Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 January 2009
Hilary Putnam has recently observed that the fact/value distinction has acquired a strength and pervasiveness in our culture that make it akin to an institution.1 I take it he meant an institution in the sense that Taboo is an institution in some cultures, not in the sense that the Church is an institution in ours. Invoking the distinction is a widespread conversational gambit in social life, not only in academic discussions. ‘That's a value judgment’ and ‘That's emotive’ are to be heard at dinner parties more often than ‘Pass the salt’.
1 Hilary, Putnam, ‘Fact and Value’, in Reason, Truth and History, (Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
2 Max Weber, articles reprinted in English in The Methodology Of the Social Sciences (Glencoe, Illinois: 1949).
4 John McDowell, ‘Are Moral Requirements Hypothetical Imperatives?’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume (1978).
7 Thomas, Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, 1962); P., K. Feyerabend, Against Method (London: New Left Books, 1975).Google Scholar
8 Especially David Wiggins, ‘Truth, Invention and the Meaning of Life’, British Academy Lecture, 1976; Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good (New York; Routledge, 1971); and Hilary Putnam, op. cit. There is a rapidly increasing literature along these lines. It is hard to avoid the speculation that external pressure of governments in office that follow (or purport to follow) the economic ideas of Milton Friedman may have something to do with all this writing. Friedman has been explicit that rationality can have nothing to say about ends.
9 Iris Murdoch, ‘The Idea of Perfection’, op. cit.
11 Mark, Platts, ‘Moral Reality and the End of Desire’, in Reference, Truth and Reality, Platts (ed.) (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980).Google Scholar
12 An example of ignorance of philosophical distinctions that is socially relevant deserves mention here. In recent judicial decisions involving rape, judges have criticized the victim for, in effect, ‘looking for it’. What they seem to overlook is that even if a woman is ‘looking for it’, it does not follow that she is looking for it with that man.
15 Hilary Putnam, op. cit.