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ethical neutrality

By | October 2013
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ETHICAL NEUTRALITY

In what follows, when we use the term “evaluation” we will mean, where nothing else is implied or expressly stated, practical value-judgments as to the unsatisfactory or satisfactory character of phenomena subject to our influence. The problem involved in the “freedom” of a given discipline from evaluations of this kind, i.e., the validity and the meaning of this logical principle, is by no means identical with the question which is to be discussed shortly, namely, whether in teaching one should or should not declare one’s acceptance of practical evaluations, regardless of whether they are based on ethical principles, cultural ideals or a philosophical outlook. This question cannot be settled scientifically. It is itself entirely a question of practical evaluation, and cannot therefore be definitively resolved. With reference to this issue, a wide variety of views are held, of which we shall only mention the two extremes. At one pole we find (a) the standpoint that there is validity in the distinction between purely logically deducible and purely empirical statements of fact on the one hand, and practical, ethical or philosophical evaluations on the other, but that, nevertheless – or, perhaps, even on that account- both classes of problems properly belong in the university. At the other pole we encounter (b) the proposition that even when the distinction cannot be made in a logically complete manner, it is nevertheless desirable that the assertion of practical evaluations should be avoided as much as possible in teaching. This second point of view seems to me to be untenable. Particularly untenable is the distinction which is rather often made in our field between evaluations linked with the positions of “political parties” and other sorts of evaluations. This distinction cannot be reasonably made: it obscures the practical implications of the evaluations which are suggested to the audience. Once the assertion of evaluations in university...

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