Despite the efforts of Descartes and his successors to elaborate a method—based, in different versions, on clear and distinct ideas, dialectics, mathematical logic, phenomenological intuition or conceptual analysis—philosophers have never agreed on a way to resolve their disputes. At the same time, the area of competence in which they roam has steadily diminished, as the natural and then the social sciences developed bodies of theory and methods of investigation calling for specific apprenticeships, not general wisdom. Philosophers have been left with commentary on the sciences and arts, along with musings on morality whose superiority to anyone else's, when there is any, is due to a higher degree of self-conscious organization of thought rather than to some special knowledge or method.
Professor Mattick is unnecessarily apologetic on behalf of his profession and colleagues. There is much to be said for a high degree of self-conscious organization of thought—especially when it illuminates a domain not well explored by others. As behavioral scientists we are quite used to refining ambiguous constructs operationally and resolving theoretical contradictions empirically. It is precisely when we enter the realm of values and ethics that we are largely left in the lurch by the scientific method and must call on the “general wisdom” and the “musings on morality” by philosophers to help us light the way. For example, the more optimistic philosopher A. Rosenberg (1995) pointed out, philosophy has always addressed the questions that the sciences cannot answer, such as what ought to be the case as opposed to what is, as well as the epistemological questions concerning why science cannot answer them. These musings concern questions like “What is the right thing to do in this situation?, ” “How should I live my life, in general?, ”