Value is Life Under an Interpretation

This essay unfolds the critical and conceptual implications of a particular metaphor--theorizing value in terms of the relation between maps, terrains, and travelers. It synthesizes some ideas from Charles Sanders Peirce, Max Weber, Martin Heidegger, and Charles Taylor. In particular, a terrain turns on social relations and cognitive representations. A map figures such a terrain in terms of differentially weighted origins, paths, and destinations. And the traveler's interpretations of such a map are equivalent to charting a course through such a terrain. Such a metaphor is used to reframe various evaluative techniques by which we weigh the relative desirability of possible paths through a given terrain--from instrumental values (turning on graded and contoured landscapes) to existential values (turning on prototypic and exemplary paths). And this framing of value is used to theorize the relation between agency and identity.