A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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2/ The superficial diagnosis made by the doxa


a) First judgment of the doxa: our era is defined by a relativism of values

To understand our era, we have to start from a certain 'doxa' that is in the air, in tune with the times, and particularly in the academic times. It is sometimes useful to analyse our personal experience, even if it cannot be used as a basis for generalisation.

For my part, when, in the course of my student discussions, I put forward the idea of the mere possibility - and not the reality - of a science of values, the condemnation was unanimous. One eminent professor told me that "In this day and age, it makes no sense to want to create a science of values". The idea that there are objective values, or that the problem of values could find an answer, belonged to the time of Descartes. Such a project could only have flourished in the classical century, and I was like a weed that had grown in soil that was not our own.

In the end, this reaction seems very valuable to our thinking - rather than putting an end to it. It highlights a certain tendency of the post-modern age. Can we not say that post-modernism is defined by the fact that it abandons the question (or even the notion) of objective values?

For some philosophers and sociologists, such as Mannheim, this is self-evident: Today there are too many points of view of equal value and prestige, each showing the relativity of the other, to allow us to take a single position and consider it unassailable and absolute 1.

The collective work The Future of Values seeks precisely to analyse the axiological profile of our times and accepts as a fact that there is no foundation for values:
The suspicion that values are historically and culturally relative, and the various attempts at demystification that have sought to reduce them to ideological garments concealing mechanisms of power, have shaken philosophical, religious and artistic faith in the absolutes of Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
This great crisis of values, which has profoundly affected the last two centuries, has given rise to many uncertainties. Does the absence of a transcendent foundation that allows us to anchor eternal values in an unchanging sky or to receive them once and for all from an indubitable revelation mean the twilight of values?
2.

What awaits us is not the discovery of this missing foundation, but something quite different: In a world marked by the global meeting of cultures, should we expect virulent antagonisms, possibly violent clashes between opposing values? Or will we see unexpected and innovative hybridisations between value systems with origins and orientations that are currently alien to each other?. The future lies not in foundations, but in hybridisation: but how can one flower be grafted onto another if neither has roots?

The author (J. Bindé) notes that the absence of a foundation makes values a simple matter of fashion: Thus the phenomenon of fashion, which until now has concerned only areas where arbitrariness and convention are de rigueur, such as clothing, is invading our entire conception of values. We live in a world of ephemerality, accelerated obsolescence and subjective caprice, as if the most sacred values, now without foundation, could enter the great securities market and float away. [...] How, in this all-powerful context that seems to favour the frivolity of values, can we still think about their seriousness? 3. As we can see, the hypothesis of finding this foundation is not even considered.

1. Ideology and utopia
2. The future of values, p.14
3. Ibid, p.15-16