C-31. Valuation and evaluation

Cognition works hard to furnish minding with the capability to determine a next and/or a later move. We have seen with the evaluation imperative (IX) the need to take cognizance of step outcomes in this regard. Phenomena such as feelings, habits, positive reinforcement, anecdotal authority (“It worked for me”) illustrate this usage.

Valuation looks at a different kind of minding, one in which cognition combines the relations of similarity and difference (X) to establish relative values for two or more foci of attention. Most familiarly, we see objects as possessing different magnitudes of the same attribute. Decision making immediately comes to mind as an example of this employment – in part because decision making may be thwarted by incommensurability (i.e., the lack of a shared attribute on which to compare the objects) and/or equivocation (i.e., one object is better on one attribute but the other object is better on another attribute) and/or incomplete information (i.e., some attribute measures are not available).

Evaluation consequences and valuation consequences are interdependent and subject to the balance requisite’s other dynamics (XI). Valuation results can be used as idea, so to speak, which guides a move whose outcome will be subject to evaluation. Evaluation results, though often compromised by incommensurability (e.g., as in voting decisions), can be used as contributions to assessed object desirability – i.e., treated as an attribute.

Evaluation and valuation as capabilities are complementary contributors, once we establish their independence, to solving the behavioral problem’s incomplete instruction challenge. The distinction between them marks an important process difference. Evaluation is a knowing process; valuation can be, and often is, a learning process, as we gather information from others on attributes of objects.

(Dewey makes use of these two terms rather differently, in discussing value judgments. His emphasis appears to center on what is here viewed as valuation. That emphasis seems consistent with his concept of the “problematic situation”, which includes aspects of the behavioral problem along with the situational problem [I] without differentiating the two problems. [Yet isn't the distinction in cognitive function between evaluation and valuation, as made here, criterial to the difference in philosophies about minding between Peirce and both James and Dewey?].)

Importantly, the balance between evaluation and valuation usages is to be considered. For example, middle-level managers may mistakenly think that their responsibility extends only to decision making, to valuation, then complain – or even blame – a lack of information for any shortcoming in their work. Conversely, raw experience may not always be the best teacher, the best evaluation mode that is, if only because it gives the test before the lesson.

Both evaluation and valuation processes may suffer from incomplete observation of step outcomes – i.e., overlooked consequences. Not just consequences OF. Both processes in aiding pragmatists are very much contingent on the quality of questions asked. This entails the capability to ask productive pointed questions (X). In light of incomplete instruction’s legacy of the very dysfunctional “don’t know what we don’t know” condition, our questions must deal with conditions as being IN consequence too.

Relativism of values finds some support in a purely valuative perspective, where consequentiality may be neglected – or dismissed (as an attribute) by reason of a higher order value. The behavioral problem (I:Pbeh), for example, might encourage such a limited assessment in decision making. Values can be functionally equivalent in this manner. But pragmatically equivalent?.

Value theorists may fail to distinguish the difference in cognitive functionality, and then find themselves befuddled by what appears to be “irrational” behavior. So-called irrational behavior is never without a reason, of course. Incomplete and inaccurate reading of the Nature of Things is the difficulty. If one looks only to valuation with respect to a situational problem (I:Psit) then evaluation-based solutions to the behavioral problem (I:Pbeh) may appear anomalous. (And, to be sure, some of what we interpret as irrational has nothing to do with either valuation or evaluation. Then the behavioral problem may elicit anything in desperation – as for example, when the control need greatly exceeds the control capability [VI].)

(The conceptual distinction I drew nearly 50 years ago between salience, the on-gap relationship of person and object [VI], and pertinence, the off-gap relationship of person and two objects seen in relationship, is further informed by consideration of the cognitive functioning involved. It is definitely not the case, as was advanced in a comment on Chaffee’s dissertation work, that the only difference is one of valuation.)

(c) 2011 R. F. Carter