Manual Science and the End of Ethics

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Both approaches compromise science and faith. Whence this confusion? Enlightenment reason bracketed God, while positivistic science desposed of the supernatural and religion altogether as superfluous, equating science with knowledge and truth. Yet, shorn of First Principles, Enlightenment rationality could also deconstruct into postmodern thought, which ends up relativizing both science and religion, questioning the very concept of truth Yates Is it any wonder, then, that scientists tend to eschew any and all questions of value, ethics, and religious faith?

The pitfalls of a theistic science or a natural theology are proof to many that science deals, indeed, with reality and facts, whereas religion belongs in the subjective domain of personal experience. This persuasion is articulated well by Steven Weinberg who concludes that:. A fortiori, we will find no standards of value or morality.

And so we will find no hint of any God who cares about such things. We may find these things elsewhere, but not in the laws of nature Weinberg's view constitutes the prevailing paradigm in the natural sciences today. It is that of a total separation between science and religion, knowledge and faith, is and ought, fact and value. Yet Weinberg himself admits to the necessity of "God-talk" in contemporary science: "Whatever one's religion or lack of it, it is an irresistible metaphor to speak of the final laws of nature in terms of the mind of God" Can philosophy mediate the dispute between science and religion?

Philosophy in the classic sense as sophia love of wisdom can, indeed, facilitate science-religion dialogue by helping to clear up semantic and conceptual confusion, as well as shed new light on complex interconnections and the interrelatedness of all phenomena. For Platonists like Brigitte Dehmelt Cooper, science is but doxa opinion , while true knowledge episteme arises from the application of a dialectic of distinctions which are given to us as tools and capacities to grasp reality and truth An unusual consensus is emerging among some scientists, philosophers, and theologians, which sees increasing similarities and limitations of both enterprises of science and theology.

Bernard Lonergan pointed out already in that "the outstanding feature of modern science is that it is not certain" Roger Penrose and John Polkinghorne agree that the modern science of the brain is only beginning to explore the relationship between the brain and the mind, the physiological and the epistemic. In Polkinghorne's judgment: "We don't know how mind and brain relate. We're ignorant, and so we have to make guesses" Penrose's Shadows of the Mind conjectures that human intuition and insight cannot be reduced to any set of rules, and that human consciousness, awareness, and understanding are non-computational To Penrose, a self-confessed Platonist and one of the world's foremost mathematicians, this indicates clearly that the human mind and the computer are essentially different.

Unexpectedly, modern science of the brain appears to confirm Immanuel Kant's purely philosophical postulate of how knowledge and human understanding are possible by conjoining physical data of sensory perception or phenomena with the preexisting architectonic theoretical structure of the mind or noumena.

In Kant's classic formulation: "Thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind. The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise" This unity of perception and aperception thinking produces comprehension, knowledge, and understanding in homo sapiens. The precise scientific exposition of the mind-brain interaction remains elusive, which even Penrose admits, but cautions that consciousness cannot be reduced to the physical component or matter of the brain alone A great paradox lies at the heart of Kantian epistemology.

How does one authenticate reason or Pascal's notion of man as "a thinking reed? For most scientists, measurement defines science. Yet a measuring rod can be authenticated only by another measuring rod. But, this leads clearly to an infinite regress, since the concept of "measure" itself is extra-scientific. We are back to Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorem , which shows that there is truth beyond even math's ability to prove that it is true. This prompts Kitty Ferguson to conclude that "the assumptions underlying the scientific method are not capable of being proved or disproved by the scientific method" Ferguson's observation by no means implies abandoning science or proferring a new "God-of-the-Gaps" theology.

But, it would seem to call for a more realistic, humble, and open-ended conception of science as a process of inquiry, rather than a set of unassailable propositions or ultimate truths. To believers like Ferguson, it also means that even science begins with a leap of faith.

The End of History: Religious Fundamentalism, Politics, Scientific Progress, Ethics & War (1992)

But, if this is true, how can science delimit its investigations to only the empirical, sensory, and observable? At first glance, the somewhat esoteric notion of "a leap of faith" might confirm what many a scientist has suspected all along, namely, that religious believers are, after all, a fuzzy-minded lot not to be taken seriously by rational creatures, let alone scientists. To theologians, the leap of faith metaphor only confirms what they already know, namely, that we all live by faith.

To post-modernists, the leap of faith in connection with science only further relativizes both science and religion, which they consider just language games, along with objectivity and truth.

One of the least understood truths today, however, in both camps of science and theology, is the particular nature of the faith necessary for science. Stanley Jaki, a physicist, makes the outrageous claim that the Christian God is necessary for man to have science at all. Science, according to Jaki, presupposes a monotheistic faith whose rational foundations are in concordance with the major presuppositions in science itself.

Other cultures and civilizations lacking those presuppositions have witnessed a stillbirth of science, since they "failed to formulate the notion of physical law, or the law of nature" viii. Only a theology focused on a personal, rational, absolutely transcendent Lawgiver or Creator-God could give rise to modern science and its many successes. In Jaki's summary:.

The scientific quest found fertile soil only when this faith in a personal, rational Creator had truly permeated a whole culture, beginning with the centuries of the High Middle Ages. It was that faith which provided, in sufficient measure, confidence in the rationality of the universe, trust in progress, and appreciation of the quantitative method, all indispensable ingredients of the scientific quest viii. Sceptics notwithstanding, Jaki's vision of the scientific quest entails a consonance between Enlightenment rationality and theism.

Ethics and Science

This also means, however, as Steven Yates emphasizes, that a "postmodern Christianity" is as unlikely as a "postmodern science" One of the most puzzling developments in modern science is the fact that both at the micro-and macro-levels of the universe, we can no longer observe directly, but only infer phenomena.

No one has seen a quark or a black hole. Moreover, at a singularity, all our presently-known laws of physics break down Ferguson To cosmologists like Stephen Hawking, a singularity defies Enlightenment reason, prompting the remark that "nature abhors a naked singularity" Time , 24 February Echoing the Pythagoreans, Galileo thought that the book of Nature was written in mathematical characters.

Hence Eugene Wigner's celebrated concept of the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics" as a key to discovery ; cf Grandy Since mathematics is "pure thought" Polkinghorne 24 , it complements philosophy, and belies Karl Marx's condescension that philosophers have merely interpreted the world; the point being to change it. Philosophy can help here in suggesting not only the obvious distinctions concerning appropriate methodologies in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, but also concerning the need for more global, interdisciplinary approaches for greater understanding.

This entails, inter alia , that science and faith are two roads to the Creator-God. Are we, then, at the threshold of a new era of fruitful dialogue between science and religion? There is a growing realization by scientists, philosophers, and theologians that extra-scientific assumptions underlie science both as theory and practice. Ferguson recalls five such extra-scientific assumptions, which underlie the scientific enterprise: rationality, accessibility, contingency, objectivity, and unity 9. To Ferguson, the inescapable conclusion follows that "the quest for ultimate truth must begin with a leap of faith.

Not faith that we are capable of complete understanding. Faith that we can know anything at all" 3. Alas, extra-scientific assumptions, which underlie the practice of science, have become divorced from the realization that there is a God.

Monod was avowedly only a cultivated man, not a philosopher, and was a declared materialist; but he believed in reason, and his book had the great merit of stirring up a dispute that has led many scientists to take more seriously than before the need for a serious personal stand on the relation between ethics and science. Of course, there is overlap between the two classes of problems. Ethic and ethics We must begin with a discussion of words used in connection with our theme.

This frequent recurrence means that the question of morals continues to be important, despite claims that ethical rules are just systems of taboos; on the other hand, the accompanying lack of sensitivity to the precise meanings of words is a symptom of the loss of culture by affluent societies. The acceptations of that word given by our dictionary are four. These problems lie within the scope of ethics in sense b , which is the sense we shall have in mind henceforth, unless the context makes clear that the other acceptation is involved.

Branches of ethics and conduct Ethics is divided into two branches. One is deontological ethics, which deals with right action and the nature of duty, without regard to motives or ends.

1. GENERAL ETHICAL PRINCIPLES.

The other branch is axiological ethics, which deals primarily with the value of the motives and ends of any action. Roughly speaking, conduct and behavior are synonyms, but, on closer inspection, one sees that, while the latter includes instinctive responses to situations of all kinds, the former refers to the pattern of choices a man makes in his relations with other people, nature, the godhead, inasmuch as it may cause damage and unhappiness, or violate what the ancient Romans called fas , what conforms to the will of the gods.

In that case, Wittgenstein is clearer than those who follow in his footsteps, whereas he himself drew conclusions from the irreducible plurality of life forms and language games. In dialogue with Hilary Putnam, Habermas recently gave a brief summary of his aims:. Habermas , By contrast, the moral conduct that we demand of our partners is to be grounded by gaining a firm grip on rationality and pure reason.

According to this view, it is irrational to act contrary to a categorical imperative. The refashioning of this programme in discourse ethics runs as follows:. The program of justification pursued by discourse ethics sets itself the task of deriving from suppositions of rationality […] a rule of argumentation for discourses in which moral norms can be justified. It attempts to show that moral questions can be decided rationally as a general rule. Habermas , 31f.

Rather, by allowing for ways of life that are not necessarily compatible with the individual well being, Wittgenstein appears both to call to mind the sense question as a basic facet of ethical enquiry and, furthermore, to make no distinction between that enquiry and the moral philosophical approach to good and morally compelling actions.

Ethics, that is, also as moral philosophy, refers to the sense question and, therefore, meaning or sense plays a leading role in the discourse of ethics. Such a general theory without preconceived ideas of the good life is in any case impossible because a formal moral principle implies a material understanding of the Good, or human happiness, not compatible with any arbitrary individual idea of the right way of living. The remarks on ethics in the Tractatus and the associated diary entries already allude to this viewpoint.

Not the action as a describable, worldly fact is to be qualified as ethical, but the individual intentions of the subject, in whose actions that ethical dimension is expressed. For that reason, Wittgenstein can also state in Tractatus that the will cannot be called the vehicle of the ethical cf. TLP 6. Only insofar as the subject evaluates his actions according to ethical categories, thus lending meaning to the world, does a connection emerge between the world of the subject and the world that is given as a finite entity.

In that case, the starting point is the indefatigable plurality of life forms, language games and the cultural and moral traditions that flow into them. Advocates of these possibilities such as Richard Rorty and Michael Walzer insist at the same time that this view implies no relativism, in so far as that represents a theory, by which all ethical value systems can be either proved true or false.

Putnam , Whoever accepts or passes judgement on a specific ethics as true implies something about his life conduct. A theoretical statement on the superiority of his ethics is not yet achieved. Not relativism, but pluralism, in the sense of accepting diverse answers to value judgements in ethics is therefore a measured response to the requirements of universalism.

Walzer These situations produce partial common interests and solidarities. In other words, minimal morality implies a basic store of principles and norms that recur at particular times and in special situations and may be recognized by actors of various cultural, historical and linguistic backgrounds cf. Walzer , On the contrary, the code is irreducibly bound with particular meaning and semantically loaded and is always linked to specific morals, as they were developed in specific historical and cultural contexts.

For that reason, a minimal morality cannot be the theoretical basis, to be deduced and anchored to specific and materially substantive morals, but merely seen as a slice of those circumstances cf. The life forms in which actors circulate, who act morally and reflect on their actions, are fed by a dense network of equally pre-contractual agreements, common interests, rules for participation that, taken together, constitute a way of life that has grown historically:. Minimalism […] is less the product of persuasion than of mutual recognition among the protagonists of different fully developed moral cultures.

The concern expressed by some universalists against this alternative of giving up any sort of moral judging, if no rational foundation can be found for that process, 10 is just as much a sign of an incorrect approach to the problem as the opposite claim: namely, that in this case, any course of action would be morally feasible, or every value system of equal merit. By contrast, to follow Wittgenstein is to remember that a particular ethics can only be defended, in so far as it forms an integral part of a form of life.

The arguments to be brought in their favour are as much our own as the language used in that process is also our own. Indeed, only in that way can it be made plain what the justification of a particular norm or moral judgement is to mean. To understand, for instance, what is intended by someone who gives such weight to a moral judgement that he claims its value exceeds every context, it is necessary to know the relevant context in which the claim was made, to whom the claim was addressed, how it was expressed and received, how reactions were etc.

The entirety of these practices and reactions of the linguistic and non-linguistic kind belong to a particular language game that the actors actually control, yet without the game resting on a metaphysical guarantee, like reason. No rational structure is available that points beyond the contexts in which individual languages are used and that underpins the related purpose still further; and, moreover, according to Wittgenstein, such a structure is superfluous. The relevance of rules in ethics results from the fact that moral norms in ethical discourse are to be represented as a particular class of practical rules, according to which, specific ways of acting can be described as obligatory.

Firstly, Wittgenstein insisted that following a rule is not an interprettation in the sense of theoretical activity, in which a general rule of thumb can be applied to individual cases. The perception of rule-following as interpretation leads to a regression of rules for rules. Interpretations by themselves do not determine meaning. The resulting characterization of rule-following as a practice neatly summarizes the embedding of using rule-expression with ways of action that they determine cf.

The manner of using a linguistic expression has no immediate equivalent in grammatical form. That tells us as little as interpretation about the right way to use an expression without any doubt.

Is Ethics a Science?

To understand a language means to be master of a technique. On the contrary, in the language game of practicing, it is not yet a use to follow a rule. The only course of action is therefore to oppose the practiced link of expression and use. In that case, however, another game is already being played:.

You cook badly if you are guided in your cooking by rules other than the right ones; but if you follow other rules than those of chess you are playing another game ; and if you follow grammatical rules other than such-and-such ones, that does not mean you say something wrong, no, you are speaking of something else. Z In that sense, the use hardly differs from games like chess.

MOST VIEWED

Usage alone is a criterion to test if someone actually follows the rule. By that, Wittgenstein means the respective association of activities and actions in language games, amongst those language games, and in human life as a whole. The argument implies, namely, that consensus must already exist in the judgements themselves, before the rules that hold sway in discourse ethics can even be effective in society. Rather, what is necessary is a further consensus of the manner of its application.

Yet that way is only made manifest in the practice of rule-following, which in turn, constitutes a way of life. Even rules of discourse, therefore, only consist of a complexity of practices that are relative to the life form. For that reason alone, they are recognized as such and followed as rules. Rules devised from such theories for ethical-practical discourses are. If no such culture existed, this particular version of a minimal morality would not even be plausible to us.

However, these ideas only function with specific cultural systems that, in turn, yield independent and varying forms. The kind of consensus on these practices that exists in such a system is not the result of a rational consensus building, but is rather created by a common way of life. Only this common aspect facilitates the identification of valid norms; and it can be described as a complex process of participation in socially diverse practices, language games and discourses that provide the context for what may be called in this sense the basis of a line of argument:.

On the Ethics of Open Science – Sage Bionetworks

All testing, all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system. And this system is not a more or less arbitrary and doubtful point of departure for all arguments: no, it belongs to the essence of what we call an argument.

1. About the title

The system is not so much the point of departure, as the element in which arguments have their life. OC, Certainly; but how far do they go?