The Scope of Psychoanalysis, 1921-1961: Selected Papers

By Franz Alexander | Go to book overview

Values and Science
1950

While I am in full agreement with Professor George R. Geiger's position that the problem of "values" is both a legitimate and possible subject of scientific inquiry, the discussion of this topic appears to me as much outmoded as a controversy over whether machines heavier than air can rise up against the force of gravity and fly. Both of these questions are settled by the actual demonstration of their feasibility. That section of human behavior which pertains to values (evaluation, preference, choice) has been and is being successfully investigated by scientific methods of observation and reasoning. The dichotomy between "facts and values" is a pseudodistinction and the problem of whether values belong to a realm which is beyond the reach of scientific methods is a pseudo-problem. This being my position, little remains for me to add to Dr. Geiger's scholarly treatise--little more than to refer the reader to the pertinent literature.

First, in order to delineate the problem, the meaning of the expression, "value" and "evaluation," should be defined. We may well agree upon Professor Geiger's proposition that "values are outcomes of human choice." Taste in the narrower and broader sense is the simplest example--ethical value systems the most complex. Every choice referred to by adjectives--good or bad, beautiful or ugly, useful or useless, worthwhile or unworthy--belongs to the phenomenology of values. The fallacious belief that such value judgment cannot be studied scientifically can be explained partly from such cultural- historical reasons as mentioned by Professor Geiger, partly from the fact that these predilections are perceived as compelling forces which do not require further explanation or justification. Preferring blondes or sweets is not the result of reasoning, and "beautiful" is a judgment which is immediate and does not need the explanation of an aesthetician. The same is true for moral values such as good or bad. One may try to explain post factum why an act is felt good or bad, but no explanations are needed to make such decisions. In fact, when a logical

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