A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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II/ The consequences of confusing ethics and axiology

1/ The oblivion of value

The confusion of the notion of value with related concepts has produced a singular phenomenon: the oblivion of value. The history of the notion of value can be defined as the history of its oblivion, right from its inception: the history of its appearance is perhaps at the same time the history of its disappearance. More fundamentally still, the problem that it generates from its authentic meaning, the problem of values, disappears in its turn, because it is formulated from concepts that can only serve to pose entirely different questions.

I have supported the idea of the disappearance of the concept of "value" in favour of the concept of "good", for example. In fact, the word disappearance is inappropriate, since there can only be disappearance if there has previously been appearance, and I believe that from its earliest formulation, the problem of values has been posed in terms of 'good' (agathon); a question betrayed - and therefore closed - as soon as it was posed. In the same way, we cannot speak of oblivion, nor loss, of what has never presented itself as memory, nor as gain.

Nevertheless, we shall retain this convenient expression: the oblivion of value seems to be the main result of the long succession of conceptual confusions to which this notion has been subjected. This phenomenon seems to be detectable, like an illness, by its symptoms. In other words, a sharp eye can discover, in the flow of contemporary events, a certain number of signs that reveal such forgetfulness. We now propose to identify and interpret some of these signs.

2/ The misfortune of the term 'axiology'

One of the first obvious signs that value has been forgotten is the lack of interest in the term "axiology". Who has ever heard of the term "axiology" in secondary school or university?
The number of publications in the moral or ethical field each year is overwhelming compared with the number of axiological publications. Similarly, the number of theses in axiology is infinitesimal compared with the number of theses about ethics.
Moreover, the works in which the term 'axiology' is found often use it as a synonym for 'ethics', and use moral concepts such as 'end', 'good', 'meaning of life', and so on.

Thus Ruyer observed: Perhaps because the theory of values, or axiology, was not the work of one great philosopher, but of a host of distinguished minds working in scattered order, we are struck by the disparity of works dealing in principle with the subject of value. When you open a book on value, you do not know whether you will find: 1. a treatise on theology (Lossky) 2. a treatise on psychology (R.B. Perry) 3. a treatise on sociology (Bouglé) 4. a treatise on political economy (Fr Perroux) 5. a treatise on logic (Lalande) 6. a treatise on morality (Scheler) 7. a treatise on general philosophy (R. Polin) 8. a treatise on general physics (Köhler) 1.

What is striking about Ruyer's list is that at no point does it mention the possibility that if you "open a book on value" you might find a treatise on axiology (!).

1. The Philosophy of values