Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Moral and the Natural

Amazing cathedrals of thought are built up over questions to which the answers seem very simple to me. A discussion in the blogs I read now centers on a book the subject of which is the relationship of science to values. Tracing these things I discover, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (ht), that there is something called meta-ethics, further that it has a component called non-naturalism, and that this something is described as “the idea that moral philosophy is fundamentally autonomous from the natural sciences.” Now if that description is correct, and to me it seems self-evident, the relationship of science to values would appear to be pretty tenuous, pertaining to scientists, and how they act and live, not to the work they actually do. To give science itself a role in explaining morality would strike me as inviting my best hammer to read out loud to me. I reach this conclusion quite simply. In order to enable science to speak authoritatively on values, I would have to accept that the mind is produced by the brain and nothing else. Now that, of course, is a widely accepted notion—and assent to it is absolutely required to take seriously the notion that science has anything to say about values at all. Science can speak about facts—but values? First, good definitions. I cannot assent to the notion that values are facts.

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