A book on ethics and philosophy of values

(Note: this is a non-professional translation of the original text in French. Help improve this translation: please report any mistake!)


III/ The state of mind required to understand the problem of values


It is probable that a discipline is characterised, before its content, by a certain state of mind that is required from the person wishing to study it. If this person’ psychological state is not adequate, then he will refuse to acknowledge the results achieved by the science in question, for he is simply not sensitive to it.
To put it simply, we can imagine that Poetry requires its readers to be in a dreamy state of mind, that Physics will interest someone who is curious by nature and who enjoys making observations and performing experiments, Mathematics call for a mind which is fascinated by the strangeness and abstraction of mathematical objects, and History rarely satisfies a man of action who is looking towards the future (unless he is searching for lessons in the past in aim of developing his own projects) and is more suitable for a person who looks to the past as a rich source of information, etc.

If we accept this view, it seems that, when we want to study a new discipline, it is important to determine the state of mind required to be interested by its results, even before considering its content. If this is not done, the researcher would only know this science, but would not have a deep understanding of it.
It may be argued, for example, that a philosopher who wants to understand Marx must become a Marxist, or a Christian, to understand Augustine’s thought. In brief, he must be able to feel the intuition which gives rise to such and such doctrine and serves as a basis for its conceptual expression, and for this, he should meditate patiently for a long time.
Each person interested in Axiology should carry out this meditation work. Perhaps I can help in describing, however imperfectly, the conceptual content that a researcher should meditate on to feel this intuition.

The interest of Axiology only becomes apparent when we become aware that the problem of values is… a problem, viz. a question which withstands scrutiny, has no obvious answer, and maybe no answer at all.
This leads us to understand that the problem of values is a scandal, due to the lack of foundation of values, from the Greek thought to the contemporary doctrines. Thirdly, it is necessary to feel the provocation of extreme axiological doctrines. Only then will the researcher be in the right frame of mind to begin the study of Axiology, which consists in suspending all value judgments.
Such is the spiritual journey that we are now going to describe by detailing each different phase.