The Peculiar Logic of Value
Last modified: October 19, 2007
How do humans conceptualize systems of value? The hypothesis is that value is conceptualized as an abstract (non-perceptible) property attributed to objects, persons, and actions. The value of an entity plays a role in a suite of inference rules which affect the way one reasons about the entity and acts on it.
There are several distinct types of value, including Affective value (does it feel good or bad?); Utility (is it good for me?); Prowess (is so-and-so good at doing such-and-such); Normative value, which includes moral value as a subcase (is it good of so-and-so to do such-and-such?); Personal Normative value (is so-and-so a good person?); and Esteem (does so-and-so have a good reputation?). In addition, values can be differentiated as subjective (is it good for me? for you?) verses objective (is it good, period?). Each of these kinds of value plays a different role in the ecology of the value system.
I will work through several important inference rules that determine the interaction of multiple values in determining one’s course of action and one’s expectations of others’ actions. In particular, I will develop formal treatments of fairness, reciprocity, restitution, honoring, shaming, and apology, and I will address the question of what constitutes “true” altruism rather than concealed self-interested behavior. It will be possible to ask what aspects of values are culture-dependent, and what aspects are consequences of human (and even primate) universals.