Fact-value distinction


Fact-value distinction

The fact-value distinction is a concept used to distinguish between arguments which can be claimed through reason alone, and those where rationality is limited to describing a collective opinion. In another formulation, it is the distinction between what "is" (can be discovered by science, philosophy or reason) and what "ought" to be (a judgment which can be agreed upon by consensus). The terms positive and normative represent another manner of expressing this, as do the terms "descriptive" and "prescriptive", respectively. Positive statements make the implicit claim to facts (e.g. water molecules are made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom), whereas normative statements make a claim to values or to norms (e.g. water ought to be protected from environmental pollution).

David Hume's skepticism

The fact-value distinction emerged in philosophy during the Enlightenment; in particular, David Hume (1711-1776) argued that human beings are unable to ground normative arguments in positive arguments, that is, to derive 'ought' from 'is'. Hume was a skeptic, and although he was a complex and dedicated philosopher, he shared a political viewpoint with previous Enlightenment philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704). Specifically, Hume, at least to some extent, argued that religious and national hostilities that divided European society were based on unfounded beliefs; in effect, he argued they were not found in nature, but a creation of a particular time and place, and thus unworthy of mortal conflict. Thus Hume is often cited as being the philosopher who finally debunked the idea of nature as a standard for political existence. For instance, without Hume, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s (1712-1778) 'return' to nature would have not been so revolutionary, inventive and fascinating.

The naturalistic fallacy

The fact-value distinction is closely related to the naturalistic fallacy, a topic that is still open to debate in ethical and moral philosophy. G. E. Moore believed it was essential to all ethical thinkingFact|date=February 2007. However, more recent contemporary philosophers like Phillipa Foot have called into question the validity of such assumptions. Others, such as Ruth Anna Putnam, have argued even the most ‘scientific’ of disciplines are affected by the ‘values’ of the men and women who research and practice the vocation [Putnam, Ruth Anna.“Perceiving Facts and Values." "Philosophy" 73, 1998. This article as well as her earlier article- "Creating Facts and Values." "Philosophy" 60, 1985 examines how the choice of investigations scientists make may be based upon their unexamined subjectivity which undermines the objectivity of their hypothesis and findings. See also Smart J.C. "Ruth Anna Putnam and the Fact-Value Distinction" "Philosophy" 74, 1999.] . Nevertheless, the difference between the naturalistic fallacy and the fact-value distinction is derived from the manner in which the fact-value distinction, and not the strict naturalistic fallacy, has been used by modern social science to articulate new fields of study and create academic disciplines.

Nietzsche's table of values

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) in "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" said that a table of values hangs above every great people. Nietzsche asserts that what made a people great was not the content of their beliefs, but the act of valuing. Thus the values a community strives to articulate are not as important as the collective will to see those values come to pass." [Nietzsche, Friedrich. "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". Book Two "On the Virtuous": "You who are virtuous still want to be paid! Do you want rewards for virtue, and heaven for earth, and the eternal for your today? And now you are angry with me because I teach that there is no reward and paymaster? And verily, I do not even teach that virtue is its own reward."] The "willing" is more essential than the intrinsic worth of the goal itself, according to Nietzsche [Nietzsche, Friedrich. "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". Book Four "On Old and New Tablets": "To redeem what is past in man and to receate all "it was" until the will says, "Thus I willed it! Thus I shall will it!"- this I called redemption and this alone I taught them to call redemption"."] There are "a thousand and one goals," says Zarathustra, one no more worthy than the next. This idea became a core premise in modern social science. Max Weber and Martin Heidegger absorbed it and made it their own. It shaped their philosophical endeavor, as well as their political understanding.

ee also

*Empiricism
*Is-ought problem
*Naturalistic fallacy
*Relativism

Notes

Bibliography

* Hume, David. "Treatise of Human Nature". First published 1739-1740.
* Hume, David. "Enquiry concerning Human Understanding".
* Nietzsche, Friedrich. "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". Translated by R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Penguin, 1969.
* Putnam, Ruth Anna. “Creating Facts and Values." "Philosophy" 60, 1985
* Putnam, Ruth Anna.“Perceiving Facts and Values." "Philosophy" 73, 1998
* Rice, Daryl H. "Guide to Plato's Republic". Oxford University Press, 1997.


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