A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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II/ The consequences of the confusion between Ethics and Axiology

1/ The oblivion of value

The confusion between the notion of value and related concepts has created a strange situation: the oblivion of value. The history of this notion seems to be that of its oblivion, from its origin to the current situation: value disappeared at the very moment it appeared. More fundamentally, the problem resulting from the authentic meaning of this notion, namely the problem of values, has disappeared in turn and has been formulated with concepts, which can only be used to raise very different questions.

For example, I have stated above that the term “value” has disappeared and been replaced by the term “good”. The term “disappearance” is improper in this case since there can only be a disappearance if there is a prior apparition. However, I think that from its first antic formulation, the problem of values has been expressed in terms of “good” (agathon), therefore this question has been betrayed, and thereby closed, from the very start. We can speak neither of oblivion nor of loss when referring to what has never been a memory or a gain.

However, I will continue to use this convenient word, the oblivion of value is the main result of a long succession of conceptual confusions, which have been made about this notion. This phenomenon may be recognized by its symptoms, like an illness. In other words, a sharp eye can identify a certain amount of signs, which reveal such an oblivion in the flow of contemporary events. Now let us identify and interpret some of these signs.

2/ The lack of success of the term “Axiology”

One of the first obvious signs of this situation, which I refer to as “oblivion of values”, is the lack of success of the word “Axiology”. Who has heard about this very word at school, or even at university?
It can be noted that a large number of academic publications about Philosophy concern ethics, and very few focus on Axiology. Similarly, only a small number of axiological theses are published every year compared to ethical theses.
Anyway, the ethical works in which we are likely to encounter the term “Axiology” most often employ it as a synonym for “ethics” and use ethical concepts like “finality”, “good”, “meaning of life”, etc.

Ruyer notes the following: It may be due to the fact that the theory of values, or Axiology, has not been the work of a single great philosopher, but of a group of eminent spirits working separately, in a disorganised manner, that it is striking to note the vast diversity of books addressing the topic of value and their heterogeneous nature. When we open one of these books, we do not know if we shall find: 1. A Treatise of Theology (Lossky) 2. A Treatise of Psychology on tendencies and interests (R.B. Perry) 3. A Treatise of Sociology (Bouglé) 4. A Treatise of Political Economy (Fr Perroux) 5. A Treatise of Logic (Lalande) 6. A Treatise of Ethics (Scheler) 7. A Treatise of General Philosophy (R. Polin) or 8. A treatise of General Physics (Köhler) 1.

It is striking to note that the possibility of finding a treatise on Axiology when opening a book on value has not even been imagined by Ruyer in the above list.

1. The Philosophy of values