City-Language of Values

Axiography: The List of Values

Gratitude! to architect Chris Alexander who developed the format used here, originally called | A Pattern Language.

Some will already be familiar with axiology, the theory of ethics based in a study of values. Axiology is a largely descriptive approach to the ethical dimension of life. In this way, it already calls into question every normative decision, those that are ignorant of their presuppositions. Axiology has a salutary deconstructive effect on what Martin Heidegger might have called epochal ethics. An epochal ethical system would be the uncritically embraced product of the times. Epochal ethics are closed, unhistorical, and involve some degree of political coercion.

But axiology does not reveal the practice dimension of this deconstructed value theory. Hence I coin the term axiography as a more inventive approach to values, one that recognizes the productive effects of human valuing in establishing systems of values among human groupings. In constructing a list of values, one invents something. In organizing that list of values, we are describing values as they have been worked out in a particular social context and as they organize social life, but furthermore we are contributing to local ethical life the deconstruction of any particular universal or epochal theory of ethics. As students investigate the values comprising their value-home, their ownmost values are shifting about in their individual lists. The involvement of a community of persons in studying the ethics of their place changes the valorization of values in the list they study, changes which change the investigators.

To this point, the list is in phase one. We are identifying as many of the values on human lists as possible, and then composing entries that describe those values and how to ensure that they are promoted. This assumes that the unordered list of values is going to be largely the same for every community, and that where such lists differ is in their organization. We have yet to organize the list; that is the work of phase two. Phase three entails entering the list into social practices in schools, churches, charitable organizations, and local government as an educational tool. Multiple semesters of students have contributed to this work through their research, reading, writing, and dicussion of values and their relative relations in the Billings, MT, USA, area. More is to be done, especially concerning how general they are and their ranked position in the list.

(More is being drafted on the theory backing up this approach to ethics)

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