In this lecture to his doctoral students in clinical psychology, Sanford Drob draws upon the work of J.N. Findlay and others to make the case for conceiving “ethics,” including professional ethics, in axiological terms. He briefly discusses some of the many questions that are raised by axiology, and outlines a theoretical system that promises to provide a coherent picture of what might be called the dimensions of value and what Findlay spoke of as the “value firmament.”
For a variety of reasons, both professional philosophers and the public at large have often come to understand "ethics" in what might be called “superego” or obligatory terms, as a restraint upon desire and satisfaction. By way of contrast, axiological ethics understands values, in both obligatory and superogatory terms, as things that we may not always be obliged to do, but which provide life with meaning and satisfaction, and which serve as the implicit background of all human activity, relationships and commerce. Axiological ethics, rather than focusing exclusively upon right and wrong, ought and ought not, focuses upon the rich tapestry of values that include creativity, compassion, beauty, spirit, etc. Further, it endeavors to ascertain, systematize and, if possible, derive from simpler principles, the values that are thought to constitute the meaning and purpose of human life, and, at least on some views, to exist objectively in the world. The relevance of the value firmament to everyday life and commerce as well as to the field of clinical psychology is considered.
Posted, December 22, 2008.