The truth about value and the value of truth

J. P. Smit
University of Stellenbosch
Thesis --University of Stellenbosch, 2003 In this thesis an attempt is made to sketch the outlines of a cognitive theory of ethics, i.e. a theory in which ethical statements are a subset of descriptive statements. It is argued that the good is a quale, and that this quale roughly corresponds to what is often referred to as "pleasure". If this conceptualisation of the good is correct, then the resulting ethical theory is a cognitive, egoist version of ethical hedonism. The thesis proceeds by relating this conceptualisation of the good to economic phenomena. An investigation is then made of the conditions under which the following of a boundedly rational rule is preferable to calculating which one of the possible options available to the actor to follow. It is argued that one such rule is that "truth" should serve as a norm of inquiry. Next the issue of "altruism" is considered. It is argued that our intuitions regarding what egoist action should be are radically untrustworthy. Considerations from evolutionary biology and game theory make it clear that an egoist actor might well be best advised to perform a number of actions that would normally be termed altruistic. The next topic concerns the relation between fact and value. Arguments that claim to undermine the distinction between fact and value are argued to be fallacious. It is also argued that the correct view of the relation between fact and value can help to clarify some of the problems surrounding the conceptualisation of "objectivity". The thesis ends by considering the gains that arise from adopting the position argued for.
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