A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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4/ A critical return to subjectivism and eclecticism

Nihilism, holding that nothing has value, defines itself as explicit contempt. In contrast, creative subjectivism and eclecticism assert themselves as two authentic modes of love.
Subjectivism, by postulating that man gives a value to things, seems to propose a perfect concept of love, since it is the lover who gives to the beloved not only his love, but also its value. The lover cannot give more to the beloved, and for this reason true love can be conceived only as a subjectivism of values.
Eclecticism universalizes love, because if everything has a value, then man must necessarily become a universal lover, in a world where everything is object of love.

Eclecticism and subjectivism both claim to be pure love, a love brought to fulfilment.

Now that we have a different conception of love, following our investigation, let us examine this statement. Would these so-called doctrines of love not be some kinds of disguised contempt?

If we try to formulate explicitly the nature of the relation that the subjectivist has with things, and especially with what he claims to love, it is something like ‘you have no value in yourself, you need me to have one, I am the one who gives you your value’. Or again, ‘without me, you would have no value’. We clearly see what kind of love can be built upon this basis. In fact, subjectivism is nothing but disguised contempt for what it claims to love, as we have seen when I have suggested that this doctrine is reducible to a kind of nihilism, by the way.

For its part, eclecticism does not violate this essential condition. On the contrary, it maximizes it: everything has a value in itself. But it appears that this doctrine violates two other laws of love.

Indeed, if it holds that ‘everything has a great value’, then it follows necessarily that nothing is superior to the other, that the beloved thing is not superior to other ones, that there is no hierarchy: everything has the same value. So the eclectic is the one who says to everything he loves, ‘I love you, but you are ordinary’, or again ‘I love you, but there are thousands like you’. He is not a loving being, but a contemptuous one.

Moreover, to love justice implies, by definition, to hate injustice (or even, to love justice is to hate injustice). To love peace is to reject violence. It is the beloved object, justice or peace in our example, which asks us to do so. The eclectic, who loves both justice and injustice, and justifies evil, does not even know the nature of what he claims to love. Therefore, he does not love it, since to love something is to love what this thing is, and he does not even know what it is; in fact, he cannot love anything. The eclectic is a kind of ‘deaf’ lover; he does not hear what he intends to love, and that is a kind of contempt.

So there is reason for thinking that we have discovered here a new essential condition of love: to love something is to love what has an ‘affinity’ with this thing, and at least what is compatible with it.

So subjectivism and eclecticism have a common problem: the failure of their initial project. They are not authentic modes of love, and this failure seems to invalidate these doctrines, or, in any case, reduce them to another doctrine, a consistent one: nihilism.
The failure of these doctrines comes probably from the fact that their proponents did not realize that they actually consist in an –erroneous- theory about the nature of love.
In other words, to ask ‘is axiological subjectivism possible?’ amounts to ask ‘is love a mere feeling of subjective pleasure?’.
As long as we answer in the affirmative, and do not understand that love has also a cognitive face, viz. that a number of judgments, or conditions, are involved in love, implied by it, then it is very likely that our love violates one of these conditions, without us noticing, and that we fall into nihilism.

I have proposed in this chapter a theory about the nature of love. What does this tell us about our initial reflection as to values and the nature of axiology? Does it really help us, e.g. for the crucial question of the method that axiology should adopt to determine the value of something?
I propose now to examine how to infer the one -the method of axiology- from the other -this theory about love.

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