Before we can create value we have to be able recognize value. The recognition of value is not a science where we apply our measuring instruments and come up with a number. The recognition of value is an art. The difference between science and art is that science validates itself through proofs based on known facts, whereas there is no set of external criteria that determine the value of a painting, musical performance or literary composition. Yet we do not say works of art have no value even if we can’t back up our judgements with proof.
One who judges the value of a work of art is said to have a discriminating palate, to have taste. Taste means the ability to tune in to all the elements of a composition as they combine to create a unique aesthetic experience. And what is it that determines if the combination works or not? It’s based on a feeling. When the combination is right, we feel pleasure. We recognize the value of something because of the pleasure it gives us.
Because of our upbringing we have a negative view of pleasure, that pleasure lures us from the path of what is true and proper. The problem is not pleasure but that we cling to pleasure. However, if we take pleasure as knowledge, in the manner that the wine-taster feels all the nuances of a flavour, pleasure can help us recognize value. For example compare the pleasure that you experience when you find the courage to face a difficult problem to the pleasure of eating a good meal. The pleasure of discovering inner resources is far greater than sensory pleasures. No one has to tell us this because the pleasure itself tells us.
Recognizing value requires discrimination. However, discrimination is not between facts but between the various gradations and shades of pleasure things offer. Value is also dependent on many other factors as well, such as understanding the needs of others. But it is only when we recognize what makes us happy that we will be able to understand what makes others happy.
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