialists though think that intrinsic value is somehow connected to ethical action. The term "value" may also be used in specific stipulative senses in various disciplines. Below are some exampes of this as well as an explanation of the some of the ways the substantive sense of "values" is used...

They have more...Well, The Daily Show is coming on, so... 
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