More on the Meaning of the Word ‘Appreciation’

What is the meaning of the word “appreciation”, as understood from the article in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language? And how does it compare to the article in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary?

KEYWORDS: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, appreciation, appreciation as a level of value, appreciation as a result, appreciation as a statement, appreciation as an increase in value, appreciation as action, appreciation as awareness or perception, appreciation as critique, appreciation as gratitude, appreciation as perception, meaning of appreciation, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, types of appreciation.

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This blog post is about increasing our knowledge about the idea of “appreciation”. For this word is one of the most important words that a student of the Law of Attraction should know.

As some readers know, I have already written about “appreciation” yesterday, trying to understand the article in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (see: What Does the Word ‘Appreciation’ Mean?).

But today’s journey will be a little different. First of all, I will now investigate the noun “appreciation” as it is found in the original edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

Another difference is that I will now also combine (or “synthesize”) these new findings with the categories from yesterday, so that we can arrive at a more detailed understanding of the word “appreciation”.

The Five Meanings in the AHD

Our first order of business is to take a look at the text of the “appreciation” article in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Morris 1973, p. 64):

1. a. The act of estimating the qualities of people and things. b. A judgment or opinion. 2. Gratefulness; gratitude. 3. Awareness or delicate perception, especially of aesthetic qualities or values: “It is not appreciation of the artist that is necessary so much as appreciation of the art.” (Bertrand Russell). 4. An expression of criticism; critique. 5. A rise in value or price.”

One early observation here is that this article is approximately the same size as its corresponding entry in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. But its text is substantially different, thus promising some interesting comparisons and additions for our “knowledge-building” process.

Another difference is that the AHD is less informative on the historical side, since it does not incorporate year (or time period) of first usage, as the SOED does.

At this point it is also interesting to see that the editors of the AHD has included a whole quote (by the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell), while the Oxford editors have no quote at all in the definition text.

But the “omission” of an example in the definition text of the SOED does not translate to that it avoids presenting examples. The reason for this “omission” is simply that the SOED is arranged in such a way as to separate the definition text and the examples, presumably in order to provide better focus on the definitions themselves.

So the reason the SOED examples were not visible in my previous post was because those examples are not incorporated in the definition text itself, but rather come immediately after the definitions.

Thus, the corpus examples in the SOED for the “appreciation” article are these (Little 1973, p. 93):

2. A. of the condition of things 1880. 3. A. of the intricacies of a country 1879. 4. A. of scenery 1870. 5. A considerable a. in the value of Gold 1883.”

Therefore, instead of the AHD’s single, long quote within the definition text (including the author’s full name), the SOED provides, in a separate text, shorter, unnamed examples, but with years added.

Referencing the Different Items

Before I go on talking about the AHD and its “appreciation” article, I would like to make a short comment about the referencing of the various items within these two articles.

In order for me to refer to the different items as concisely as possible, without using long phrases such as “in the third item of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary“, I am here introducing a new simple system.

This system combines the abbreviated name of the dictionary in question (without italics!), adds a hyphen, and then puts the item number last.

So the fourth item in the article in the SOED will be referred to as “SOED-4”, while the fifth item in the article in the AHD will be referred to as “AHD-5”.

Whenever there is a subdivision within an item number (typically labeled “a.” or “b.” by the editors), I will append that letter.

Therefore, the second subdivision in the first article in the AHD will be referred to as “AHD-1b”.

Appreciation as Awareness or Perception

Let us start by looking at the oldest meaning (as we know from our previous discussion of the SOED article), which is found as the third item in the AHD: “Awareness or delicate perception, especially of aesthetic qualities or values…”.

Now, compared to the SOED-3 item, the AHD-3 item is, I think, more telling. And there are two aspects of this.

The first aspect is the mentioning of the word “awareness”. That confirms, together with the mentioning of “perception” that this meaning of “appreciation” is about a person’s internal, conscious experience of something, which he or she then evaluates positively.

The second aspect is the mentioning of “aesthetic”. For unlike in the SOED-3 item, the AHD-3 item tells us explicitly that this evaluation is in regard to aesthetics. The trouble is just that no-one knows exactly what “aesthetics” amounts to.

But if we understand “aesthetics” in the contemporary way, as the philosophy of art and non-art (Budd 1998, p. 59), we may understand “appreciation” as a person’s internal, conscious positive experience of external objects and performances, aided by his or her senses (eyes, ears, etc.) and his cognitive abilities.

And since aesthetics may also come in play when thinking about theories and language and concepts, etc., we may also think of the word “appreciation” in the context of evaluating abstract ideas and concepts, whether they are “materialized” or not.

And this goes well together with the added word “awareness” in the AHD-3 item, which, unlike the word “perception”, does not as strongly point to external objects. While “perception”, in some readings, may imply the observation of external objects only, or mostly, the word “awareness” gives, in my view, more space for the observation of objects within our minds.

Thus, for example, an inventor may appreciate a new, fantastic product idea that he recently got within his mind, although that idea is not yet “manifested” or “documented” in any form outside of his mind.

Appreciation as Action

As we saw in my previous article, there were two varieties of “Appreciation as Action” present in the SOED article: one more general (SOED-2), and one having to do with money and appraisement (SOED-1).

In the AHD, we only find one variety of “Appreciation as Action”, namely the AHD-1a item (“The act of estimating the qualities of people and things.”). This corresponds, roughly, to the SOED-2 item (“The action of estimating; deliberate judgement”).

The good thing about the AHD-1a item, compared to the SOED-2 item, is that it mentions the word “quality”. So it’s the quality of someone or something that is to be evaluated; and the quality may be either good or bad, on a sliding scale.

So, similarly to the the SOED-2 item, the AHD-1a item seems to include situations when the quality is estimated as bad (negative) or very bad (very negative).

Appreciation as a Statement

One new meaning in the AHD compared to the SOED can be found in the AHD-1b item (“A judgment or opinion.”).

But someone may object to this observation of mine. For the SOED-2 item reads “The action of estimating; deliberate judgement”. So even if the SOED admittedly does not mention the word “opinion” anywhere, it does mention “judgement”. Thus, the objection concludes, there is no such new meaning in the AHD.

My reply to that objection is this. In the SOED-2 item, the focus is on action, on the act of estimating. And this focus continues after the semicolon: for I do not read just “deliberate judgment” after the semicolon, but “(the action of) deliberate judgment”.

Also, I read the AHD-1b item as a result, not as an action: an appreciation in this sense is the result of some conscious evaluation. Thus, the AHD-1b really does add another meaning, compared to the SOED article.

The way I would like to categorize this “judgment” or “opinion” is by using the label “statement” (which is, essentially, a type of sentence). So it is a linguistic expression that is conveyed either as an utterance (sound) or as a text (on a page, physically or electronically).

Thus, on this view, both a “judgment” and an “opinion” are “statements”, because each one expresses, in a particular natural language, the essence of that which is estimated or evaluated.

An alternative to thinking of “judgment” and “opinion” as a “statement” would be to think of them as a “result”. This would then be an addition to those previous meanings that we have already added to that label, as seen in our previous article.

Appreciation as a Level of Value

In the AHD article for “appreciation” there is no mentioning of any meaning that corresponds to the SOED-4 item (“Adequate or high estimation”). Thus, the AHD is not contributing any items to the category of “appreciation as a level of value”.

Appreciation as an Increase in Value

The AHD-5 item (“A rise in value or price.”) is similar to the SOED-5 item (“Rise in exchangeable value”). However, it does not add very much, compared to the item in the SOED. The main thought is the same: it is about an increase in value. And price is a measure of (exchangeable) value.

Appreciation as Gratitude

The AHD-2 item (“Gratefulness; gratitude.”) does not have a corresponding item in the SOED.

This meaning seems to have something to do with “thankfulness”. To understand more fully what the editors of the AHD mean by this, let us look at their own article on “gratitude” (Morris 1973, p. 575):

“An appreciative awareness and thankfulness, as for kindness shown or something received.”

As in the AHD-3 item, it is about “awareness” of something. In this case that “something” is a “situation” in which another person has acted in a particularly pleasant manner.

The question here is now whether we should categorize this one in a new category (“appreciation as gratitude”) or bunch it together with the AHD-3 item, in the category of “appreciation as awareness or perception”.

Our first “instinctual” answer might be that we do not place it in its own category. Why? Because the AHD-2 item is simply a special case of the AHD-3 item.

For in both the AHD-2 item and the AHD-3 item we are talking about an “awareness”; and although the AHD-3 item does not explicitly say “an appreciative awareness” (as the AHD-2 item does), it is to be understood that it has to be. Thus, AHD-2 is just one of many examples of an appreciative awareness about the aesthetics of a certain person, thing, situation, or performance.

Therefore, because AHD-2 is just a special case of the AHD-3 item, we put them both in the category of “appreciation as awareness or perception”.

More on Appreciation as Gratitude

However, this classification depends on the type of gratitude that is meant. For there are at least two types of gratitude that we have to keep track of. In the following I will refer to them as gratitude-1 and gratitude-2.

In gratitude-1 the idea is that the recipient is not in a troublesome situation, and thus the other person does not “save” the recipient in any way by his actions. The transaction is pleasurable, without solving a (real) problem for the recipient.

In gratitude-2 the idea is that the recipient is experiencing a troublesome situation, whereby the other person “saves” the recipient in some way by his actions. The transaction is appreciated not merely for the recipient having ended up in a nice, solved state of affairs, but also because the other person actively has helped solving a real problem for the recipient, so that the recipient no longer has to suffer from his initially troublesome situation.

So if we return to the classification of the AHD-2 item, we may say that only gratitude-1 fits the bill. Why is that? Because gratitude-1 offers “clean” appreciation, not “tinged” with any bad feelings about the “terribleness” of one’s previously troublesome situation.

Therefore, we may choose to put both gratitude-1 and the AHD-3 item in the category of “appreciation as awareness or perception”.

But in regard to gratitude-2, it is fitting, I think, to construct a new category called “appreciation as saved-gratitude”. For this “saved-gratitude” (i.e. gratitude-2) does not have “clean” appreciation. Rather, it has one part appreciation (as a positive result of the “saving” act), and one part “troubled mind” (as a result of the triggering of the memory of the bad times that once were, before the recipient was “saved”).

Appreciation as Critique

The AHD-4 item (“An expression of criticism; critique.”) does not have a corresponding item in the SOED.

The term “expression” signals to me that we are talking about some kind of message that is expressed by the person who has appreciated something. So I would like to put this meaning in the category “appreciation as a statement”.

Another way to categorize it would be to regard it as a “result”.

The Categories in the AHD

So as we have seen, if we are just looking in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word “appreciation” can be understood in five basic ways: as awareness or perception, as saved-gratitude, as an action, as a statement, or as an increase in value.

Alternatively, by using the category of “results” (instead of “statement” and “increase in value”), the word “appreciation” can be thought of in four basic ways: as awareness or perception, as saved-gratitude, as an action, or as a result.

Conclusion

When we now combine the categories derived from both the SOED and AHD, we see that the word “appreciation” can be understood in six basic ways: as awareness or perception, as saved-gratitude, as an action, as a statement, as a level of value, or as an increase in value.

Alternatively, by using the category of “results” (instead of “statement”, “level of value”, and “increase in value”), the word “appreciation” can be thought of in four basic ways: as awareness or perception, as saved-gratitude, as an action, or as a result.

Chris Bocay

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References

Budd, Malcolm (1998), “Aesthetics” in Edward Craig, ed., Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Volume 1: A posteriori to Bradwardine. London and New York: Routledge. [Link to book]

Little, William et al. (1973), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles. Third Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press. [Link to book]

Morris, William, ed. (1973), The American Heritage English Dictionary of the English Language. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co.; and Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. [Link to book]

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Copyright © 2022 by Chris Bocay. All rights reserved.

First published: Fri 4 Mar 2022
Last revised: Sun 7 Aug 2022

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