In our everyday lives we struggle with the notions of why we do what we do and the need to assign values to our actions. Somehow, it seems possible through experience and life to gain knowledge and understanding of such matters. Yet once we start delving deeper into the concepts that underwrite these domains of thought and actions, we face a philosophical disappointment. In contrast to the world of facts, values and morality seem insecure, uncomfortably situated, easily (...) influenced by illusion or ideology. How can we apply this same objectivity and accuracy to the spheres of value and morality? In the essays included in this collection, Peter Railton shows how a fairly sober, naturalistically informed view of the world might nonetheless incorporate objective values and moral knowledge. This book will be of interest to professionals and students working in philosophy and ethics. (shrink)
Fulford has argued that (1) the medical concepts illness, disease and dysfunction are inescapably evaluative terms, (2) illness is conceptually prior to disease, and (3) a model conforming to (2) has greater explanatory power and practical utility than the conventional value-free medical model. This ‘reverse’ model employs Hare's distinction between description and evaluation, and the sliding relationship between descriptive and evaluative meaning. Fulford's derivative ‘Values Based Medicine’ (VBM) readjusts the imbalance between the predominance of facts over values (...) in medicine. VBM allegedly responds to the increased choices made available by, inter alia, the progress of medical science itself. VBM attributes appropriate status to evaluative meaning, where strong consensus about descriptive meaning is lacking. According to Fulford, quasi-legal bioethics, while it can be retained as a kind of deliberative framework, is outcome-based and pursues ‘the right answer’, while VBM approximates a democratic, process-oriented method for dealing with diverse values, in partnership with necessary contributions from evidence-based medicine (EBM). I support the non-cognitivist underpinnings of VBM, and its emphasis on the importance of values in medicine. But VBM overstates the complexity and diversity of values, misrepresents EBM and VBM as responses to scientific and evaluative complexity, and mistakenly depicts ‘quasi-legal bioethics’ as a space of settled descriptive meaning. Bioethical reasoning can expose strategies that attempt to reduce authentic values to scientific facts, illustrating that VBM provides no advantage over bioethics in delineating the connections between facts and values in medicine. (shrink)
From the foregoing discussion we can note that whilst Marx transcends the fact-value distinction he embraces neither a scientistic approach nor a moral theory. Rather he gives a sociological account of morality, illustrating that description and evaluation cannot be separated and that juridical conceptions need to be understood in relation to the mode of production in which they arise.30 In the absence of an absolute notion of justice it is mistaken to see Marx as offering a critique of capitalism based (...) on moral principles. Of course Marx had reasons for attacking capitalism but these are contained within his account of the capitalist mode of production. Yet whilst this theory is not a moral theory it cannot be described as a descriptive theory either. In Marx's work description and evaluation cannot be meaningfully separated.In portraying Communist society as the solution to problems generated within capitalist society Marx is not sketching out a picture of a morally superior society but rather considering the possibilities of an alternative way of life with its own moral and judicial standards. Indeed the fact that Marx did not provide blueprints for future Communist society is itself symptomatic of his awareness of the difficulties involved in the attempt to describe in detail a form of social life based upon principles different from our own. (shrink)
The idea of a logical and metaphysical gap between facts and values is taken for granted in much psychology. Howard Kendler has recently defended the standard view that human values cannot be discovered by psychology. In contrast, various postmodern approaches have sought to attack the fact-value dichotomy with the argument that psychological facts are inevitably morally and politically laden, and therefore relative. In this article, a third line of thought is pursued, significantly inspired by philosopher of (...) science, Hilary Putnam. It is argued that knowledge of facts presupposes knowledge of values, and that value judgments can be objectively right. In this light, the objectivity of scientific facts is not threatened by their entanglement with values. Psychology's objects can be described accurately only with value concepts, among them "thick ethical concepts." Different ways in which psychological science presupposes values are outlined. Finally, it is suggested that the distinction between epistemic and moral values is rarely useful in psychology, and should not be thought of as absolute. (shrink)
Social thinkers frequently remind us that people differ in their views on what constitutes personal well-being, but that even when they don't differ, they disagree over the extent to which one person's well-being can be permitted to be traded off against another's. In this paper I show, by offering an account of the development of development economics, that in professional debates on social policy, economists speak or write as though they agree on values but differ on their reading of (...)facts. A number of ethicists have concluded from this near-exclusive interest in facts that modern economics must be an ethical desert. It is shown here that the reason research economists analyze facts rather than values is that modern economics is built on broad ethical foundations, capable of being reduced as special cases to the various ethical theories that are currently on offer. Ethics has taken a back seat in modern economics not because contemporary economists are wedded to a “value-free” enterprise, but because the ethical foundations of the subject were constructed over five decades ago and are now regarded to be a settled matter. (shrink)
In the context of the question of the extent to which science studies is able to mount an adequate critique of contemporary developments in science and technology, and in view of the proliferating interest in ethics across the social sciences, this article has two aims. Firstly to address some of the implications for ethics of Bruno Latour's, and to a lesser extent Alfred North Whitehead’s, conceptions of reality, both of which have a bearing on the long-standing dichotomy between facts (...) and values. Drawing on Whitehead's work, it also, secondly, seeks to make a positive argument for ethics and to ask again, in the light of this discussion, where the ethical dimensions of Latour's work might be located. Towards the end of the article, I suggest that Latour's concept of exteriority obliges him to pursue a politics of reality which is the special providence of ‘moralists’, rather than a politics of virtual reality in which all entities, human and non-human, are engaged. (shrink)
Richard Brandt is one of the most influential moral philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. He is especially important in the field of ethics for his lucid and systematic exposition of utilitarianism. This new book represents in some ways a summation of his views and includes many useful applications of his theory. The focus of the book is how value judgments and moral belief can be justified. More generally, the book assesses different moral systems and theories of (...) justice, and considers specific problems such as the optimal level of charity and the moral tenability of the criminal law. This book will be essential reading for all professional philosophers concerned with ethics, and will prove helpful to students as well. (shrink)
Norms explained as grounds of practical judgment, using example of queue. Some norms informal, inexact, depend on common understanding (`conventions'); some articulated in context of two-tier normative order: `rules', explicit or implicit. Logical structure of rules displayed. Informal and formal normative order explained, `institutional facts' depend on acts and events interpreted in the light of normative order. Practical force of rules differentiated; either `absolute application' or `strict application' or `discretionary application', depending on second-tier empowerment. Discretion can be guided by (...)values, principles standards. Pervasiveness of institutions and institutional facts, especially but not only in relation to institutions of state-law, including constitution and state-institutions. Searle's and Ruiter's theories of institution, institutional fact, considered: `constitutive rule' rejected in favour of `underlying principle', structure of `institutive, consequential and terminative' rules explained and defended. Ruiter's conception of `institutional `régime' considered and adopted, validity of norms and normative `régimes' considered and differentiated from truth of statements of institutional fact. (shrink)
Quantum mechanics is a fundamentally probabilistic theory (at least so far as the empirical predictions are concerned). It follows that, if one wants to properly understand quantum mechanics, it is essential to clearly understand the meaning of probability statements. The interpretation of probability has excited nearly as much philosophical controversy as the interpretation of quantum mechanics. 20th century physicists have mostly adopted a frequentist conception. In this paper it is argued that we ought, instead, to adopt a logical or Bayesian (...) conception. The paper includes a comparison of the orthodox and Bayesian theories of statistical inference. It concludes with a few remarks concerning the implications for the concept of physical reality. (shrink)
This occasional paper from the proceedings of the Burkamp Club sets out part of the Austro-German context of the beginning and the end of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: Husserl’s 1900-1901 account of the world as the totality of contingently obtaining states of affairs or facts; and Scheler’s 1913-1916 account of persons as correlates but not parts of worlds, and of microcosms, selves, bodies, life, solipsism, God, value, punishment and happiness.
Some environmental philosophers believe that the rejection of anthropocentric ethics requires the development and defence of an objectivist meta-ethical theory according to which values are, in the most literal sense. discovered not conferred. It is argued that nothing of normative or motivational import, however, turns on the meta-ethical issue. It is also argued that a rejection of normative anthropocentrism is completely consistent with meta-ethical subjectivism. Moreover the dynamics and outcomes of rational debate about normative environmental ethics are not determined (...) by any particular choice between meta-ethical subjectivism and objectivism. These different meta-ethical views sustain analogous moves in normative debate, although they offer rather different accounts of what underlies these moves. They also provide for analogous links between moral 'belief' and motivation, although again they offer rather different accounts of what underlies these links. In the course of defending these conclusions a subjectivist account of intrinsic value is developed and defended. (shrink)
A number of prominent writers on the concept of mental illness/disease are committed to accounts which involve rejecting certain plausible widely held beliefs, namely: that it is part of the meaning of illness that it is bad for its possessor, so the concept of illness is essentially evaluative; that if a person has a mental illness, that is a fact about him; and that the same concept of illness is applicable in the case of mental illness as in that of (...) physical illness. Methodologically this is unattractive. We should seek accounts of concepts which preserve our pre-theoretical beliefs so far as is possible. In this paper I argue that these writers are driven to this pass because they accept certain underlying metaphysical commitments including, in particular, the fact-value distinction. I then claim that there is an alternative account of mental illness (defended more fully elsewhere) which preserves our pre-theoretical beliefs, and that this account can be further buttressed because it coheres with a metaphysical picture which does not involve the metaphysical assumptions which led to the unattractive results noted above. The metaphysical picture and the account of mental illness are thus mutually supportive and suggest that there is good reason to reject the supposed fact-value distinction. (shrink)
How much can we shape the emotions we experience? Or to put it another way, how plastic are our emotions? It is clear that the exercise of identifying the degree of plasticity of emotion is futile without a prior specification of what can be plastic, so we first propose an analysis of the components of emotions. We will then turn to empirical data that might be used to assess the degree of plasticity of emotions.
The paper suggests a revival of the 17th century distinction between truths of reason and truths of fact. Some points are made which seem to me show it obviously false that a fact is merely a true proposition. Truths of fact, contingent truths, are rightly seen as corresponding to facts. Other truths, including ethical truths of right and wrong are, if true, necessarily true. In general, necessarily ture statements, including those of mathematics are wrongly construed as factual. Ethics and (...) aesthetics, it is maintained, can be construed as noncognitive; but not because claims in these domains are other than claims to truth. They are, in large part, not claims to knowledge, which does not bar them from being claims to truth. (shrink)
Charles Pigden has argued for a logical Is/Ought gap on the grounds of the conservativeness of logic. I offer a counter-example which shows that Pigden’s argument is unsound and that there need be no logical gap between Is-premises and an Ought-conclusion. My counter-example is an argument which is logically valid, has only Is-premises and an Ought-conclusion, does not purport to violate the conservativeness of logic, and does not rely on controversial assumptions about Aristotelian biology or 'institutional facts.'.
Mary Midgley asserts that my argument concerning the problem of child-abuse was inappropriately framed in the language of rights, and neglected certain pertinent natural facts. I defend the view that the use of rights-talk was both apposite and did not misrepresent the moral problem in question. I assess the status and character of the natural facts Midgley adduces in criticism of my case, concluding that they do not obviously establish the conclusions she believes they do. Finally I briefly (...) respond to the charge that my suggestions were illiberal. (shrink)
In a memorable passage near the beginning of William James asks us to imagine a world in which all our dearest social utopias are realized, and then to imagine that this world is offered to us at the price of one lost soul at the farthest edge of the universe suffering eternal, intense, lonely pain. Then he asks.
Le Laboratoire d’ANalyse Cognitive de l’Information (LANCI) effectue des recherches sur le traitement cognitif de l’information. La recherche fondamentale porte sur les multiples conceptions de l’information. Elle s’intéresse plus particulièrement aux modèles cognitifs de la classification et de la catégorisation, tant dans une perspective symbolique que connexionniste. La recherche appliquée explore les technologies informatiques qui manipulent l’information. Le territoire privilégié est celui du texte. La recherche est de nature interdisciplinaire. Elle en appelle à la philosophie, à l’informatique, à la linguistique (...) et à la psychologie. Volume 6, Numéro 2007-02 – Août 2007 Publication du Laboratoire d’ANalyse Cognitive de l’Information Directeurs : Luc Faucher, Jean-Guy Meunier, Serge Robert et Pierre Poirier Université du Québec à Montréal Document disponible en ligne à l’adresse suivante : www.lanci.uqam.ca Tirage : 5 exemplaires Aucune partie de cette publication ne peut être conservée dans un système de recherche documentaire, traduite ou reproduite sous quelque forme que ce soit - imprimé, procédé photomécanique, microfilm, microfiche ou tout autre moyen - sans la permission écrite de l’éditeur. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. / All rights reserved. No part of this publication covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means - graphic, electronic or mechanical - without the prior written permission of the publisher. Dépôt légal – Bibliothèque Nationale du Canada Dépôt légal – Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec.. (shrink)
This paper arose from a comment to the talk of Tara Smith at the Pittsburgh-Konstanz Colloquium in October 2002. Now it is a self-contained text precisely about what the title indicates. It is a somewhat mixed bag, but a nice read.
The first of a planned series of 5 volumes on Middle Way Philosophy. Middle Way Philosophy was originally inspired by the Middle Way of the Buddha but is developed in an entirely Western context. It addresses the questions of objectivity, justification, facts and values, and the relationship of philosophy and psychology. It develops the concept of experiential adequacy to provide a non-metaphysical resolution of the dichotomy between absolutism and relativism in both facts and values.