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Our Oldest TaskMaking Sense of Our Place in Nature$
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Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226326399

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226326429.001.0001

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Science and Morals

Science and Morals

(p.65) Three Science and Morals
Our Oldest Task

Eric T. Freyfogle

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores two related issues: science and what it is and is not, and the sources of moral values and other normative standards that we might use to evaluate nature and our changes to it. For various reasons modern society is prone to turn to science and objective, empirically grounded facts to identify problems and set public policy. To do this, though, is to fail to see the limits of science and thus to expect science to do work for which it is ill-suited. This drive for objectivity in the public realm comes at great cost because it pushes normative factors into the individual realm as if they were not matters for public decision. Related is the tendency to use scientific burdens of proof (for instance, when evaluating climate change) when the choice of a burden of proof is itself a normative issue and scientific burdens are rarely appropriate outside science. Overuse of reason has sapped strength from longstanding moral norms and made the work of crafting and embracing new ones more dubious. The chapter highlights the incompleteness of both rights-based (deontological) and consequentialist normative schemes, explores the fact-value distinction, and asserts the legitimacy of social construction of norms.

Keywords:   burdens of proof, consequentialist ethics, deontological ethics, fact-value distinction, limits of reason, limits of science, objectivity, social construction, sociology of science, sources of normativity

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