Saturday, August 25, 2012

Intrinsic Value

I'm most of the way through John Lanchester's 'Whoops!' It's a nice easy read after Messrs Shell and Seaford. I wish I could write like Lanchester. I get the impression that he just sat down and knocked out this book in a week's worth of wet afternoons. It's so easy to read. He makes the complex, simple. He's lucid and funny. He doesn't over-explain or preach.

I'm sure its not as easy as all that for him really. Part of the art of the craft is to make it look easy I guess.

Anyway, aside from telling you that I'm a fan of Lanchester (I wrote a little post about his talk on Marx) I just wanted to pick him up on something. "Intrinsic Value".

It's been in the last four books I've read. So Lanchester is in good company - with Shell, Seaford and Kaye.

But what the hell does intrinsic value really mean? Does it mean that if the rest of the universe disappeared, this thing - that has intrinsic value - would still be worth something? How is that possible?

I've put up a couple of Money wisdom quotes that seem to book-end this silly idea of instrinsic value. On the one side you have Nietzsche who claims that nature is always valueless and on the other you have Mark from the MOQ forum who points out that valuation is the same whether you're a monkey choosing a banana, or a river choosing which way to flow

The only way I can make any sense out of 'value' is to think of it like Pirsig's Quality. As something undefinable. So talking about intrinsic value, or exchange value, or any other type of value is just pointless. It serves only to confuse us. It doesn't elucidate, it obscures.

Here's Pirsig on his moment of realisation (as Phraedrus) about Quality/Value.

Sarah had said to Phraedrus 'I hope you are teaching quality to your students'.

Soon the thought interrupted him again. Quality? There was something irritating, even angering about that question? He thought about it, and then thought about it some more, and then looked out of the window, and then thought about it some more. Quality? 
Four hours later he still sat there with his feet on the window ledge and stared out into what had become a dark sky. The phone rang, and it was his wife calling to find out what had happened. He told her he would be home soon, but then forgot about this and everything else. It wasn't until three o'clock in the morning that he wearily confessed to himself that he didn't have a clue what Quality was, picked up his briefcase and headed home. 
Robert Pirsig Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance ([1974], 1999) p.183

No comments:

Post a Comment