Moral Disagreement and the" Fact/Value Entanglement"

Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 95 (1):245-264 (2008)
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Abstract

In his recent work, "The Collapse of the Fact-Value Dichotomy," Hilary Putnam traces the history of the fact-value dichotomy from Hume to Stevenson and Logical Positivism. The aim of this historical reconstruction is to undermine the foundations of the dichotomy, showing that it is of a piece with the dichotomy - untenable, as we know now - of "analytic" and "synthetic" judgments. Putnam's own thesis is that facts and values are "entangled" in a way that precludes any attempt to draw a sharp distinction between "value judgments" and "matters of fact." The idea of an "entanglement of facts and values" Putnam rightly attributes to John Dewey, who - we should add - made of it the main issue in his controversy with Logical Positivism. Nevertheless, a closer inspection of the problem whose history Putnam summarizes could bring into light important aspects of it that have been neglected. It is worth reading in this connection the intercourse between Dewey and Stevenson. Secondly, it is striking that Putnam's version of the history of the fact-value dichotomy hardly mentions the problem that caused this very dichotomy to arise in the first place: i. e., the problem of insoluble moral disagreements. By contrast, Dewey's attack on the dualism of fact and value can be read as an attempt to redescribe this kind of disagreements in a way that makes room for intelligent inquiry, and consequently for rational expectations of agreement. The "entanglement thesis" surely is a part of this re-description. But then it must have implications - particularly for the analysis of value-justification - which are overlooked, or by-passed, by Putnam. This leaves the question open whether Putnam and Dewey subscribe to different versions of pragmatism with regard to norms and values

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