Lecture IV
REASONABLENESS AS A FACT AND AS A VALUE

At the present point, I would not be surprised if many of my hearers felt inclined to say something like this: 'The moral images you described in the last lecture are splendid, wonderful, but look! Any serious philosopher will ask how we can justify any of this.'

In a book I published some years ago, 1 I defended the idea that something can be both a fact and a value--I said that it is a fact, for example, that Yeats was a great poet, and a fact that the Nazis were evil. And then too, it was the question of justification that bothered people. Very often people expressed their worry by asking: 'But don't you have to admit that there is much more agreement on scientific results than on ethical values? Doesn't that show that there is a kind of objectivity that scientific results have and that ethical values lack?'

An argument is implicit in the question. We might call it the argument from non-controversiality. The idea is that the hallmark of cognitive status is, in some way, the possibility of becoming 'public' knowledge, i.e., of becoming non-controversial.

I don't mean to suggest that anyone really thinks that only what is non-controversial is really knowledge. The idea, rather, is that 'facts' can be demonstrated 'scientifically'. If there is controversy over a factual question, that is because we have not yet performed enough experiments, or amassed enough data. What is a fact can 'in principle' be established in a way that will command the assent of all 'rational persons', where this is

-63-

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The Many Faces of Realism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface 1
  • Lecture I is There Still Anything to Say About Reality and Truth? 3
  • Lecture II Realism and Reasonableness 1 23
  • Lecture III Equality and Our Moral Image of the World 41
  • Lecture IV Reasonableness as a Fact and as a Value 63
  • Notes 87
  • Index 93
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