Values embedded in language

The most fundamental value there is, is the distinction between “good” and “bad”. It is a characteristic of every individual. For humans this value surely originated from long before we were anatomically modern humans. Within the world of living things, and whether the individual living thing is aware of the value or not, all that aids survival is “good” and all that does not is “bad”.

The fundamental value scale of goodness therefore precedes language. Awareness of the value scale may need consciousness, but what is “good” or “bad” applies to every living thing whether it is conscious or not. Language, of course, is a means of “quantifying” thought. It is language which allows the past and the future and the abstract and the unreal to be described.

Language has allowed us to describe many other value scales. Each scale seems to be independent though it is clear that many of the scales are related. (Length can be related to weight and thickness, beauty can be related to cleverness or to complexity, …….). I cannot find any value scale though, which does not always map – even if sometimes indirectly – to the value scale of goodness.

It is as if “good” and “bad” are embedded in the framework of language, such that every other value scale we may describe always leaves a shadow on the scale of “good” and “bad”. It is therefore we tend to associate certain values with others and, I suspect, it is because of their underlying projection onto the good-bad scale. Beauty is good, noise is bad. Sweet is good, bitter is bad. Tall is good, short is bad. Thin is good and fat is bad. Certain combinations of values feel “right” and others feel very “wrong”. “Tall, slim and beautiful” feels right, but “short, fat and beautiful” is discordant in composition.

Logic and – it would seem – fundamental valuations of good and bad are embedded in language. They make up the framework for language and non-compliance with the inbuilt logic or the values creates discomfort and a discordance.


 

 

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