Saturday, September 7, 2013

Science and Philosophy

"Similarly in ethics, science cannot necessarily tell us what to value. Science has made significant progress in helping to understand human nature. Such research, if accurate, provides very real constraints to philosophical constructs on the nature of the good. Still, evidence of how most people happen to be does not necessarily tell us everything about how we should aspire to be. For how we should aspire to be is a conceptual question, namely, of how we ought to act, as opposed to an empirical question of how we do act. We might administer scientific polls to determine the degree to which people take themselves to be happy and what causes they might attribute to their own levels happiness. But it’s difficult to know if these self-reports are authoritative since many may not have coherent, consistent or accurate conceptions of happiness to begin with. We might even ask them if they find such and such ethical arguments convincing, namely, if happiness ought to be their only aim in life. But we don’t and shouldn’t take those results as sufficient to determine, say, the ethics standards of the American Medical Association, as those require philosophical analysis."

--Julian Friedland.

No comments: