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!)


1/ Understanding the lack of foundation of values: the failure of standard methods


I maintain that there is no foundation of values at present and I will attempt to provide a satisfactory explanation.

It is to be noted that, if I am right to say that values have not yet been founded, this means that it is impossible to establish that something, which has a value, actually does, or conversely, that something which we consider worthless is actually deprived of any value.
In other words, if we have failed to found values, then for now it is impossible to show that anything we love is really worthy of love, or even that what we despise is actually contemptible.

In my opinion, this failure, if real, arises from the combination of three different factors.

First of all, as we have seen above, the problem of values has been ill-posed due to the fact that the concept of value has been confounded with that of good, end, etc. For this reason, we will answer another question: we are searching for our supreme end, or for what is most useful for man, but not what has the highest value. We cannot answer a badly formulated problem.

Secondly, we have to ask ourselves where is such knowledge (that of the foundation of values) situated in the field of science as the discipline whose task is to solve this very problem, namely Axiology, does not yet exist. How can we solve the problem of values if Axiology does not exist?

As a general rule, it seems to be difficult, if not impossible, to find the answer to a problem when the discipline, whose task is to solve it, has not yet been developed. To deny this is similar to thinking that it is possible to answer the following question: “What is the sum of the angles of a triangle?” even before the invention of Mathematics, or to determining the heat of fusion for gold before metallurgy, thermometers or chemistry were invented. However, if I am right, up until now, Axiology has only been a stillborn science, whose name is only heard on rare occasions, and whose meaning is not understood. For this reason, it has not been possible to solve this problem of values.

Thirdly, if values are not founded, perhaps it is because the methods, which we have used for this purpose, were not the right ones. I would like to take an in-depth look at this issue now.