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Re: [xmca] Transhistorical or embodied

I've been reading more of Morris. He sailed very close to the winds of behaviorism (happily citing Watson) and positivism (supporting the Unity of Science Movement and publishing in Neurath's International Encyclopedia of Unified Science - but then so did Kuhn!), but some of his statements of the pragmatist position seem to me helpful. Here he is, writing on the objective character of value (an "objectively relative theory of value"), in which he proposes that value is a field, or system, property. He writes of values as relative to 'interests,' but in a footnote he also explores the possibility that it may be necessary to use the notion of 'signs' to define 'interests,' thus internally linking semiology and axiology:

"On this general approach, a value is a property of an object or situation relative to an interest - namely, the property of satisfying or consummating an act which requires an object with such a property for its completion. There is an interest in food in so far as there is an activity which seeks out objects which terminate hunger; to seek such objects is to act in a way which will bring objects with the required properties into the field of direct stimulation. The object has food value only in relation to hunger; 'value' (like 'magnetic') has reference to relations within a system, and characterizes properties of objects with respect to interests; the value is neither located in the objects apart from interests nor in interests (and hence not in the 'emotional' aspects of interests in process of satisfaction) apart from objects which permit the satisfaction of interests. Values are consummatory properties of objects or situations which answer to the consummation of interested acts.
  To speak in value terms is this to consider things "interestwise".... And the properties of things so viewed are no more "subjective" in a scientifically disparaging sense than are other field or systematic properties such as color, magnetic power, velocity, or even mass. It is true that science seeks intersubjective knowledge, and that many interests are highly unstable and of narrow distribution; but it is also true that many interests (and so values) are highly constant and perhaps common to all living beings, and that knowledge of the peculiarities of individuals can be intersubjective knowledge -- witness, for instance, 'individual psychology' or Mead's theory of the subjective. There is nothing in this objectively relativistic theory of value which makes impossible a science of axiology; terms such as 'good' and 'better' can be given a precise empirical signification capable of meeting the most rigorous requirements of the theory of signs and the methodology of science." (134-5)

Morris, Charles (1939/1940). Esthetics and the theory of signs, Journal of Unified Science (Erkenntnis), 8, 131-150.

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