I would like to introduce four kinds of values: frame, metric, path, and transaction. I intend these categories to subsume conventional definitions and arrangements of values, such as religious values and ethical values. I also intend the categories to supercede purely phenomenological conceptualizations of values.
Frame values. Frame values (i.e., frames) demarcate the farthest boundaries of the world. They provide a fundamental topography that distinguishes between inside and outside. They also provide the fundamental chronology of past, present, and future. The concept of God as an eternal being who encompasses all creation is a frame value. The Aristotelian concept of the celestial sphere containing the stars, as the outer-most structure of the nest of concentric spheres at the center of which is the earth, was a frame value.
Metric values. Metric values (i.e., measures) define the size, scope, scale, and density of the inside world demarcated by frame values. Landscape provides useful examples of metric values. In England, dense with history and local places, the distance of twelve miles (as in, driving an auto twelve miles out from London into the countryside) is a long distance. In Southern California, strung out along freeways and thin in history, twelve miles is a brief distance, just a trip to the supermarket. In these examples, historical density is a metric value, because it establishes distances as long or short.
Path values. Path values (i.e., paths) mark the journey of the individual or the group through the inside world as demarcated by frame values. Path values define movement toward a goal or away from it. Paths can be geographical routes through a physical landscape. They can also be journeys through the experiences of life. An ordeal of suffering by a heroic leader, as the leader tries to return from a battle to his family, as Odysseus did, is a path value. The popular adulation and monetary reward obtained by a movie star today is a path value. The Christian's progress from sin to redemption through grace and faith is a path value.
Transaction values. Transaction values (i.e., events) are produced in the course of social interaction when something is exchanged. Monetary exchange value, as defined when someone buys or sells something to someone else, is a transaction value. Charity, when someone helps someone else in need, is a transaction value. Combat, when arrows, bullets, and blows are hurled and received, involves transaction values.
All four values are existents in the social world of human beings. They could not exist if there were only one person in the world; they require social interaction. As we have discussed earlier, we become aware of these values when ideas or behavior are contradicted, or when values that guide our behavior are contradicted.
The four values are not all the same. Frame values and metric values are, to make an imperfect analogy, like natural constants discovered by physics, such as the rate of fall of objects in the earth's gravitational field. In terms of popular epistemology, frame and metric values are "objective".
Path values and transaction values are not constants. They are, again in imperfect analogy, more like variables, taking the meaning that situations give them. In terms of popular epistemology, path and transaction values are "subjective". (I am not encouraging the use of the terms, objective and subjective, as useful analytical tools.) [Note that I have rethought the question whether path and transaction values are subjective; I now think they are objective.]
I chose the terms, frame and metric, because they connote spatial qualities. They relate to the fundamental Darwinian situation that all humans share as a result of our common evolution. We are biological organisms who must survive in synthesized natural-social environment. Our senses (vision, hearing, touch, etc.) provide us with a structured selection of information about the environment. This information is related to the optical dominance of our sensory investigation of the world. As a result, our perceptive world is dominated by spatial (that is, optical) qualities.
Frame values include time values. Time values, too, derive in a naturalistic way from the Darwinian situation, since passage of time involves prediction of reappearance of objects in a field and thereby must be a feature of predatory sensory operation (briefly discussed below).
I think, as a matter of argument, that frame and metric values are perceptive, not cognitive, values. We obtain them by sensation and perception of our environment without having to "think" about them. They are pre-cognitive, which makes them (seem to be) objective to us, in the sense of being "outside" our bodies and outside willful manipulation. We learn our frame and metric values, rather than making them up with our minds. We observe them by observing patterns. In the same sense that we "observe" the wind by watching trees move, so we "observe" values by watching other persons behave, that is, by patterns of social behavior.
Note that my hypothesis, that frame and metric values are pre-cognitive, implies that frame and metric values are also pre-linguistic. They shape language (or shaped language in early evolutionary stages), rather than being products of language. Culture cannot be the universal solvent that post-modern thought claims. Culture is contained in meaning established by frame and metric values.
(The chicken-and-egg argument, that patterns of behavior--which we observe and so learn about frame and metric value--are themselves products of culture, does not defeat my hypothesis. In evolution, perception of frame and metric values would pre-date the appearance of culture. In terms of purely naturalistic science, we should expect the higher primates, sharing our sensory apparatus, also to perceive frame and metric values. Scientific research has already shown that simple deductive reasoning and empirical arithmetic are tied to sensory perception and shared with us by animals, such as orangs and dogs. We should expect frame and metric values to have the same origin and ancestry.)
Path and transaction values connote movement. This fact should prepare us to recognize that they originate in a Darwinian moment, as well. They involve sensory apparatus that is clearly oriented to predation--focusing on and pursuing a prey through a natural landscape. Paths and transactions are biologically related to the two psychological systems that underlay human (and animal) behavior. These systems are the motivational system that produce approach behaviors, such as seeking food, and the pain system that produces cautionary behaviors, such as retreat from danger.
Path and transaction are tied to situations. I use the term, situation, as existential philosophers generally employ it (e.g., Sartre, in Being and Nothingness). The concept of the situation trumps the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity. The situation creates both as ontologial structures of experience; consequently, path and transaction values are not "subjective", or mental, or ephemeral. All situations are located in fields defined by frame and metric values. Situations are therefore anchored in the objective world.
I do not intend my remarks about the Darwinian origins of frame values as a naturalistic reduction of idealistic, religious and ethical values (as these are popularly thought of, today). I don't think that the value of a transcendent God as a boundary of the world is simply a dressed-up animalistic perception. Rather, my remarks are offered to show the plausability of my hypothesis by tying it to contemporary science. No religious philosopher would have any difficulty in arguing that the appearance in humankind, in the course of evolution, of the capability to recognize certain frame values as divine is simply humankind's recognition of what is really divine about those values.
Update. April 20, 2008. Science magazine provides a synopsis of recent articles on neuroscience:
Of Landmarks and Boundaries
The striatum and the hippocampus both have important functions in learning and memory. Despite decades of intensive investigation, there are still a number of incompletely resolved questions. What sort of information is processed in each structure? How do the hippocampus and striatum cooperate to influence behavior? What type of learning is performed by each? These issues are tacked in two related papers.
Using virtual reality and functional magnetic resonance imaging, Doeller et al. show that humans learn and remember the locations of objects relative to both local landmarks and environmental boundaries in parallel. The boundary-related system involves the right posterior hippocampus, where the landmark-related system involves the right dorsal striatim. When the hippocampal and striatal systems are in conflict because a landmark has been moved relative to the boundary, they do not compete directly to control behavior; instead, each system independently signals its solution to the task, with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex recruited for arbitration. Doeller and Burgess, using the same virtual reality object-location paradigm in behavior experiments, show that striatal landmark-related processing of spatial learning obeys associative reinforcement learning, whereas hippocampal boundary-related processing does not. The latter performs purely incidental learning instead. Together, these studies provide evidence for the use of distinct learning rules in the hippocampus and striatum. (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 10.1073/pnas.0801489105; 10.1073/pnas.0711433105 (2008).
Update. June 24, 2008. I have reconsidered my basic four categories of values (see article 44 in Values Journals), adding objective-object value as a fundamental category of values and raising the question whether transaction or exchange value is secondary and derived from objective-object value.
Update. February 28, 2009. See neurophysiological support, article #68, values journal.
- Ontological Status
- Values as Expressions of Contradiction
- New Categorization of Values
- Perception of Values
- How Fundamental Values Arise