Measuring Intangibles

Our decisions and actions involve two elements: a factual aspect which can be seen and objectively measured and an intangible aspect which can be felt and known but may not be immediately expressible in reasons, facts and causes. For example, my request, “Please get my ‘good’ shoes” means for me ‘white tennis shoes which are well worn.” The descriptive properties “white, tennis shoes and well worn” are easily identifiable. The descriptive phrase “good” represents a particular set of properties that I identify with shoes that I consider “good.” If the person to whom I make my request does not know what this combination of properties is, he or she may not only have difficulty finding my “good shoes,” but, more importantly, may disagree with me about what constitutes “good shoes.”

Normally we refer to these intangibles – our attitudes, likes, dislikes, and beliefs – as values. Moreover, we usually consider them to be subjective, to be the private property of those who know the special meaning of the value words.

The problem we experience is that each person’s values seem to belong privately to him or her. The science of axiology provides a solution to this problem by forming a frame of reference which can be applied to any and all value situations.

Dr. Hartman discovered that the key to value experience lay not just in the physical properties (white, Tennis shoes, well-worn) which are the basic elements of our experience but in the particular pattern of these elements. For example, my valuation “good shoes” requires the fulfillment of the patterns “white, tennis shoes and well worn.” He discovered a mathematics which reproduces my concept “good shoes” by measuring the particular pattern of items which fulfill my “concept.”

The mathematical and logical structure of value concepts is the cornerstone of axiology. This structure allows us to measure ‘how’ a person thinks and perceives rather than ‘what’ he or she is thinking. In other words, value science tells us what we pay attention to, what is important to us, and what our prejudices. Natural science explains human behavior. Axiology explains and measures the thinking which forms the foundation for, and leads to, behavior.