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Can we Quantify Value?


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#1    coberst

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 07:36 PM

Can we Quantify Value?

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of science.”– Lord Kelvin

Lord Kelvin is making a value judgment.  Has his value judgment advanced to the state of being a science?  We do not have a physical standard for such a measurement so his judgment of this matter is unsatisfactory, at least in his valuation of judgment.

We have developed standards for quantifying certain physical parameters.  We have standards for distance, weight, and time.  The physical sciences utilize these standards for measuring things that have length, gravity, and duration.  We have not developed similar quantifying standards for many other things that are of value to us.  This may mean that the measurement of these values is unsatisfactory but again this is a value judgment, which is, as Lord Kelvin says, unsatisfactory.  However unsatisfactory it does not mean that we cannot develop a disciplined, empirical, and systematic study of our values, that is to say we can develop a science of any domain of knowledge.

The quantification of qualities is useful especially in qualities that seldom change but, however unsatisfactory, it does not mean that we cannot develop a disciplined, empirical, and systematic study of our values.

Many of my teachers in grade school gave us report cards with number rather than letter grades.  Since this is a quantification of value is it better than a letter grade?  The quantification of an assessment of value seems to be an arbitrary assignment of the degree of value in which a judgment is held.

Can you quantify beauty, right, wrong, evil, good, sanity, aptness, inaptness, IQ (evidently we have developed a standard here), sophistication, democracy, freedom, etc?




#2    Mattshark

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 08:09 PM

coberst on Dec 29 2008, 07:36 PM, said:

Can you quantify beauty, right, wrong, evil, good, sanity, aptness, inaptness, IQ (evidently we have developed a standard here), sophistication, democracy, freedom, etc?

Depends on the value. Some of those values are subjective. That includes a rather maligned idea of IQ (of which there are numerous). Quantifying subjective values is always problematic and can never be truly achieved to everyone's taste.


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#3    coberst

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Posted 30 December 2008 - 12:10 PM

Mattshark on Dec 29 2008, 09:09 PM, said:

Depends on the value. Some of those values are subjective. That includes a rather maligned idea of IQ (of which there are numerous). Quantifying subjective values is always problematic and can never be truly achieved to everyone's taste.


I would say that everything that we know, perceive, and think is subjective.

Objectivity is shared subjectivity.  As Kant informs us we cannot know the thing-in-itself.

Why can we develop a standard for time but none for morality or beauty?



#4    The Waterboy

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 05:36 AM

It is impossible to quantify qualitative aspects, which is why experiments and the like rarely involve variables that require qualitative measurements. For some traits, we can quantify them because there are enough quantitative aspects of the trait to make it quantitative. For example, color. Two persons can disagree on whether a shirt is purple or blue. However, a spectrometer may be used to directly identify the exact color of the shirt based on the wavelength of light that it emits.

For pure qualitative features such as beauty, love, and such, it is impossible. Like the color of the shirt, people have different views on what defines a beautiful woman, but unlike the shirt, there is no beauty wheel that can point out what level of beauty the woman exemplifies. You see, colors have a quantitative aspect that makes them identifiable: wavelength. However, there is no measurement for beauty. Even if such a scale did exist, there would still be disagreements over how beautiful the woman is because different people see beauty in different aspects, whereas there is only one aspect of color. Continuing on that point, one may argue that the impossibility of quantifying beauty lies in the sum of infinite quantitative aspects, whereas color has only one, making it easily quantitative (and even then with some disagreements!).

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#5    Mr Walker

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 01:18 PM

A bit of esoteric information. When i had my triple bypass several years back it was the first time i had been in hospital or had any real pain in my life. Today, doctors dont like to risk over medicating, so they constantly ask you to evaluate your own pain level. "Now mr walker on a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your pain?"

Having no background/comparative experience with pain i had no clue what 10 was and therfore what other numbers were / After 2 weeks of pain so great i wished i was dead at times, i realised that 10was the pain you have with red and black flashes just before you pass out while 0 is freedom from pain. Because of my ignorance and  a fear of addiction to the oxycodine i constantly self medicated at a much higher pain level than i should have(but very rarely than did i see strange little critters running around my roomthough over medication.) Next time i would medicate at a higher level and call the pain i was experiencin g in the 8 to 9 range rather than the 6 or 7 i labelled it then.

So to quantify value in anything we require an experiential knowledge of the variables and comparative values involved, Then we can apply a personal basis for making a decision on compartive values, but that might always be all it is, a personal call based on experience and deduction.

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