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Axiology (from the Greek: axia or axios, value, quality) can define either the science of moral values ​​or, in philosophy, at the same time a theory of values ​​(axios) or a branch of philosophy interested in the domain of values.

It is especially in late nineteenth-century, in Germany, that philosophers claiming axiology (such as Heinrich Rickert or Wilhelm Windelband) emerged. In France, a “spiritualist” axiological trend developed later around Louis Lavelle.

For some, axiology must be considered as a search for establishing a hierarchy between values ​​(as in the Nietzsche of the Genealogy of Morality or in the works of Max Scheler). In this sense, it can be broken down into two parts:

  • ethics;
  • aesthetics.

Both are par excellence two “axiological” domains (in the world of values), that is to say subject to the need to be supported in terms of value (starting with the most general: “good” , “bad,” “beautiful,” “ugly,” etc.). This, therefore, introduces the problems associated with argumentation, because the domain of values ​​is in close dependence with the arguments mobilized by interlocutors to assert a criticism of taste (aesthetics) or to justify or judge a conduct (ethics). The philosopher Chaim Perelman considers the question of axiology from the point of view of rhetoric and argumentation in his New Rhetoric.

From the beginning of the 20th century, we find that the use of the term axiology is more frequent. It is found in Paul Lapie’s Logique de la volonté, and in 1905 in the title of Eduard von Hartmann’s Grundriss der Axiologie; this same author would have already used it in 1890 in “Axiology and its divisions”.

Most of the time, the term axiology is used in the sense of value system. And axiology as a discipline has never been imposed, giving some marginal works that often do not renew with the questions launched by the founders of this branch of German philosophy.

The expression “axiological neutrality” defended by Max Weber in his lectures (Politics as a Vocation) has been used to defend a point of view (in this case that of the historian or the sociologist) attempting to reach a maximum of objectivity by refraining from any judgment of value and any criticism of what is the object of its analysis.

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