Science and ethics: Demarcation, holism and logical consequences

European Journal of Philosophy 18 (1):126-138 (2010)
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Philosophers have often wanted to state a principled way of demarcating empirical from non-empirical thought. This was a major concern of the Vienna Circle. In my view, this is an important intellectual project. Although it is not so common now to address the issue directly, it hovers in the background of many discussions. Non-empirical thought comes in different kinds. Perhaps some is a priori. Common candidates are mathematical, logical, modal and moral thought. Some non-empirical thought might be non-cognitive. Common candidates are moral, aesthetic and religious thought. Or some non-empirical thought might be pseudo-empirical. Common candidates are astrological, theistic, Marxist or psychoanalytic thought; such thought masquerades as empirical, but in fact is not. These are all ways that thought can fail to be empirical. Here I shall focus for the most part on the case of morality, where there has been a lively debate about the empirical status of moral thought. I shall probe the prospects for a demarcation principle that can be used to decide whether or not moral thought is empirical. Some philosophers have recently presented what seems like a compelling case for thinking that moral thought is empirical, and so engaging with their arguments will raise the issue of what the empirical/nonempirical distinction amounts to, and also the issue of how to tell which forms of thought are empirical and which are not



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Nick Zangwill
University College London

Citations of this work

A Priori Knowledge That I Exist.Nick Zangwill - 2013 - Analytic Philosophy 54 (2):189-208.
Science, Ethics and Observation.James Lenman - 2013 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 72:261-274.

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