A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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5/ Hypothesis on the origin of post-modern anxiety


The absence of a foundation for values has led us to specify the state of mind that should ensue in the axiologist who admits this fact. Now this phenomenon also seems to provide an answer to the question we raised earlier: why does the post-modern era seem to be characterised by such anxiety about values?

I think that this anguish comes precisely from the unconscious feeling that the values in which we believe, and which we defend, sometimes with weapons in our hands, are in no way founded.

It would probably be a mistake to think that this lack of foundation only affects axiological objectivism, which supports the idea that values have a foundation. The absence of any foundation seems to affect all axiological doctrines: relativism, subjectivism and nihilism do not appear to have any more foundation than objectivism or the intuitionism of values.

Relativism would tend to see the impotence into which objectivism is plunged when it tries to establish values as confirmation of its own approach to values. But post-modern impotence appears so profound that the judgement "There are only relative values" is as unfounded for the moment as the opposite judgement "There are absolute values".

In the same way, nihilism is incapable of establishing the idea that "nothing has value"; the absence of any proof of the value of life is not in itself proof of the negative value of life.

Nihilism, relativism, etc. are probably unfounded because they share the same errors as objectivism. First of all, these axiological positions try to establish themselves by using one or other of the five ineffective methods we thought it possible to identify (the qualitative method, hedonism, etc.). Secondly, they do not place their reflections within a discipline devoted to values, axiology, but use moral concepts, or, in the case of relativism, concepts from sociology.

Post-modern anxiety seems to stem from this state of affairs; anguish arises from the fact that no axiological doctrine is satisfactory, while man cannot help but judge his world axiologically.

More fundamentally, it is the very meaning of the notion of value that is becoming obscure to post-modern man. Finally, we no longer really know what a value is, even though we sometimes fight for values. Perhaps it is this ignorance that gives rise to our anxiety: what is value?
Is the post-modern world one that ignores the foundation, and beyond that, the very meaning of value?

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