Can we Quantify Value?

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of science.”– Lord Kelvin

Lord Kelvin is making a value judgment. Has his value judgment advanced to the state of being a science? We do not have a physical standard for such a measurement so his judgment of this matter is unsatisfactory, at least in his valuation of judgment.

We have developed standards for quantifying certain physical parameters. We have standards for distance, weight, and time. The physical sciences utilize these standards for measuring things that have length, gravity, and duration. We have not developed similar quantifying standards for many other things that are of value to us. This may mean that the measurement of these values is unsatisfactory but again this is a value judgment, which is, as Lord Kelvin says, unsatisfactory. However unsatisfactory it does not mean that we cannot develop a disciplined, empirical, and systematic study of our values, that is to say we can develop a science of any domain of knowledge.

The quantification of qualities is useful especially in qualities that seldom change but, however unsatisfactory, it does not mean that we cannot develop a disciplined, empirical, and systematic study of our values.

Many of my teachers in grade school gave us report cards with number rather than letter grades. Since this is a quantification of value is it better than a letter grade? The quantification of an assessment of value seems to be an arbitrary assignment of the degree of value in which a judgment is held.

Can you quantify beauty, right, wrong, evil, good, sanity, aptness, inaptness, IQ (evidently we have developed a standard here), sophistication, democracy, freedom, etc?