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What do I distinguish when I distinguish value? Applying the theory of logical types to explore how value arises in our designs

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Concepts of value are increasingly important to our designs in both the private and public sectors. But what are we to make of so many different concepts? Is there a relationship between them? And how are we to teach about value when the subject seems so nebulous and foreign to our traditional concerns? The primary objective of this paper is to show that a simple structure underlies concepts of value, and that instances of this structure already exist in engineering. The theory of logical types, initially presented by Bertrand Russell as a fundamental principle in mathematical logic, and later used by Gregory Bateson to explain scientific phenomena, applies equally well to engineering. The paper uses the theory to explore value in two general cases, one in which we engineer to fulfil a goal, and the other in which we seek to make use of a resource. Examples are used to explore how value arises and common errors by which it is diminished. The paper concludes with examples of how the material has been taught.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 11515 North East 112th Street Kirkland, Washington 98033 USA, Email:

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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