Monday, August 9, 2010

3.2 The two-fold nature of value

3.2 The two-fold nature of value
There are two senses in which the concept ‘value’ may be used. One sense is of value as an existent[14], and the other is of value as a magnitude. Value as an existent means there is something in existence for which a living thing acts to gain or keep; a synonym for value as an existent is an existent as a valuable. Value as a magnitude means a quantitative amount of worth assigned to an existent. An existent is referred to as being a value as an existent because value as a magnitude is imputed to it somehow by an organism. Note that the primary is the existent – there can be entities that possess no value, but there cannot be values without them being possessed by entities.

Both senses of the concept – existent and magnitude – can be found outside of economics. The concept of value as an existent is also used in social sciences and some life sciences. As economics is itself a social science, it is directly dependent on the principles of its use as developed by core science that sets the tone for all social sciences. The concept of value as a magnitude is also extensively used outside of the field of the social sciences altogether, where many of the principles of dealing with the concept of value developed by them are also applicable to economics. The primary source of those principles is mathematics, which are then used in the physical sciences. Economics uses the principles developed by both. It takes the principles from the fundamental underlying all social sciences, then in conjunction with many relevant ones from mathematics, formulates its own to add to the total for its own use.

Measurement as the conceptual root of value as a magnitude
We’ve already seen that life, existent and action are conceptual roots of value as an existent, but value is also a quantitative concept. There are conceptual roots to that sense of the term, distinct from those of value as an existential concept. To say that something is valuable is to imply that there is an answer to the question of how valuable. The existence and ascription of value by organisms implies the existence of evaluation of the existent so valued in order to generate a magnitude of value. Value presupposes measurement.

Economics is not the only science that is concerned with measuring values. Measurement is also used by mathematics and the physical sciences. Many of the core concepts and principles of quantitative measurement derived by these sciences also apply to methods of economic evaluation. Examples are standard, unit, amount, and calculation. We will see these in use repeatedly.

14 Note that ‘existent’ does not mean solely physical entities; the existents in question can be abstract as well. “Existent” means anything that actually exists, so long as it has at least some connection to physical existence and however abstract the pedigree of that connection may be.

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