Five Ways of Looking at “Ought”

  • Benjamin Ward


Suppose a naïve positivist, turning for the first time from the study of facts to values, asked himself what the criterion of meaning for a value might be. Remembering (see p. 160) that, in his philosophical credo, the meaning of an empirical assertion is determined by the experiences that would refute it, he might well come up with its precise ethical analog: the meaning of an asserted rule of obligation is determined by the experiences that would refute it, that is, by the experiences which, if they occurred as a consequence of accepting it, would lead one to reject the rule of obligation. Well, why not? As we have seen, facts, observations, are not nearly as hard as the logical positivists once thought, and the process of verification is far fuzzier than formalist economists tend to claim. At the same time, the social, as opposed to individual, nature of man suggests that values may be somewhat less personal and subjective than a positivist would claim. In the present chapter we discuss alternative ethical positions with a view to supporting our naïve positivist’s view of ethics.


Moral Judgment Logical Positivist Situation Ethic Good Scientific Theory Rule Utilitarianism 
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© Basic Books, Inc. 1972

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  • Benjamin Ward

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