O empiryzmie w etyce

Stanisław Soldenhoff


Philosophical tradition distinguishes between two basic types of empiricism that are of especial significance to the modern age. As is well known, they have their classical representatives in the persons of Francis Bacon and George Berkeley. Both kinds of empiricism have found numerous followers and continuators; they represent above all certain epistemological points of view, nevertheless that must not us lose sight of their links with certain particular principles in the sphere of ontology as well. For instance, they differ fundamentally from each other in their ideas as to the object of human cognition. Is normative ethics, being as it is a ramification of philosophy, equally an arena for the contest of those two rival trends, or has it evolved some specific forms of empiricism of its own? To give an answer to that question would require extensive research, especially in the realm of history, it is therefore impossible to venture it in a brief note. However, there is another thing that seems to the author to deserve notice, namely, the empirical aspect of descriptive ethics (science of morality). Recent studies in psychology, sociology, and the history of morals are no doubt in harmony with the empirical pattern of research. It appears to the author, however, that the range of empiricism commonly found in such studies, could be questioned. It seems by far too limited, inasmuch as the predominant majority of investigators never go beyond the sphere of moral consciousness, i.e., the registration and attempts at analysis or classification of observed opinions and moral attitudes. A postulate for a broader form of empiricism is proposed by the author, implying,

(1) an intensification of research concerning the facts conditioning moral consciousness (genetic research):

(2) an attempt at a description and classification of such facts and events as could provisionally be regarded as constituting the typical object of moral evaluations. It seems probable that an augmented interest in the factors that make up „material” contexts of moral consciousness might be of help in explaining the character of moral experience and its articulation. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that such an approach need not in any way imply an alliance with any one of the rival hypotheses new current.