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valuing as appreciability: value as [appreciated] importance
april 4, 2010


Lexically, ‘appreciation’ is bound up with evaluation, so it’s not obvious how appreciation may be proffered as basis of valuation, from a lexical point of view. But the lexical sense of appreciation as based in sensibility is evident. “To evaluate highly or approve warmly often with expressions or tokens of liking” (M-W Unabridged—aren’t lexicographers endearing) presumes a basis of warmth or affection. In any case, one reasonably wonders what can be the basis for one “to judge or evaluate the worth, merit, quality, or significance.”

First senses in etymology (historically early senses) aren’t thereby basic senses, because ‘appreciation’ also means “to be...emotionally aware of delicate subtle” features; “to be fully sensible”; and “to esteem highly,” though those emphases may have emerged later. My sense of appreciation entails proffering a preference for understanding appreciation relative to sensibility. Historically, by the way, discretion to judge has relied on a suppression of sensibility. Now, even common sense expects that sophistication of sensibility entails much for sense of value; so, understanding appreciability relative to sensibility provides a way to understand how high valuation may be based in high individuation, in a landscape of competing values.

As I indicated earlier, philosophical theory of “the good” has become theory of value. I tend to think in terms of appeal: To have value is to have appeal. Appeal is a function of appreciation. There, I indicated that

The many senses of ‘good’ in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged online can be usefully divided into attributive valuation (favoring, fitting, appealing, sufficient, valid, satisfactory) and exemplary valuation (admirable, respectable, capable).

Exemplary appeal is not appeal which is exemplary, but the exemplarity of something which is thereby appealing. (The appeal may also be thereby exemplary, inasmuch as something is thought to be generally appealing. But a complex work of art may be highly appealing to someone, though not generally so.) I would argue that finding exemplarity is a matter of appreciation, especially relative to kinds that something instances (the type-token distinction; but I prefer kinds-instances). Something exemplary has “value” because it exemplifies its kind or an array of kinds in play as the instance. Something appeals in-and-for itself relative to its ownmost features or embodied kindnesses, even kindrednesses (which associates to something’s significance, distinct from denoted existence or literal presentness).

The richer the scale of desirable kinds instanced in an appeal, the more appreciable something is, I contend. Some kinds are superior to other kinds; some appreciations are better than other appreciations. A continuum of sensibility can be as real as a continuum of literacy or mastery of any domain.

Attributive value or appeal is easier to appreciate: It pertains to something’s pertinence for action or for a purpose, rather than in-and-for itself.

Relations between appreciating something for a purpose vs. in-and-for itself are very important, for the sake of others themselves and for the integrity of things themselves (as embodying value), but also for an all-things-considered holism of interest in the well-growing life’s dependence on the well-being of the situation that suits one’s purposes.

Ensuring, as best one can, what’s best all around is an ecological value, and I would argue (very uncontroversially, I’m sure) that more ecological valuation is better than less ecological valuation (but the obvious may have very important, unobvious implications in a world that hardly thinks ecologically, even when giving importance to “ecology,” as if there’s no such thing as social ecology, organizational ecology, or mental ecology).

Ecological value is a matter of self interest as well as general interest, at least because general interest only exists through the sustaining recognition (or durable recognizing) of instances, i.e., via real lives, from which general interest emerges as belonging to each who sustain the appeal. Accordingly, I contend that a humanistic interest in promoting well-being all around is grounded in the humanity of one’s self interest. (I enjoy a notion of ecogenic value which I’ll play with way up the road.)

Generally speaking (and rather abruptly), purposes/intentions of action (re: attributive appeal), relative to enduring interests of a life, find potential in others/things themselves (re: exemplary appeal) relative to one’s scale (height, breadth, depth, ambition, comprehension) of sensibility brought to the situation or moment thanks to an individuation’s long-ongoing sophisticating of appreciability.

Next: What are you doing with your life for living fruitfully.

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