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of value a proper inference even if the doctrine were sound.
More commonly the doctrine has its roots in geometrical conceptions. Values are treated like spatial magnitudes, which are measured by comparison with other spatial magnitudes, and the argument for the relativity of values runs on all fours with the argument for the relativity of space.
In a recent brilliant article, the French philosophical physicist, Poincaré, maintains the thesis that if all dimensions were doubled, we should not know it. Houses would be twice as high, but then foot-rules would be twice as long, and all things would remain in the same relation to one another as before. Whence, he concludes, the relation is the all important thing. Absolute distance is a chimaera. Now this notion is subject to the criticism that it confuses existence with knowledge of existence, and confuses quantity with measurement of quantity. Moreover, in its very statement, it assumes absolute distance: it assumes an absolute distance to be doubled. But we do not need these considerations to dispose of the doctrine. The proposition that we should not know that such a change
"The Relativity of Space," Monist, April, 1913. Suppose that in the night all the dimensions of the universe became a thousand times greater; the world will have remained similar to itself, giving to the word similitude the same meaning as in Euclid, Book VI. Only what was a meter long will measure thenceforth a kilometer, what was a millimeter long will become a meter. The bed whereon I lie and my body itself will be enlarged in the same proportion. When I awake tomorrow morning, what sensation shall I feel in the presence of such an astounding transformation? I shall perceive nothing at all. The most precise measurements will be incapable of revealing to me anything of this immense convulsion, since the measures I use will have varied precisely in the same proportion as the objects I seek to measure. In reality, this convulsion exists only for those who reason as if space were absolute. If I for a moment have reasoned as they do, it is in order the better to bring out that their way of seeing implies contradiction. In fact it would be better to say that space being relative, nothing at all has happened, which is why we have perceived nothing (p. 163)." It will be noticed that Poincaré repudiates at the end of this quotation the assumption that an absolute space has been altered, but it is only by making that assumption that he could even state his argument. And the same assumption recurs at every point in the whole of the article. The very notion of relativity is meaningless and unstatable except as there are assumed absolute terms for the relations.
had been made, that such a change would make no difference in the relations among things, is true only so long as we confine attention to the purely geometrical qualities of things to space relations. Introduce any other qualities, and trouble arises. Imagine, e. g., a ball of lead suspended by a wire of lead which is just strong enough to hold it up. Now double all dimensions: the diameter of the lead ball, the diameter of the lead wire, the length of the lead wire, the diameter of the earth will not the wire snap and the ball fall to the ground? The doctrine is thus not true when gravitation is added to space relations. Add more
complex qualities to the consideration, the varying properties of different substances, the delicate adjustments within the bodies of biological organisms, the complexities of psychological and social phenomena, and the doctrine is reduced to mere trifling. It is a notion with which a geometrician may play, but which has no business in the social sciences.
The parallel argument with reference to values is, of course, that values are known only through prices, exchange relations; that, therefore, if prices should remain constant, but all values be cut in half, or multiplied by two, we should never know it, that therefore the assertion that values have changed in absolute magnitude while prices have remained the same is meaningless. Something of this sort seems to be involved in Professor Clark's argument, as for instance in the passage quoted above, and in the paragraph which
1 Professor F. C. Becker, of the Department of Philosophy in Western Reserve University, in an article which he has not yet published, has worked out a complete refutation of Poincaré along this line, showing any number of derangements in the existing physical order that a doubling of dimensions would occasion. One such illustration might be drawn from the peculiarity of light waves mentioned by Poincaré himself on p. 164 of his article. Professor W. F. Osgood suggests as an illustration the fact that a flea, if it became as big as an elephant, would find its jumping abilities sadly reduced in proportion, since weight increases in one ratio, and strength of tissue in another, with the increase in dimensions.
follows it, particularly the sentence, " The two concepts must behave alike, since one is only known [italics mine] through the other." But the reply is first that existence and knowledge are different things, and that the "relativity of knowledge" does not involve the same relativity in the thing known. And the second answer is that the argument, to be statable, must involve the assumption of absolute values as changing. And the third answer is even easier in the case of values than with reference to space, because values do significantly manifest themselves in other ways than in exchange, and are in other relationships than the exchange relationship.
If, for example, all economic values should rise markedly, but in the same proportion, then men would give more thought and effort to the accumulation of wealth, and would concern themselves less about religious and other spiritual goods. For, after all, economic values affect the lives of men as well as affecting exchange relations among goods. I shall recur to this point later, in connection with the generalization of the notion of value to include legal, religious, moral, and other non-economic forces of social motivation and control. If one wishes, on the basis of an argument of this kind, to assert the relativity of values, one must broaden the value concept to include these other kinds of value. Economic values alone do not constitute a complete or self-contained system. But the argument would be easily confuted if it sought to develop the impossibility of knowing that a doubling of all kinds of values, non-economic and economic together, had taken place. Because such a doubling would manifest itself, not in a different distribution of men's activities, but in an intensification of all activities, and in greater intensities of consciousness of various
1 See p. 676, n., supra.
Unless Professor Clark wishes to challenge my contention that the essential function of values lies in their power in motivation, that the function1 of economic values is to guide and control the economic life of society, I do not see how he can avoid this conclusion. And here, I may indicate, is part of my answer to his analogy between "exchange value" and wood-chopping as the measure of strength (pp. 672, 673): exchange is one of the methods of measuring economic values, and, in a competitive society where there is free enterprise, and the like, it is the chief and most exact method; but it is not the only method. We have other tests, as just shown, which, if not ordinarily so exact and easily used, are really much more fundamental.
Another doctrine which goes by the name of the relativity of values rests on the contention that the psychological" energy of valuation" of an individual or a group is limited to a fixed amount, that therefore a rise in the value of one object must draw a corresponding amount of value from some other object, so that an increase in the aggregate of values is impossible. This notion, however, resembles but superficially the conceptions of relativity so far discussed. Instead of assuming that we know value magnitudes only through value relations, it assumes that we know all about the totality of value-magnitudes directly. And relativity here means, not dependence on exchange relations, but simply that particular values are related to a fixed sum of values as part to whole. With this notion I should have no quarrel on strictly logical grounds, but rather on psychological grounds which I need not here consider, as I have gone over the matter at length elsewhere.3
1 Social Value, chs. 10-11.
Vide, Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy, s. v.
A more remarkable formulation has recently come from Professor L. H. Haney, "the relativity of unrelated and independent parts - the relativity of the unrelated! In contrast with this, Professor Haney sets another phrase, "a social relativity," which is designed to convey his own conception. As I do not know what Professor Haney means by these expressions, I shall not discuss them, but I list them here to illustrate the multiplicity of turns that have been given to this versatile term, and in the hope that some future writer may clear up what I suspect to be a mixing of categories which ought to be "related" in a different way.
Certain writers have sought to rest the case for the relative notion on an arbitrary definition, on the assumption that usage has settled the matter once for all. Among these I might include a critic of my Social Value, M. M. Ansiaux, who, writing in French, criticizes my use of English in this particular. The French “valeur " may well have a closer connection with the relative conception than has been the case with English "value" or German " Wert," but the association is not so universal even in French as to prevent Gabriel Tarde from using " valeur " as an absolute quality and quantity (a quantity being any quality which can mount or descend a scale without ceasing to be the same quality) independent of exchange relations. As
1 "The Social Point of View in Economics, II," Quarterly Journal of Economics, February, 1914, p. 296.
Archives Sociologiques de l'Institut Solvay, Bulletin No. 21, May 25, 1912, pp. 949-955. "Préoccupé de faire de la valeur une notion sociale de premier ordre, Anderson rejette la définition des économistes. La valeur, dit-il, n'est pas une relation, c'est une quantité. Libre à lui, sans doute, de donner au mot un sens nouveau; il semblerait pourtant qu'un adepte de la sociologie dût se montrer moins individualiste' et manifester plus de respect pour l'usage reçu et d'ailleurs légitime. Le procédé est tout à fait arbitraire. Que dirait-on d'un naturaliste qui appellerait vertèbres les écailles d'une huître et en conclurait que l'huître est un vertébré, grande vérité méconnue par tous les savants passés et présents?
'L'innovation d'Anderson est d'autant plus sujette à caution que le verbe valoir (et en anglais l'adjectif worth) implique une comparaison." (P. 951.)