UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From fact to value Feimann, Victor Erwin


It is my aim to present an argument against the view that there is a strict dualism of FACTS on the one hand and DECISIONS or DEMANDS on the other and to show that there are cases in which an OUGHT can be derived from an IS. I begin by examining the nature of facts in order to determine what they are and what connection there may be between them and events, situations or states of affair. I next examine the question as to whether there is warrant to stipulate a philosophically technical sense of 'pure fact' or the 'merely factual’ and give consideration to the relevance of the concepts of explanatory power and objectivity to this question, concluding that these concepts do not appear to furnish such a warrant. There follows an argument in support of my opinion that statements of fact presuppose viewpoints which are shared amongst men, thus presupposing in turn some form of community. By discussing several statements of fact and showing their dependence upon institutions or societal arrangements I attempt to support my denial of the claim that specifically MORAL premisses are ALWAYS required in order to derive demands or decisions from statements of fact. In considering several objections which a dualist might raise against my argument I deal with the question of genetic explanation of moral codes, with some of the possible OUTSIDER positions in respect of moral decisions or demands and with the requirement that rules of formal logic be observed in arriving at moral conclusions. Since I am not denying the strength in the dualist's position in insisting upon an analysis of statements of fact in an attempt to establish 'pure fact' or the 'merely factual' I next examine a restricted form of a dualistic view which deals with the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive contents in statements of fact. This shows that there are indeed sentences cast in the form of statements of fact which seem to have predominantly prescriptive content, and I concede the value of a dualistic analysis to bring this out. I claim that this does not militate against my argument as presented, that there are objective statements of fact from which by virtue of the viewpoint underlying them moral demands or decisions can be derived and that it would be extremely difficult to make intelligible the claim that they were not statements of FACT. In a speculative postscript I touch upon the problem of overriding moral demands.

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