Axiology is the study of values and how those values come about in a society. Axiology seeks to understand the nature of values and value judgments. It is closely related to two other realms of philosophy: ethics and aesthetics. All three branches deal with worth. Ethics is concerned with goodness, trying to understand what good is and what it means to be good. Aesthetics is concerned with beauty and harmony, trying to understand beauty and what it means or how it is defined. Axiology is a necessary component of both ethics and aesthetics, because one must use concepts of worth to define “goodness” or “beauty,” and therefore one must understand what is valuable and why. Understanding values helps us to determine motive.
When children ask questions like “why do we do this?” or “how come?” they are asking axiological questions. They want to know what it is that motivates us to take action or refrain from action. The parent says not to take a cookie from the jar. The child wonders why taking a cookie from the jar is wrong and argues with the parent. The parent often tires of trying to explain and simply replies, “Because I said so.” The child will stop arguing if he values the established authority (or if he fears the punishment of disobeying). On the other hand, the child may stop arguing simply because he respects his parent. In this example, the value is either authority or respect, depending on the values of the child. Axiology asks, “Where did these values come from? Can either of these values be called good? Is one better than another? Why?”
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