Axiology: A Theory of Value
by Dr. Jennifer P. Tanabe Values - they were sent into the exile of so-called "value-free" education, and have now returned as a prime topic for discussion. At the recent conference sponsored by the Society for Research in Child Development that I attended, the president, Dr. Robert Emde, stated that the "inculcation of values in children" was the most important area for study in the next few years.
People have realized that value-free education is not only impossible, but, since value-free means that most parents' values are not being taught, it is actually undesirable. So, now the questions are: which values should society uphold and our children learn, and how do children learn such values?
In Unification Thought, Axiology holds a central position as the foundation for the theories of Education, Art, and Ethics, which deal with how to achieve a truthful, beautiful, and good society, respectively. These theories will be discussed in later articles. The chapter on Axiology begins by defining values, how they are determined, and the standards for values. These points should be helpful in addressing the issues faced by today's society.
First of all, we must define what is meant by values. According to Unification Thought, "value refers to a quality of an object that satisfies a desire of the subject." (Essentials, p.133). This means that value belongs to the object, but must be recognized by the subject. This is the methodology of Unification Thought: the basic formula is relationship between subject and object, and remember that the object can be either a thing or another human being.
The second point discussed in the theory of Axiology is the determination of value. As mentioned above, value has two aspects: the essence of value, or "potential value" that is a quality of the object, and the "actual value" or value that is actualized through the relationship between subject and object. Thus, there are requisites for both subject and object in order for value to be actualized.
The requisites for the object are known as the essence of value. Now the definition of value given above refers to the "desire" of the subject. Desires exist to realize purpose, so value is connected to purpose. The essence of value, then, consists of the purpose of creation of the object, and the harmony between paired elements existing in the object centered on the purpose of creation. For example, the purpose of a flower arrangement is beauty, and the essence of value of a flower arrangement consists of that purpose and how well that purpose is fulfilled through the harmony between its various elements, such as colors, shapes, fragrances, etc.
The requisites for the subject are a desire to seek value, interest in the object, and a factor known as "subjective action" which provides for individual differences. In the case of a flower arrangement, the subject must desire something beautiful, notice the flower arrangement as a possible object to fulfill that desire, and then appreciate the harmony of colors, etc. within the arrangement. If these conditions are met then the potential value of the flower arrangement becomes actual. On the other hand, if the person is not looking for something beautiful but rather wants transportation to the airport immediately, the most well prepared flower arrangement will remain a source of potential value until another subject comes along.
Similarly, if the person does not like pink and the flower arrangement has many pink flowers, that flower arrangement will not be judged as valuable. In the latter case, it is subjective action that has caused the potential value not to be realized. Let us look further into this concept. Subjective action consists of the differences between individuals, their tastes, view of life, past experiences, education, etc., the aspects of ourselves that make us unique. In that case, how can there be a common standard for determining values?
Well, it is clear that there are commonalities within groups - cultural, religious, ethnic, national, etc. - that allow agreement on value judgements. In my family it is often brought home to me that Japanese table manners are different from British manners, as my husband tells me that it is customary in Japan to make noise while eating noodles or drinking soup! The differences between men and women may also be considered factors in subjective action, which leads us to expect that men and women will always have differences in their value judgements. No problem - that's part of what makes marriage exciting!
So, we have many "relative" standards of value belonging to various groups. But how about an "absolute" standard of value for the whole world? Beyond cultural or group commonalities there are also the commonalities of all human beings. Reverend Moon is fond of saying in his sermons that we all have two eyes, one nose with two nostrils, one head, two hands, etc., so we are all the same! Whether we like it or not, we do all belong to this same species, the human being. So the defining characteristics of our species can be the basis of a common system of values. This cs of our species can be the basis of a common system of values. This does not involve imposing one person's values on another, it simply requires us all to recognize what we have in common, our purpose of creation, if you will.
This is obviously the most controversial point in the Unification Thought theory of Axiology. As one student in our Unification Thought class asked, is this chapter saying that everyone should join the Unification Church? I believe that it is not saying that at all. What Unification Thought says is that human beings have an essential nature, that which distinguishes us from all other creatures, and the values of human society should be based on that essential human nature. And there is no need to fear a world of boring conformity, subjective action will always provide the excitement of variety.
People have been taught that tolerance is more important than values. But tolerance without standards leads only to confusion, as is evident in today's youth. In the Unification Thought approach, commonalities provide standards so that there is no confusion, while individual differences are expressed through subjective action. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me!
Now, let's look at those commonalities that constitute our essential human nature. Human beings have dual characteristics of Sung Sang and Hyung Sang. Therefore, we have dual desires: Sung Sang desires and Hyung Sang desires. Consequently, there are both Sung Sang values and Hyung Sang values.
Sung Sang values are the values which correspond to the three faculties of the mind: intellect, emotion, and will. These values are trueness, beauty, and goodness, respectively. Trueness is distinguished from truth, and is the quality of embodying truth, or being true, as in the concept of a "true man" (Essentials, p.431.) Love can also be included as a Sung Sang value, but strictly speaking it is the basis for the values of trueness, beauty, and goodness. Interestingly, since love is the foundation for these values, if the subject loves the object, then the value of that object, whether it be trueness, beauty, or goodness, is enhanced. Indeed, any parent will agree that their child appears to them to be true, beautiful, and good, when looked at through the eyes of love.
Hyung Sang values are the value of daily necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, and physical sex, that satisfy the desires of the physical mind. Since physical life is necessary in order to fulfill spiritual desires (I can't recognize the beauty of a sunset if I am starving or freezing to death), Hyung Sang value is a requisite for the realization of Sung Sang value. However, as we know from the Theory of Original Human Nature, Sung Sang desires should be in the subject position in order to fulfill our purpose as true human beings. Thus, in terms of values, the spiritual desire for conjugal love has the satisfaction of the desire for physical sex as a requisite, but the value of physical sex should not be in the subject position.
I believe that this point in Unification Thought, explaining that there are the two types of values, Sung Sang and Hyung Sang, and the priority of the former over the latter for true human beings, can be a major contribution to the current discussion on values. If we look at society today it is clear that there is great confusion on this point. Perhaps if people understood that it is the Sung Sang aspects that make us human, they would also recognize that we must value Sung Sang values above Hyung Sang values in order to live as human beings. Otherwise, we can never have more than an animal society.
I have nothing against animals, in fact I spent many years studying them (rats and monkeys in particular), and I have great respect for their intelligence. However, when my daughter was born I quickly realized I was dealing with a very different species. Even at a very young age, I could see that she was not motivated by her physical desires for food, clothing (or lack of it!) and other comforts, but would work very hard to understand how to make something move, how her own hand moved, what happened when she dropped food from her high chair, etc. In other words, I saw in her the desire to discover truth about the world. Now that she is three years old, she tells me which music she likes, tells me what type of music it is, and that "sad songs are for crying people." Even the most intelligent animal can hardly outdo a two-year-old, and my three-year-old is way ahead now, and has so much further to go to realize her full potential.
Human beings have Sung Sang and Hyung Sang aspects, or spiritual and physical minds, and the pursuit of trueness, beauty, and goodness, are uniquely human qualities. If we want a truly human society, those values had better be the priority.