- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Oh . . . Copenhagen

Posted by: Joel Jacobson ( none, USA ) on March 25, 1999 at 11:26:46:

I was anticipating your reply to my post on the fact/value distinction? Where is it baby?

: : General consensus on the fact/opinion (or value) distinction so vociferously advocated by Joel Jacobson and his sometimes companion, Gee seems to be that it doesn't stand up. Indeed most participants seem to find it pedantic, boring and an escape from the real issues.

: First, in case you haven't noticed Gee and I disagree on this. He agrees with you. How does it go . . . man is in essence a rational animal capable of making rational decisions and therefore should be allowed to succeed or fail of his rational judgements. This would be a statement you must either accept or reject wholly. Thus, failure to distinguish between facts and values leads one to a complete dogmatic and anti-social adherence to a value system.

: : For myself, i do not think the distinction is a viable one in this forum. I think that many of the posts here deal with moral issues (is economic well being not just this?), therefore the mode of exposition tends towards 'ought' rather than 'is' statements. Indeed i am not sure how valuable the value/fact distinction is outside of the natural sciences.

: : Consider the following situations.

: : -A sees a cat being set on fire by some children.
: : -B is a scientist observing a cloud chamber and, noticing a streak in it judges that an electron has passed through.

: : -A says 'that is wrong'.
: which is a statement of value
: : -B says 'there goes an electron'
: Which intimates statements of value. If B had said there goes a unicorn we would say they ought to describe the world realistically.

: : So both A & B are making judgments about the world. Some would wish to explain the difference between these as follows: that A's judgment is value or opinion, whereas B's judgment is one of fact.ie...

: And completely negates the imperative for anyone to make moral choices. If morality if fact-laden then all we need to do is discover the 'nature of morality' and no one will ever do wrong again as we will factually know the full facts; and once we know what is factual we then also know what is non-factual. If your view is correct the statement 'one should not burn cats' means the same as 'no one burns cats'. We know from experience this to be incorrect.

: : The judgment of B requires as part of its best explanation the fact that an electron did pass through the cloud chamber. So the fact of the electrons existence is used in an explanation of the judgment.
: : The judgment of A on the other hand requires the factual description about what the children are doing plus facts about the observers background to explain the act of believing or saying it is wrong. Under this explanation, the 'wrongness' is added on to the situation and is not to be found there (ie value).

: No, you're attempting a neat little sleigh of hand here. If what you claim were correct you could say 'children are lighting a cat on fire' and have it mean the same as 'those children are wrong in lighting a cat on fire'.

: : One of the fundamental mistakes here is to be comparing words of the type 'electron', that describe the world in a motivationally inert way (Physics is a way to describe the world sans humanity) with the word 'wrong' which is a morally evaluative word. Better to compare 'rude' with 'kind' or 'electron' with 'evaluation'. To compare electron with wrong is to compare words of an altogether different order.

: Our common language is the major barrier here. When I say 'burning cats is wrong' what that statemetn means if stated deliberately is 'from my perspective one shouldn't burn cats'; this word 'is' should be eliminated from the whole sentance. You are the one comparing 'electron' with 'wrong'.

: : The second mistake is the idea that the value is somehow added on to the factual situation, that the evaluative load can be extricated from the facts of a situation (See above).

: This is what I've been saying throughout the whole debate room.

: : This thesis called 'radical freedom' asserts that the radically free conscience of man looks at the world and speaks of attatching value to things therein- eg 'good', 'generous', 'kind', etc. These are all labels that are 'pasted on' by the will.

: Well, your setting up a straw man arguement with the 'radical' label. I certainly don't find anything appealing to the 'radical freedom' hypopthesis. However, it seems as if there is at least an element of autonomy in the individual but this is a topic on which thousands of tomes cover; we can't do so here. If there were absolutely no autonomy then nothing would ever change or progress except as it had been pre-determined by the essence (which I am dubious of) of its existence. This, is your view of morality, that it is not us and our common language and dialog that determines such but rather our observatons of nature. If such is the case then my value system is factually incorrect and you have the correct phenomenal experience to prove it.

: : On this view, to see anyhting as value is a choice, a decision- even to value food when hungry is a choice.

: Then if I say 'lighting a cat on fire is okay' am I merely incorrect? Well, I'm walking down the street and see children lighting a cat on fire. I say 'it's okay for children to do that'. You would consider that statement by itself factually incorrect? Thus, every part of what I said should be considered factually void. And, hence, children are in fact not lighting a cat on fire.

: : In essence, value is arbitrary it does not possess a truth value. BUT consider Bertrand Russell conjugation of an irregular verb:

: : I am steadfast
: Steadfast is a nominal and value-ladden term
: : You are stubborn
: So is stubborn
: : He is pigheaded
: Just like stubborn and steadfast

: : These words do NOT describe the same conduct and express different attitudes towards it. They are disagreements about fact, personality. Each of the words has distinct truth conditions.

: No. they are active mental hypotheses to convey to others our particular sense of a public episode.

: : To cut to the point, it is nonsense to say that fact and value can be distinguished when talking about evaluative words.

: Why? Look above and you'll see you did just that in your initial evaluation.

: : So the fact/value distinction is of little use in a forum where we are dealing predominatly with issues of a moral or evaluative nature, issues that are NOT motivationally inert.

: Anyone wording such a argument would of necessity be claiming correct factual observation of moral principles. You would say that my moral principles are factually incorrect, thereby claiming an objective knowledge of the essence of morality. I would say that, in my opinion, my values are more palatable to me; but this is only opinion.

: : 1. Jacobson thinks of no one but himself.
: Categorically untrue
: : 2. Jacobson will do anything for money
: I grew up without money and only seek basic security
: : 3. So, Jacobson is not a very good man.
: Which is a value statement.

: : (No, just joking JJ).

: No. It's all in good fun. However, you could give Lark, SamDay, and Qx lessons on the difference between humorous sarcasm and vitriolic hatred.

McSpotlight: Joel, it might be a better idea to just make a brief comment and hyperlink it to the article the last time you posted it; it saves on duplication.

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