Logic and Ethics -|- Educational Philosophy Theory

Logic and Ethics

No Comment - Post a comment

In the good old days before television, people used to read the kind of thriller novels where the hero is tied up, while the heroine awaits a fate worse than death. The reader bites his fingers, until he turns to the next chapter, where the great man is finally released with the famous phrase: "With one bound, he was free!"

When we get to the realm of moral philosophy, the situation of the philosophy of science gets about as desperate as the hero in the novel. Hume, the spiritual ancestor of this line of thought, argued that one cannot derive a conclusion about what ought to be from matters of fact. From the narrow standpoint of the verification principle, the whole of ethics must be written off as the most arrant nonsense imaginable. Philosophers have wracked their brains for many centuries over the definition of "good" and "bad." No matter! The philosophers of science can sort out all this mess in less time than it takes to say "empirical verification." All you have to do is to rule the whole lot out of order!

For thousand of years the question of the meaning of "the Good" has been discussed by the great philosophers, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel. Finally, Marx and Engels showed that morality was not a supra-historical category, fixed for all time, but something that has evolved with society, and is ultimately determined by the existing social and economic order, reflecting definite class attitudes and interests. The historical relativity of morality is a closed book to the logical positivists. For them, morality is not a social relationship and a special, historically determined form of consciousness, but merely a question of—language! The analysis of this extremely complex social phenomenon, which has taxed the greatest minds for centuries, has now been achieved once and for all by simply reducing it to an analysis of words.

Instead of asking what morality consists of, and what it is based on in real life, they ask for a definition of moral judgments and terms. Displaying that modesty which is their hallmark, they invented a new and revolutionary word—"metaethics"—which was supposed to settle the whole affair. This is not a theory of ethics, but an abstract, scholastic conception, completely divorced from life. In place of a real study of the roots of morality, they endlessly argue about the meaning of words, hoping to derive some understanding of ethics by asking in what sense words like "good," "bad," "evil," and "duty" are used.

An incorrect method will inevitably give incorrect results. The philosophers of science attempted to approach morality from the standpoint of the natural sciences. In point of fact, the arbitrary criteria of logical positivism are generally useless in the physical sciences. How much more useless are they in the realm of morality! What epoch-making results did this method yield? Can good and evil be perceived by the senses? No. Can they be experimentally demonstrated? No. The conclusion is self-evident. These are unscientific, metaphysical pseudo-concepts, which no self-respecting philosopher of science would touch with a barge-pole.

The fact that these pseudo-concepts have played, and continue to play, a most powerful role in the life of society can only be explained by the perversity and ignorance of the human race, which, having heard the Word of the philosophers of science, stubbornly persist in the error of their ways, motivated by pseudo-concepts and fighting over pseudo-issues. Whereupon, the philosopher of science shakes his head, and returns to his study, where he closes the door firmly on a world that is not yet ready to hear the Message.

These are all value judgments, you see, and, as such, are "not necessary adjuncts to science," as mathematics and logic are. Furthermore, they cannot be verified either by definition or by linguistic convention. Problem solved, once more. Or is it? The trouble is that the overwhelming majority of human beings persist in seeing some things as good, others as bad. They are so convinced of this that no matter how many times they are advised that these notions are unverifiable, they stubbornly persist in their belief. Worse still, it appears to govern all their actions, from the smallest to the most important, from buying a shirt to voting at election time. So what is written off by the philosophy of science as a meaningless irrelevance turns out to be quite a significant element of all social life, which still requires an explanation. In other words, a problem is not eliminated simply by declaring it to be a non-problem, any more than a predatory animal can be disposed of by the ostrich burying its head in the sand.

The standard view of logical positivism to morality is that it relates to feelings towards a given situation. Thus, the sentence, "One should not steal" simply means "I have a negative feeling about stealing." Thus morality is reduced to an entirely subjective state of mind on the part of the individual. How it comes about that millions of individuals come to possess exactly the same state of mind about the most varied subjects is a complete mystery. Even more mysterious is how these collective states of mind can change into their opposite, according to whether one lives under slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or tribal communism.

Our worthy logical positivist, having made his bed, must now lie in it. It is, however, a lot more roomy than before, since he has unceremoniously turfed out Logic, Mathematics, Ethics and Morality. But at least he has, in the process, also got rid of Religion and Metaphysics. Or so he thinks. Agnosticism is a way of avoiding the question of religion by treating it as a non-issue. Since it cannot be empirically verified, let’s agree not to talk about it—just as polite persons agree not to mention disagreeable topics at the dinner-table. Unfortunately, religion is not a non-issue for millions of people in the world today, and cannot be disposed of so lightly. As opposed to religious fanatics and fundamentalists, agnosticism may be seen as a half a step in the right direction. But it is insufficient, precisely because it is only half a step, and therefore leaves ample scope for a return to all the old nonsense.

Although some of the present-day supporters of "Analytical Philosophy" probably consider themselves materialists, the problem concerning the difference between the mental and the physical still remained unresolved.

Increasingly, theories are elaborated without reference to the physical framework, as the result of deduction from given axioms—theorems, equations, etc. Worse still, the facts are forced to fit the theory. The Oxford school of "Analytical Philosophy" maintains that philosophy is an "a priori discipline" in which the philosopher is already in possession of the concepts he or she needs, and requires no observations for the purpose of analysis.

Like the bullfrog in Aesop’s fable who puffed himself up until he went "pop," the pretensions of "Analytical Philosophy" have been exploded. Its proponents were to have solved all the problems of philosophy by merely getting to the roots of ordinary language and exposing the errors deriving from its misuse. Instead, they have merely piled confusion upon confusion, finally ending up in an inevitable dead end.

This Post has No Comment Add your own!

Yorum Gönder