Max Weber on Politics, Reason, and the Clash of Values and Approaches to Ethics

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This article investigates how Max Weber’s theory of value conflict is connected to his realist understanding of politics and how he conceives the relation of politics and ethics. This investigation also covers Weber’s views on the argumentative limits of the social sciences and ethics. The center of Weber’s philosophy of science is constituted by his methodological thoughts on “ethical neutrality” (Wertfreiheit) of the social sciences. The first thesis of this paper contends that Weber’s theory of a clash of irreconcilable values and ideals goes back to Nietzsche. According to the second thesis of the article, the general claim of Weber’s philosophy of science is that there is no possibility of an ultimate rational, philosophical, or scientific grounding of values and normative theories. Weber’s endorsement of an ethics of responsibility in the field of politics led to the criticism that he contradicts his postulate of the “ethical neutrality” (Wertfreiheit) of the scientist. The third thesis of the paper claims that Weber’s arguments for a political ethics of responsibility are compatible with his methodological postulate.
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Archival date: 2020-03-27
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