Treasure is in the Eye of the Beholder

What is something worth? That’s the question posted by Dr. Rhia’s Five Minute Piece “One Man’s Treasure.”  Value is only perceived, whether it’s a personal value, such as pictures of loved ones, or some “intrinsic” value of something that can be traded for something else–money, other goods, or whatever.

Is there an intrinsic value of any item?

If you are hungry, any food has nutritional value, even the much-maligned Twinkie™ , enough to get you through to something better.  Value does not get any more intrinsic than that. A fresh apple always has more intrinsic nutritional value than any Twinkie™.

Gold has intrinsic value if you need excellent conductivity and resistance to oxidation, but if you need food, gold is only valuable as a means of exchange, Goldschlager™ not withstanding. The story of King Midas makes this concept clear. We have all been trained to perceive the value of an object as the relative leverage it has in trading for something else. The something else may also have value primarily as a symbol of  trading prowess.  I have to wonder why the perceived value of my vehicle dropped by a third when I drove it off the lot.

An item then can have extrinsic value only if it is perceived as valuable by others, and intrinsic value if it has meaning or usefulness to you.

In Dr. Rhia’s example, she moved an old wagon wheel to make a better composition for a photograph, one that tells a story. One might ask what the value is of a story, and is my story more valuable than yours? A matter of perception, making value from the associations we bring to the story.


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