Science and Ethics: Tracing parallels and contrasts between Science, Relativism and Utilitarianism

Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 62 (1):119-136 (2006)
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In its first section, dedicated to the topic science and relativism, the article argues against those who hold that science is absolutist while ethics is relativist. The point made is that the two disciplines are not all that different. There is an element of objectivity and an element of relativity in both. The article insists that there are two plausible ways in which these elements may be appreciated in both disciplines. The first way involves an analysis of precedents; the second way an analysis of secondary precepts. Then, in its second section, dedicated to science and utilitarianism, the article focuses on the problem of abstraction. The author argues that the crucial issue is the way both scientists and utilitarian philosophers choose the relevant parameters for their theorising. When the choice of parameters is not correct, deformation results. Like economics, utilitarianism tends to present itself as an exact science that guarantees a complete explanation. However, the article shows how and why this attitude can be deeply problematic.
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