Essentials Of Unification Thought - The Head-Wing Thought

V. Historical Changes In the Systems of Value

In this section, let us consider the changes in Western systems of value from a historical perspective. Through this we can grasp the historical process through which the views of value of Greek philosophy and Christianity, both of which sought absolute values, came to be overwhelmed by relative views of value and eventually became ineffective. That brings us back to the point that tile confusion in today's world cannot be solved without a new view of value (that is, the absolute view of value).

A. Views of Value in the Growth Period

1. The Materialistic View of Value

A materialistic natural philosophy arose in Ionia, an ancient Greek colony, in the sixth century B. C. Before that time, Greece had been a tribal society in the age of mythology, but Ionian philosophers were not satisfied with mythological explanations and tried to explain the world and human life from a viewpoint based on nature.

In the Ionian city of Miletus, foreign trade thrived and merchants were engaged in trade activities throughout the Mediterranean Sea. They were realistic and active. In such an atmosphere, people gradually discarded the mythical ways of thinking.

Concerning the root-cause (arrhi) of all things, Thalev (ca. 62-1-546 B. C.) advocated that it was water; Anaximander (ca. 610-547 B. C.), that it was the boundless (apeiron); Anaximenes (ca. 585-528 B. C.), that it was air; and Heraclitus (ca. 535-475 B. C.), that it was fire. Together with such natural philosophies, objective and rational ways of thinking came to be fostered.

2. The Arbitrary (Sophistic) View of Value

During the fifth century B. C., democracy developed in Greece centering on Athens, and young people sought to acquire knowledge for the purpose of success in life. To be successful, the art of persuasive speech (rhetoric) was especially important. Scholars were paid to instruct young people in the art of persuasion; those scholars came to be called sophists.

Until their, Greek philosophy had dealt primarily with nature; but philosophers became aware that human problems could not be solved through natural philosophy alone and gradually turned their eyes to the problems of human society. They soon realized that whereas natural laws are objective, the laws and morality of human society differ from country to country and from age to age, with no apparent objectivity or universality. For that reason, the sophists came to take a relativistic, skeptical position on values, giving up any effort to find solutions to social problems. Protagoras (ca. 481-411 B. C.) said, "man is the measure of all things," meaning that the standard of truth differs depending on the person-which clearly indicated relativism.

The sophists, at first, had an enlightening effect on the public, but gradually became skeptical about the existence of' truth. They attached importance only to the art of persuasion, and attempted to win arguments at any cost, even by resorting to false reasoning, or "sophistry." Soon they began to use fallacies in their arguments. That is why the word "sophist" came to mean "a person who uses clever but misleading reasoning."

3. The Pursuit of Absolute Value

a) Socrates

Socrates (470-399 B. C.) appeared when sophism was rampant in Greek Society, and lie deplored it. For him, the Sophists pretended to know, but in reality they knew nothing. Of himself, he said, "One thing only I know for sure, and that is that I know nothing." Such was the starting point of his plan to reach true knowledge. He sought the basis of morality in the God (daimon) inherent within the human being, and asserted that morality is absolute and universal. Virtue, as taught by him, was a loving attitude of seeking knowledge, and "knowledge is virtue" was his fundamental thought. He also advocated the unity of knowledge and action, saying that once one knows virtue, one should put it into practice without fail.

How can someone obtain true knowledge? True knowledge is not to be poured into a person by others, nor can it be known by an individual alone. Only through dialogue (questions and answers) with others can someone reach true knowledge (the universal truth) which satisfies all people, Socrates thought. He then sought to save Athens from its social disorder by establishing absolute, universal virtues.

b) Plato

Plato (427-347 B. C.) thought that there is an unchangeable world of essence behind the changing world of phenomena, and called it the world of Ideas. Yet, since people's souls are trapped in their bodies, people are usually convinced that the phenomenal world is true reality. The human soul previously existed in a world of Ideas, but when it came to dwell in the body, the soul was separated from the world of Ideas. Accordingly, the soul constantly longs for the world of Ideas, which is the true reality. For Plato, knowledge of Ideas is nothing but a recollection of what the soul knew before coming into the body. Ethical Ideas included beauty, truth, and goodness, with the Idea of the Good regarded as supreme.

Plato enumerated the four virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice as the virtues that everyone must have. He field that those who rule the state, especially, must be philosophers with the virtue of wisdom and an understanding of the Idea of the Good. For Plato, the Idea of the Good was the source of all values. Inheriting Socrates' spirit, Plato sought to find absolute value.

B. Views of Value in the Hellenistic-Roman Period

The Hellenistic-Roman period covers a time span of approximately three centuries, from the time Alexander the Great defeated Persia until the time the Roman forces conquered Egypt and unified the Mediterranean world. An individualistic trend, seeking one's own safety and peace of mind, was predominant in this era. The fall of the city-state (polis) rendered useless the theories of value centered on the state, and the Greeks began to emphasize individual ways of living under increasingly unstable social conditions. At the same time, cosmopolitanism, transcending the bounds of nationality, was enhanced. The representative schools of thought of this era were the Stoic, the Epicurean, and the Skeptic schools of thought.

Under this individualistic tendency, people came to feel a sense of powerlessness; so, in the Roman period, people sought a way to be elevated to a position beyond that of the human condition, and gradually developed religious aspirations. Neoplatonism was the fruit of this trend.

1. The Stoic School

Logos (law, reason) dwells in all things in the universe, and the universe moves in an orderly fashion according to laws. Likewise, Logos dwells in people as well. Therefore, we can know the law of the universe through our reason, and should "live according to nature." That was the basic position of the Stoic school.

The Stoics held that people feel pain because they have passions. To solve this, people should rid themselves of passions and reach the state of apathy (the absence of passion)---or the perfectly peaceful state of a mind that will not be tempted in any way. Thus, tile Stoic school advocated an asceticism in which the supreme virtue was apathy.

Whether they be Greeks or Orientals, all people have to obey the law of the universe. For the Stoics, Logos was God, and all people were brothers and sisters as God's children. Thus they established cosmopolitanism. The founder of the Stoic school was Zeno of Citium (ca. 336-264 B. C.).

2. The Epicurean School

In contradistinction to the Stoic school, which advocated ascetism, the Epicurean school, which started with Epicurus (341-270 B. C.), advocated pleasure as the supreme good. Epicurus considered pleasure to be directly in accord with virtue. By pleasure lie did not mean physical pleasure, but rather having no pain in one's body and giving calm and repose to one's soul. Epicurus called this peaceful state of mind ataraxia, or the state of separation from pain, and regarded it as the supreme state of being.

3. The Skeptic School

People come into the experience of pain because they pass judgment on things one way or another. Pyrrho (ca. 356-275 B. C.) urged people to seek calmness of mind by suspending all judgment. This is called "epoch" or "suspension of judgment." The Skeptic school asserted that, since knowledge of the truth cannot be attained by human beings, it is best to abstain from any form of judgment whatsoever.

Absence of passion (apathy) of the Stoic school, pleasurable peace of' mind (ataraxia) of the Epicurean school, non-judgment (edoche) of the Skeptic school-all those methods were attempts to find calmness of mind for the individual. Thus they regarded as questionable the absoluteness of value, which had been pursued by Socrates and Plato.

4. Neoplatonism

Greek philosophy continued into the Roman period, which followed the Hellenistic period. The culmination of the philosophy of the Hellenistic-Roman period was Neoplatonism, a philosophical viewpoint whose most eminent proponent was Plotinus (A. D. 205270).

Plotinus advocated "emanation theory," according to which everything flows out of God. Specifically, he asserted that nous (reason), which is the closest reality to the perfection of God, and then the soul, and finally imperfect matter emanated from God stage by stage. Formerly, Greek philosophy had propounded a dualism that regarded God and matter as conflicting with each other. In contrast, Plotinus advocated monism, claiming that God is everything.

The human soul flows out into the sensual material world, and at the same time seeks to return to nous and to God. Therefore, people should not be captured by physical things, and their souls should ascend to the level of perceiving God, thereby becoming united with Him. Such an achievement was regarded as the supreme virtue. Plotinus said that the human being becomes completely united with God in "ecstasy," which he regarded as the highest state of mind.

Hellenistic philosophy culminated with Plotinus and Neoplatonism had a great impact on Christian philosophy, which was to emerge next.

C. The Views of Value in the Medieval Period

1. Augustine

Augustine (354-430) provided a philosophical basis for faith in Western Christianity. God was regarded as eternal, unchangeable,. omniscient, omnipotent, a being of supreme goodness, supreme love, and supreme beauty, and the Creator of the universe. In contrast with Plato, who regarded the world of Ideas ' as independent in itself, Augustine held that Ideas exist within the mind of God, and asserted that everything was created with Ideas as the prototypes. In opposition to Neoplatonism, which held that the world necessarily emanated from God, Augustine advocated creation theory, saying that God freely created the world from nothing, not utilizing any material. Then, why is the human being sinful? For Augustine, the reason is that Adam, the first human ancestor, misused freedom and betrayed God. Fallen people can be saved only through God's grace. Augustine said that faith in God, hope for salvation, and love for God and one's neighbors are the way to true happiness, and recommended the three virtues of faith, hope, and love.

2. Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who firmly established Christian theology, divided virtues into religious and natural. Religions virtues were the three primary virtues of Christianity, namely, faith, hope, and love, and natural virtues were the four primary virtues of Greek philosophy, namely, wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Religious virtues, among which love was the supreme one, would lead to bliss, and people would become qualified to receive bliss through loving God and their neighbors. Natural virtues were in accordance with obedience to the directives of reason. Natural virtues were regarded as a means to gain religious virtues.

D. Modern Views of Value

In the modern period, nothing significant emerged with regard to views of value. Modern views of value can be seen as extensions or transformations of Greek philosophy and Christian views of value.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) began by doubting all established values. He was not a skeptic, however, rather, he attempted to find something steadfast through doubt. As a result, he reached tile fundamental principle of "I think, therefore, I am." He put reason as the basis for judgment, and that gave rise to Descartes' view of value, namely that people should act with a resolute will while controlling their passions through reason.

Blaise Pascal (162.3-1662) regarded the human being as it contradictory being, having greatness as well as wretchedness. This lie expressed by saying that "Man is a thinking reed." By nature, human beings are the weakest of all beings, but they are the greatest by virtue of their ability to think. Still, people's true happiness consists not in using reason but rather in reaching God through faith, or through heart. 18

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) discussed how truth, goodness, and beauty come into being, expounding on them in Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, and Critique of judgment, respectively. He stated that people should actualize these values. Especially with regard to morality, lie asserted that people should act according to the unconditional moral imperative to "do some thing" -- that is, the categorical imperative, which comes from practical reason.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) advocated the concept of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," adding that the state of absence of pain is happiness. He reasoned that the value of human behavior can be determined by calculating pleasure and pain quantitatively. Bentham's utilitarianism was a theory of value that came into being in the context of the Industrial Revolution, and was a Hyungsang view of value.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) advocated three stages of existence, saying that people should pass through the "aesthetic stage" and the "ethical stage" in order to reach the "religious stage" of existence. lie preached that people should not live for pleasure; in his view, it is not sufficient to live conscientiously by observing ethics; rather, people should live as though standing before God in faith. Kierkegaard tried to revive the true Christian view of value.

Friedrich W. Nietzsche (1844-1900) regarded Europe at the end of the 19th century as being in the era of nihilism, in which all systems of value were collapsing. He described Christianity as "slave morality," that is, morality that oppresses people and equalizes them. He regarded Christianity as the greatest cause of the rise of nihilism. So, he presented a new theory of value with "will to power" as its standard. "Live strongly in this godless world," was Nietzsche's assertion.

Wilhelm Windelband (1848-1915). of the Neo-Kantian school, dealt with values as the central issue of philosophy, taking up the values of truth, goodness, and beauty in a united way. Following Kant, who had distinguished matters of fact from matters of right, Windelband distinguished judgments of fact from judgments of value, and said that the task of philosophy was to deal with judgments of value.

A judgment of fact is an objective proposition about a fact, whereas a judgment of value is a proposition in which a subjective appraisal of a fact is made. For example, the propositions "this flower is red" and "the man built the house" are fact judgments; whereas the propositions "this flower is beautiful" and "that mail's conduct is good," are value judgments. Since then, fact and value have been dealt with as separate issues, in the sense that factual judgment are dealt with in natural science, and value judgments are dealt with in philosophy.

This century has seen the rise of analytical philosophy, which employs the "logical analysis of language" as the most appropriate method of philosophy. Analytical philosophy took the following positions with regard to axiology:

(1) One cannot know values except through intuition;
(2) a judgment of value is nothing but an expression of the speaker's feelings about moral approval or disapproval;
(3) axiology is significant only for the analysis of value language. Analytical philosophy generally sought to exclude axiology from philosophy.

Pragmatism, represented by John Dewey (1859-1952), based value judgment on usefulness for life. Such value concepts as truth, goodness, and beauty were regarded as nothing but means, or tools, for processing things effectively. From this standpoint, what is perceived as valuable will differ from person to person. Even the same person may differ in the way he or she perceives value. Dewey's standpoint is one of relativism and pluralism.

Lastly, I will mention the Communist view of value. The following definition of the Communist view of value is given by B. P. Tugarinov (1898- ): "Value is a phenomenon of nature or society that is useful and necessary for those people who belong to a particular society or class in history, as something actual, its a purpose, or as an ideal." 19 For Communism, usefulness for the proletariat class is the standard of value. A postulate of the Communist view of value was that all the established religious systems of value, which were regarded as bourgeois systems of values, had to be denied and destroyed. For Communism, a moral act is an act that is useful in promoting collective life for constructing Communist society. It includes such virtues as dedication, obedience, sincerity, love for comrades, and mutual help.

E. The Necessity for a New View of Value

As seen above, many systems of value have appeared throughout history; in fact, history can be seen as a succession of failed attempts to establish absolute values.

In ancient Greece, Socrates and Plato tried to establish absolute values by pursuing true knowledge. With the collapse of the Greek city-state society, however, the views of value of Greek philosophy also collapsed. Next, Christianity tried to establish absolute values centered on God's love (agape). The Christian view of value ruled medieval society, but with the collapse of medieval society, it gradually lost its power.

In the modern period, Descartes and Kant established views of value centered on reason, as in Greek philosophy; yet, their understanding of God, which was the basis for their views of value, was ambiguous. As a result, their views of value fell short of being absolute. Pascal and Kierkegaard tried to revive true Christian values, but they fell short of establishing a firm system of value.

The Neo-Kantian school dealt with value as one of the main issues in philosophy, but they completely separated philosophy, which deals with values, from natural science, which deals with facts. As a result, many problems came into being. As scientists have continued to analyze facts in disregard of values, the results have been weapons of mass destruction, the abuse of the natural environment, pollution, and so forth.

Utilitarianism and pragmatism are materialistic systems of value, which makes their views of values completely relative. Analytical philosophy is a philosophy without value. Nietzsche's philosophy and Communism can be described as anti-value philosophies opposing traditional views of value.

Traditional views of value based on Greek philosophy and Christianity are no longer regarded as important today. Traditional views of value have become weak and separated from natural science. Now they have been almost completely eliminated even from the field of philosophy. As a result, society today is in extreme confusion. The appearance of a new view of value that can establish absolute values while revitalizing the traditional systems of value is deeply hoped for. This new view of value should be able to overcome materialism and to guide science with its correct view of value. This is so because value and fact are in the relationship of Sungsang and Hyungsang, and just as Sungsang and Hyungsang are united in existing beings, value and fact are originally united. Unification axiology is precisely that which has appeared to answer this demand of our times.

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