Can a Study of Axiology Save us?



Lately things have been “bad”.  Why the quotations marks you ask?  Well, it’s hard to say if things are really bad.  The news would have you believe the world has “no hope”.  People are cruel and we’ve lost our way.

Others would tell you that things are not bad, in fact things are getting better, great even.

Why the difference?  Well, that’s easy.


Those who says things are bad do not have the same values as those that think things are getting better.


That’s it.  Good night.


Oh… you want more.  Ok.  Let’s unpack this a bit.


Let me introduce you to Axiology.  Axiology is a school of philosophy that came about oddly enough when the government fell and left people to govern themselves (Ancient Greece to be more precise).  Axiology is a disciplined way that we determine what we value.  Inherent in the study of Axiology is the study that the value of things is on a scale or spectrum.  Simply put…

Certain things are good.  Certain things are better.  Certain things are bad.

We should be discussing things along this spectrum:  Bad, Good, Better…

However, we more often fail to do so.  It is easier, and more pleasurable to see things along a much simpler spectrum:  Good or Bad.

Think about it.  That’s how we got this point in our political world.  Think of it like this…


Mr. X believes in 3 things

  1. Item A is good
  2. Item B is bad
  3. Item C is good

Ms. Y believes in 3 things

  1. Item A is good
  2. Item B is good
  3. Item C is bad


Well, both sides agree item A is good but disagree on the nature of Item B and C.  No matter how divided we get there is usually something we can agree on.  Normally Item A would be agreed on and move on.  The two sides would then try to reconcile their differences.  It would look something like this.

Mr. X

  1. Item A is good
  2. Item B is bad, Item B-2.0 would be better
  3. Item C is better, Item C-2.0 would be good


Ms. Y

  1. Item A is good
  2. Item B is better, Item B-2.0 would be good
  3. Item C is good, Item C-2.0 would be better


While this is oversimplified, the compromise is obvious.  That is what “Better” gets us.  As we’ve lost the ability to study what we value, we’ve lost the ability to see “Good” and “Better”.  That leaves us with “Good” and “Bad”.  This means that two opposing sides must forever oppose each other… driving each other further and further from compromise.

Let’s take an example…

  • Party X wants to stop illegal immigrants from coming into the country. It is a drain on resources, it’s dangerous to have an undocumented population inside your borders, and it can lead to security risks.
  • Party Y wants to allow illegal immigrants into the country. It provides a workforce that our country needs, diversifies our culture, and shows we have compassion for the less fortunate.


Now, the typical responses would be.

  • Party X is a xenophobic. They hate people different from them.  They are liars and are going to force people into camps.
  • Party Y hates this country. They have no respect for the rule of law.  They are trying to fix elections with a built in near slave class beholden to them.


What we should try to is something like this…  First we need to establish the Good.


Illegal Immigration is against the law (Good)

Illegal Immigrants use the nation’s resources (Good) and they contribute with their cheap labor (Good)

Illegal immigration can be dangerous for both the immigrant and the native population (Good)

Diversity in thought and experience is beneficial (Good)



If we can agree on this then we begin to develop the Better.


Legitimize all immigrants so we can destigmatize, identify, quantify and address the issue (Better)


We can also identify the Bad.

Xenophobia, the irrational hatred of people groups different from your own, is bad.

Breaking the law, or living in a society without regard for the law, is bad.

Harming another person is bad.


It seems simple, but it requires us to acknowledge that our opponents may have a good idea, even if we still believe we have a better idea.  In that world there is a space for compromise, growth, and understanding.

However, without that spectrum debate breaks down.

  • Everything, must either be good or bad. I want to be good so you must be bad.
  • We lose the ability to establish what is better since the threshold is lowered to Good = Not Bad
  • There is a massive divide. There is not ability to agree to with parts of both sides, so you must choose a side.


If you look for the devil everywhere you will find him.

Examine yourself and your thinking and see if you have abandoned the Good and the Better for the not Bad.


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