The last collapse? An essay review of Hilary Putnam's the collapse of the fact/value dichotomy and other essays

Philosophy of Science 71 (3):402-411 (2004)
Hilary Putnam's The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays serves as his latest installment attempting to detail some of the historical background and recent controversies over the so-called fact/value distinction. In it, Putnam claims that the positivists' influence led to an inflated dichotomy, rather than distinction, between descriptive sentences and evaluative sentences. He argues that such a dichotomy is unwarranted through a number of arguments intended to show that attempts to "disentangle" facts from values always fail. However, in the process Putnam overlooks a number of interesting motives underlying the positivist movement, and disregards a now-enormous body of literature in the philosophy of science on descriptive and evaluative statements. Hence, his attempt, towards the end of the collection, to construct a viable philosophy of language that can support the dichotomy's collapse and an ethical theory that can support his discussion of the dichotomy's collapse appears somewhat weak. Nevertheless, Putnam engages his philosophical discussion with contemporary economic theory in order to motivate his central claim: that taking a somewhat interesting distinction between facts and values and inflating it into a dichotomy can, and often does, lead to disastrous policy decisions. Thus, the collection shines by highlighting real-world, practical and ethical consequences of certain philosophical and theoretical commitments
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DOI 10.1086/421540
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