Standard of Evaluation

The concepts of true and false are dependent on an important idea: a standard of evaluation. Whenever a comparison is made, whenever an opinion is stated, whenever a judgment is made, there must be a standard of evaluation. The standard of evaluation is the criteria by which something is being compared. If someone says "He is a better gambler than I am", the criteria is how well each person gambles, or more specifically, how much money each person makes while gambling. If someone says "She is shorter than I am", height is the standard by which they are compared.

It's impossible to make a comparison without some criteria. There can even be a combination of criteria. For instance, one might say "Michael Jordan is the best basketball player." The standard could include a specific combination of traits or statistics, including points scored, championships won, and endorsements sold. It's not important which criteria, and how they are combined, but only the fact that there must be some standard by which an evaluation can be made.

When communicating to others or trying to think clearly, it is important to make the standard or standards explicit. Since there can be various criteria or combinations of criteria, there can be confusion about what exactly is being compared. If I tell you that some car is the best available, you wouldn't know if I meant best performance per dollar, best performance total, best gas mileage, etc. Only by making the standard explicit can the statement be judged to be true or false. This is true for thoughts as well. Each thought needs an explicit standard in order to judge its validity.


Copyright 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands