TSElosophers meeting on 21.10.2022. Elina Järvinen, Erkki Lassila, Joonas Uotinen, Kari Lukka, Mia Salo, Milla Unkila, Morgan Shaw, Otto Rosendahl, Siddhant Ritwick, Veli Virmajoki

Danaher, John (2021). ”Axiological futurism: The systematic study of the future of values”. Futures 132.


Danaher argues that value change in the future needs to be systematically studied. Danaher points out that there have been changes in values throughout history and these changes will most likely continue in the future. Understanding the possible changes in values in the future is “both desirable in and of itself, and complementary to other futurological inquiries”. Danaher names the inquiry into the future of values axiological futurism. Danaher sketches a set of possible methods that can be used in axiological futurism and a model for value change where “one of the main determinants of our movement through future axiological possibility space is [–] the form of intelligence that is prioritised and mobilised in society.”

Our discussion

Danaher’s argument for the need for axiological futurism is simple, convincing, and deep. When we discuss what the future should be like, we tend to use our own values to frame our views on the matter or even project our values into the future. However, if values would change, the desirability of a future is determined by the values and needs of future generations. Relating to normative future studies, one challenge is that there may be different moral truths and values in the future from those of today and therefore any normative projection to the future made today may sound unacceptable in the future. Relatedly, TSElosophers found the idea of contemplating and deducing what these potentially different future values (enacted by people in their everyday life) should be in order to achieve, for instance, a more ecologically sustainable future than how it looks based on the current such values.

There were some concerns about Danaher’s strategy. Introducing a novel field of inquiry with a daunting task such as mapping axiological possibility space is difficult in one paper. One needs to balance the abstract frame with some concrete suggestions on how to proceed. We were not quite convinced that the methods Danaher suggests are described in enough detail to give a sense of how the daunting task can be tackled. Moreover, one of us did not buy that forms of intelligence could very much determine movement in axiological space, but rather believed in the central role of material aspects. Others, however, seemed to accept Danaher’s main argument that it can well be a mix of both. TSElosophers anyhow were supportive of Danaher’s main project described in the paper. Rather, the concern was primarily how to execute the project.

There were additional worries that notions such as “the moral paradigm” may be misleading and give the false impression that there is a shared location in an axiological space where we all stand and move together. The western connotations of the project also worried us, for example when the forms of intelligence were defined in terms of a dichotomy between individual and collective. However, for a few of us more normatively oriented scholars interested in evoking value transformation pertaining to a more sustainable future, the main take-away of the paper was the interesting structuring of the possibility space of values. We felt that Danaher’s discussion of its constitution opened welcome avenues of reflection and action aimed at a potentially greener world.

Overall, the paper made a convincing case for the need for axiological futurism but made us realize how the complexity of axiological considerations casts a shadow of vertiginous complexity over the project.

For an interested reader, see also https://blogit.utu.fi/futuresofscience/2021/09/20/future-of-values-some-reflection/