Problem unaukowienia etyki

Ija Lazari-Pawłowska


There are two respects in which one can strive to render normative ethics more scientific: the formal and the substantive one. The postulates of communicativeness and verifiability accepted in science imply certain restrictions in regard to formulation and substantiation ‚Of statements. Also moralists are anxious to make their utterances communicative, however, when they try to put to practice the postulates concerning precision of their conceptual apparatus, they confront difficulties which are peculiar to their field of interest. In ethics the dispute over the meaning of a term reduces usually to the dispute over accepted values. Thus, for instance, a person who associates positive affective connotations with the word „patriotism”, will not be willing to apply this word to a pattern of behaviour which is by him valued negatively. The question of what is „true patriotism” thus turns to be the question of what acts should be morally approved. Consequently, as long as there exist incompatible ethical systems, the postulate requiring adjustment and unification of ethical concepts will not be practicable. The postulate of language precision in normative ethics is applicable to particular ethical systems rather than to the whole of ethics. Also the postulate of verifiability has in ethics a different character from that it has in the natural sciences. In ethics it would be difficult to conceive of verifiability as the possibility of answering the question about the truth-value of a norm. Rather, and in analogy to deductive sciences, it should be construed as the possibility of answering the question about the derivability of this norm from the fundamental axiological principles of a given system. That is why in ethics, contrary to the empirical sciences, we cannot bring about the repudiation of one system in favour of another by making formal rigours mare strict. As far as the rendering of ethics in regard to its substance is concerned, we have to stress the importance of science as a tool used to specify effective means to accepted ends. Some moralists tend to classify moral systems into „scientific” and „non-scientific” according to whether these systems represent „empirical” or „metaphysical” aims. In doing this the moralists are guided by a kind of genetic (but not logical) relation between fundamental moral principles and scientific knowledge. However, the author gives reasons against ascribing the label „scientific” to any ethical system, as this label easily takes on affective connotations.