Logic and Value
March 18, 2015
Stuart W. Mirsky in Ethics, Rationality, Reasons, Stuart Mirsky, Subjectivity, Value, logic, mind

Some preliminary thoughts on the nature of valuation as a human activity and how that fits with the rules of logic which we find embedded within the practice of language:

Language and Thought

Language consists of various things we do with sounds and symbols. A main part of language involves the use of naming and descriptive terms (words and phrases) to stand for the things we can discern (by observation and/or thought), as well as those operators (in words or phrases) by which we can combine the naming and descriptive terms in informative ways.

Language also includes various signaling practices (exclamations, gestures, expressions employed for evocative or invocative purposes) but these are not "about" terms (referential) and so can be set aside for the moment.

The purpose of any language is to inform, that is to convey information in order to communicate with other speakers.

The methods of combination applied to naming and descriptive terms, as represented by the non-naming and descriptive operators, constitute the logic (the basic and distinct rules) of any language.

But the rules of logic are themselves used, in any given language, according to other rules of practice, which are distinctive to each particular language, and to relevant contexts, in order to generate informative statements in any given language. That is, grammatical differences mask logical similarities from language to language and even within the same language.

Unlike the rules of linguistic practice (grammar), which are, to a large extent, contingent because they are governed by historical experiences of the speaker, by habits formed and preserved, and by physical possibility, the rules of logic, although manifested through the rules of practice (grammar) in many different ways, have a universal character, i.e., they are common to all languages so that the same thoughts can generally be expressed in them in various languages.

The study of any language consists of discovering how the practical rules of that language make use of, and manifest, the logical possibilities (the range of possible combinations of naming and descriptive terms) in the given language.

The study of logic, on the other hand, consists of discovering the scope and relational functionalities of the logical operators which the language relies on to enable communication between users (such communication being the purpose of any language).

The practice of formal logic involves the development of methodologies to convert expressions of thoughts in ordinary language (with all its contingent grammatical variations) to a universal system of notation and expression.

Language and Logic

Logic is that system of relations that characterizes the ways in which language users express thoughts about observables (or conceivables) by making connections between the terms representing the expressed thoughts.

Language makes connections when speakers implement rules of usage, both at the logical and grammatical levels, but the grammatical determines the deployment of the logical. Formal logic thus aims to standardize the grammatical practices through the development and use of clearly defined conventions (thus distilling out any possible ambiguity).

The discipline that studies logic consists of the systematic capture and arrangement of these rules so that the connections they represent can be made explicit. That is, the study of logic involves the identification, categorization and explanation of those connections.

Logic, itself, consists of all the rules of relation between thoughts qua concepts (i.e., thoughts that can be expressed linguistically via representations or symbols) which can be made in any language.

The symbols of logic represent the relational functionalities (the functions) by which thoughts can be combined.

Logic functionalities include, among others:

Conjunction (and)

Disjunction (or)

Implication: if/then and iff (“if and only if,” i.e., exclusive implication)

Quantifiers (e.g., specific as in 1, 2, 3 . . . etc., which specify particular amounts, or general terms which specify only generalized amounts: all, none, some)

Identity (same as, equals)

negation (there is not, no)

existence (there is)

And various complex combinations of these which allow for more complex relational descriptions.

Logical operators can be used with any terms which name, describe or otherwise pick out, any referable thing where a thing is referable to the extent that it presents elements in its makeup that constitute it and can be observed or thought of.

Referables consist of anything we can discern through the senses, whether complex or simple, or which we can think about, either by visualizing or by describing (abstractions) using the terms available to us. A list of referables (things we can speak of by reference) includes:

Physical phenomena (whether large, small, complex or simple) which are recognizable because they consist of sensory faculty-affecting (observable) features and are hence describable

States of affairs (being descriptions of physical phenomena in various describable combinations)

Beliefs (when describable by explanation via analogy or via behavioral criteria)

Feelings (if describable by analogy and/or behavioral criteria)

Abstractions (generalizations we can describe using reference to states of affairs)

Dispositions (behavioral tendencies we can describe)

Words and symbols (the terms we use in language and language-like activities whose use can be explained/described)

Relations (the types of combinations which referents can have to one another and which can be described)

Ideas (the kinds of things we may conceive of and can describe to others)

Logic and Thought

Logic, because it is about thought (whatever is observed or conceived) implies thinkers who can observe or conceive, and, because it involves manipulating the thoughts, according to their various possible relations, implies agency (someone or some thing doing the manipulating, i.e., an agent).

Agents can either be aware (act knowingly) or unaware (act without knowing) as in reflex or unconscious behaviors or the mechanical operations performed by unthinking agents (whether natural phenomena or machines)

Logic is something used and "use," as opposed to being merely driven by logic (as a computer-driven machine operating according to programmed algorithms would be), implies some level of awareness of the relational rules of logic -- if not explicitly then at least implicitly, and if not at every level, then at least at some level. This is because use is an agential feature, i.e., it takes an aware subject, something having a purpose, to use something. (Use implies purpose and purpose implies awareness.)

Aware agency, the agent which acts for, or to accomplish, something, implies valuation as well (i.e., the recognition by the agent of something's role as a reason for it to act).

Thus acknowledging purpose is also to acknowledge valuation as a functionality of agency.

Therefore value is a function, just as the operators of logic are (because value is the relation between any set of logically connected thoughts and the agent thinking them); this gives valuing a status akin to the status of the functions of logic itself although valuing stands alongside logic and not within it. That is, for logic to work for an agent, the vector of valuation must be in place along with the capacity to recognize and make use of the rules of logic. (That is, an agent must have wants, needs and beliefs which provide it with reasons to use logic and apply its outcomes. The occurrence of these subjective phenomena – wants, needs, beliefs – provides the array of factors which provide the potential actor with reasons to act and thus to form and act on intentions).

Value is a relational function that involves the relation of speaker to thing just as logic functions establish and reflect relations of things to things (as expressed referentially through language).

Speakers (language users) can be thought of as objects of reference just as any other referable part of the world can be (i.e., those things to which speakers refer), and so speakers represent another point in the conceptual structure, along with the logical points, within which referents can be organized within language.

Value and Action

There are three kinds of value relation relevant to logical processing (using logical functions to make choices) by an agent, which represent the choice making relation. These are:

1. Truth - the condition in which some statement faithfully represents some state of affairs in the world (from simple to complex states) whether integrated within a larger representation or isolated in some sense from other elements

Here faithful representation may be established in several ways, depending on the situation (although this is peripheral to the current inquiry):

a) by correspondence to observables;

b) by coherence with other statements which, in the aggregate, depend on correspondence to some observables;

c) instrumentally, by reflecting the role of the statement in question, either individually or in some combination of statements, to work successfully for a speaker; or

d) by a combination of these.

Truth determination is relative to need and circumstance and so occurs in different ways depending on the context in which language is deployed to make assertions of truth or falsehood.

Thus true statements are better than untrue statements (are good) because they lead to successful formation of knowledge about the world, such success being in the interest of the knowing subject.

2. Aesthetic - the condition of appealing to some elements in the sensory apparatus of the agent (i.e., being pleasing to the senses of the agent or via the senses, as in sensory phenomena leading to an experience of satisfaction in the agent)

This condition can range from the basic, such as instances of direct physical pleasure via the senses, or something more indirect such as a complex emotional state; or to pleasure via the conceptual apparatus itself (e.g., the pleasure one may derive from thinking interesting thoughts or being entertained); or as part of an ongoing state (the pleasure of a continued state of affairs where the continuation is, itself, pleasurable, e.g., the pleasure one derives from exhaustive physical labor or an athlete’s challenging him or herself via a difficult workout).

What is appealing in an aesthetic way (beautiful, etc.) is better than what is not because it leads to pleasing experiences in the agent-observer which agent-observers typically desire and often require. Having such pleasing experiences, in all their varied possibilities, is also in the interest of the agent.

3. Ethical – the condition of being the right thing(s) to do.

Judgments of the right thing(s) to do can stand on conformance with a set of accepted standards of behavior or with some rule or principle which condones or condemns particular behaviors for which the agent believes him or herself to have a reason to refer his or her action decisions. Such reason(s) must reflect the agent's belief that he or she has an interest in adhering to whatever behavioral standards are involved.

What’s ethical (good in terms of behavioral choices) is so because it meets an agent’s needs through the actions, i.e., it is in the agent's interest in this case, too, to act in the manner chosen.

All value claims amount to assertions of goodness or rightness because they involve recognition and acknowledgment of an interest, or interests, of an agent-observer along one of these three value vectors.

All the vectors are relevant to the agent only as determined by their impact on agential interest.

As such, they determine relations between agents and referents just as logical operators determine relations between referents and referents within the referential dimension of language.

Language and Cognition

Language enables cognitive operation in the language user (forming and knowing claims about things). As such, it is essential to the occurrence of cognitive capacity (the ability to think about things in an organized way).

This capacity is a capability which certain species have as a result of evolutionary development.

1. Language, to be that and not just gibberish or some form of signaling (as is found among some species), must have rules of use which can be learned by those who use it (i.e., by more than one individual) so that the ideas it expresses can be passed from one speaker to another.

2. Language is thus an overarching system within which grammar (the shared rules of usage which define particular languages), logic (the necessary rules of organization based on the way things work and which language must account for) and valuation (the relational modes between language user and referent) can happen.

The rules of any language will thus reflect and express all three elements (grammar, logic and value).

Value, a separate vector of language practice, stands on its own tripartite structure: truth, aesthetics and ethics.

The three value vectors, however, boil down to one feature. They serve to provide agents reasons to act (i.e., to select particular asserted statements because they’re true, particular physical phenomena because they satisfy pleasure needs, or particular actions and decisions to act because they satisfy behavioral rules which the agent believes he or she has reason to satisfy).

That is, the role of valuation is to reflect and express agential interests. In doing so, valuation serves to connect agents to their world.

Article originally appeared on Ludwig (http://ludwig.squarespace.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.