A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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2/ The superficial diagnosis of the doxa

a) First statement of the doxa: our era is to be defined as a relativism of values

In order to understand our epoch, we need to start our analysis from a certain doxa, which is fashionable at the moment, particularly within the university sector. It is sometimes a promising idea to analyse our personal experience, even if it provides no basis for generalisation.

For my part, when I expressed the idea of the mere possibility of a science of values (not to mention its reality), the reaction has always been the same: a unanimous condemnation. An eminent professor told me that “In our time, it is meaningless to try to build a science of values”. The idea that there may exist some objective values, or that the problem of values may be solved, belonged, according to this teacher, to the time of Descartes. Such a project could only be undertaken in the 18th century. As a result, I was like a weed growing in a foreign soil.

Lastly, this reaction is very useful for our thought process and it illustrates a trend of our postmodern era. Can postmodernism be defined as the time which abandons the issue (if not the notion) of objective values? This goes without saying, according to some philosophers and sociologists, such as Mannheim: Today, there are too many points of view of equal value, each one revealing the relativity of the others, for us to adopt a unique position and consider it as invincible and absolute 1.

In a collective work called The Future of Values, some thinkers analysed the axiological profile of our time and have found, as a fact, that there is no foundation of values:
The idea of a historical and cultural relativity, as well as the demystifying analysis, which proceeds to reduce values to simple ideologies hiding mechanisms of power, have shaken our philosophical, religious and artistic faith in the absolute truth, goodness and beauty.
The great crisis of values that has marked the two previous centuries has caused great uncertainty. Does the lack of eternal values in an immutable sky, or received from an undoubted revelation, lead us to a twilight of values?

What awaits us is not the discovery of this foundation but something else: In a world characterised by the meeting of nations, are we to expect a clash of cultures, and irreconcilable antagonisms between opposite values? Or shall we observe an innovative and surprising hybridisation between the different systems of values, which are currently foreign to one another?. The future is no foundation, but a hybridisation. How can a flower be grafted onto another, if neither of them have any roots?

The author (J. Bindé) notes that the lack of foundation entails that values are considered as a mere question of fashion: Thus fashion, which has so far only concerned clothes, is now applied to our conception of values. We live in a world of ephemeral content, accelerated obsolescence and subjective caprice, as if the most sacred values, having lost their foundation, can enter the securities market, and float in turn […] In this context, which seems to establish the frivolity of values, how can these values be regarded as serious? 3. As we can see, he does not even consider the possibility that this foundation may be discovered.

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