Axiology is a type of philosophy that looks at how different people determine the value of different things. Those who engage in this field of study examine the nature of value, as well as the different types of value, including ethics, morals, religion and aesthetic value. Not only do axiologists study how people compare and place value on things, but also the effect of these values on reality.
The premise of axiology is that just as different people look, sound and act differently, they also think differently. This means that each person can approach the same item and value it in a different way. Depending on the person, the value he or she assigns an object or idea can either represent reality, if it is a valid value, or distort it, such as when too much value is accorded a particular item, making it seem to be worth more than it actually is.
To give a value to an item, idea or belief, priorities need to be set in a person’s mind. A comparison must be made and a relationship determined. In the end, the person needs to compare the new item, belief or idea to those that are already known or held and then decide which one is better than the other. All people assign value and they do so in a pattern that is unique to themselves. Axiology studies how people make these decisions and the patterns of value setting that can be discerned.
The process of assigning value follows how a person thinks. To be able to place a value on something, the person must be able to filter, process, store and analyze data. Each objects and its different aspects must be considered and judgements must be made before choosing what value to assign to it. In axiology, the unique pattern of thinking involved in this process is referred to as value structure.
It's important to note that axiology is the study of value, and not values. Value involves thinking and then assigning meaning to the properties of everyday reality, while values are ideas that people stand for, believe in and find important. In fact, assigning value is the process that people go through to arrive at their values. An axiologist will study the value placed on the values, but not the actual ideas or beliefs.