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Science and Ethics: Toward a Theory of Ethical Value

John R. Welch
Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie
Vol. 25, No. 2 (1994), pp. 279-292
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25170997
Page Count: 14
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Science and Ethics: Toward a Theory of Ethical Value
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Abstract

What is the difference between the just and the unjust, the courageous and the cowardly, the ethically valuable and the ethically not valuable? To answer these and similar questions, a critical theory of ethical value is advanced. Using sample sentences that include ethical value terms, normative and descriptive components of the theory are identified, and the normative component is developed in some detail. Three levels of normative ethical discourse, adapted from Laudan's levels of scientific discourse, are then distinguished: descriptive, methodological, and axiological. Each sample sentence is assigned to a level, and the subsequent discussion illustrates how to proceed rationally at that level. The rational techniques appropriate to each level include inductive inference, falsification, and causal inference. These techniques are likewise appropriate to the corresponding level of the sciences.

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