For Valentine’s Day at work there was a morale event where they served, among other things, fortune cookies with white frosting and sprinkles. This in itself is a very strange idea, since fortune cookies don’t actually taste good. But what was even more disturbing was the “fortune” I got:
The value lies not within any particular thing, but in the desire placed on that thing.
Okay, first of all, that’s not a fortune. But no fortune cookies have “fortunes” anymore, presumably because they don’t want to get sued by people who follow them. That’s not what’s annoying.
I assume that what they were trying to say was that the amount of value we place on things isn’t necessarily tied to its intrinsic worth – for instance, a diamond ring can’t keep you alive, while food can, but we put more value on the ring.
What we have here is an equivocation – in the literal sense of trying to use two definitions for a word at the same time. The word “value” here carries two different connotations – “perceived value”, or the amount that people value a thing, and “actual value”, the potential benefit a thing can have.
If by “value” the cookie makers mean “perceived value”, then they are not really saying anything at all; they are just stating the definition of “perceived value” – they are saying that perceived value is based on how people perceive something. Duh. That’s so obvious that even fortune cookie designers wouldn’t bother writing it down. So that’s probably not what they meant.
But the only other thing I can imagine they meant was for “value” to mean “actual value”. But then if we use that definition, then what they are actually saying is that perceived value determines actual value. If you believe that, then a car that everyone likes has more worth (actual value) than a person that nobody likes. So with this ostensibly “feel-good” message, you actually end up with an argument that could be used to justify all sorts of horrible acts. And while I don’t think anyone would actually base a moral code on a close inspection of a fortune cookie message, this mentality is actually not that foreign to a lot of modern thinking. You know, the notion that believing something is right makes it right for you.
So who knows – maybe this fortune cookie really is part of a worldwide plot to undermine the moral integrity of humanity. Just in case, please think twice before making a decision based on anything you read in a cheap dessert.