A book on ethics and philosophy of values

suivre sur twitter

4/ A critical look at subjectivism and eclecticism

Nihilism, by proclaiming that nothing has value, is explicit contempt. On the other hand, (creative) subjectivism and eclecticism assert themselves as two authentic modes of love.
Subjectivism, by postulating that it is man who gives things their value, seems to propose a perfect concept of love, in that it is the loving being who gives to the beloved not only his love, but also his value. The lover cannot give a more total gift to the beloved, which is why true love can only be thought of as the subjectivism of values.
Eclecticism universalizes love, in that if everything has value, then man's logically necessary reaction must be to become a universal lover, in a world where everything is an object of love.

Eclecticism and subjectivism therefore seem to be driven by the same ambition: to be pure love, love taken to its greatest imaginable extension.

It is precisely this ambition that we are going to examine, based on the results of the elucidation of the meaning of the concept of love that we have proposed. Do not these so-called doctrines of love secretly proceed from disguised contempt?

If we try to formulate explicitly the nature of the relationship that the subjectivist has with things, and especially with what he claims to love, it goes something like this: "You have no value in yourself, you need me to have one, I am the one who gives you your value". Or "Without me, you would have no value". You can see what kind of "love" can be built on these foundations. In fact, subjectivism is nothing but disguised contempt for what it claims to love, as we saw when I suggested that it was reducible to a kind of nihilism.

Eclecticism does not violate this essential condition. On the contrary, it maximises it: everything has a value in itself. However, what we are going to show is that it violates two other laws of love.

If we say: "Everything is of great value", then the necessary consequence is that there are no things superior to others; that the thing loved is not superior to others; that there is no hierarchy: everything has the same value. The eclectic is therefore the person who says to each of the things he loves, without knowing it: "I love you, but you are common" or "I love you, but there are thousands like you". He is not a loving being, but a contemptuous one.

On the other hand, loving justice implies, by definition, hating injustice (or even, to love justice is to hate injustice). To love peace is to reject violence. It is the object loved itself, in this case justice or peace, that demands this of us. The eclectic, who loves both justice and injustice, who indulges in a justification of evil, does not even know the nature of what he loves. So he does not love it, because to love something is to love what that thing is, and he does not even know what it is; all love is therefore impossible for him. The eclectic is a kind of "deaf" lover; he does not listen to what he loves, which is a kind of contempt.

In this way, we may have just discovered a new essential condition of love: to love something is to love that which has an affinity with it, or at least that which is compatible with it.

Subjectivism and eclecticism share this fundamental problem: the failure of their initial project, which was to assert themselves as a mode of authentic love. It is this failure that seems to invalidate these doctrines definitively, or at any rate to reduce them to another doctrine, a consistent one: nihilism.

The fact that these doctrines failed to realise their failure probably stems from the fact that they did not realize that they consisted, in reality, of a certain (erroneous) theory about the nature of love.
In other words, to ask the question "Is axiological subjectivism possible?" is in fact to ask the question "Is love merely a subjective feeling of pleasure?"
As long as we answer in the affirmative, and do not understand that love also has a cognitive side, in other words that a number of judgements, or even conditions, are included in love, implied by it, then there is a good chance that our love will violate one of these conditions without our noticing, and that we will fall into nihilism.

I have proposed here a certain theory on the nature of love. What does this theory have to offer us in terms of our initial thinking about values and the nature of axiology? Can it really help us, for example, in the crucial question of the method that axiology should adopt to determine the value of a thing?
It is this link, between this theorisation of love and our reflection on the method of axiology, that I now propose to consider.

Read more: download the book, in PDF format