Today’s emerging crises pose serious challenges to the 20th century global order underpinned by rules shaped by Western liberal framework of human rights, free trade, open markets and the rule of law. Modernization, far from promoting a uniform secularity across the world, reveals instead a radical plurality of cultural and religious values. Academic philosophy struggles to emerge from its parochial occidentalism. Ecological science and evolutionary theory undermine the clear boundaries of Cartesian humanism. Finally, the unprecedented existential threat of climate change shows how limited our historic traditions of ethical reasoning and moral value are. Our societies, values and ethics are organized to promote the prosperity and peaceful flourishing of nations, and cannot fundamentally grasp that our prosperity in turn depends on the flourishing of the natural world.

The historic systems of value that we operate with today originated in an Axial Age some 2,500 years ago that stretched all across Asia from East to West even as far as the Mediterranean sea. This was the time of Confucius, the Buddha, Zoroaster, the Hebrew prophets and Greek philosophers. The 21st century demands a new Axial Age adequate to the moral crises of today, founded upon the principle that human flourishing is rooted in ecological flourishing.

Research Questions

  • What values support the principle of fostering human flourishing within a context of ecological flourishing?
  • How should those values engage with  Axial age religions and cultures?
  • How should those values engage with Indigenous lifeways and cultures?
  • How can those values meet the challenge of rapid scientific and technological development?


Axiology: Values at the Heart of the University.
Jason Kelly in conversation with James Miller.
Wednesday October 4, 2017 at 5:30pm
Biosciences 1120
Queen’s University