Prediction and Optimal Decision: Philosophical Issues of a Science of Values

Prediction and Optimal Decision: Philosophical Issues of a Science of Values

Prediction and Optimal Decision: Philosophical Issues of a Science of Values

Prediction and Optimal Decision: Philosophical Issues of a Science of Values

Excerpt

Man, the great discoverer, has shown little aptitude in discovering the solutions to the problems of right and wrong conduct. Every intelligent person today would like to find a clear criterion that would enable him to tell which national and international policies are morally correct, and which are not. But no such guide is to be found in the writings of novelists, politicians, or scientists.

Part of our trouble is ignorance. Even the experts cannot predict the outcome of a proposed policy. The unexpected is too often calamitous.

But part of our trouble is that we do not yet know what we want. Too often we assume that the nature of man's needs and desires is obvious, even though a little self-conscious scrutiny on the part of each individual will tell him that, in his own case, at least, this is not so.

As we approach the egalitarian age when each man will count in the formation of national and international policies, we have a great need for empirical evidence concerning each man's real values. Only then will we be able to solve the problem of morally right and wrong policy-making.

The empirical investigation of what men really want is possible only if men are educated as well as possible concerning the outcomes of policies, and only if men are free to choose. Evidence of man's true values is to be found in his spoken words, or his consumer practices, or his voting behavior only if he is free of ignorance and other constraints. Hence the extreme difficulty in the empirical determination of values, and hence the inevitable conclusion that today we do not know even in a very rough form what the human animal wants.

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