Re: Subject: Re: A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies

Robin Hanson (
Thu, 18 Nov 1999 09:51:28 -0500

Greg Burch wrote:
>Science and technology can tell you the "is", but the scientific method,
>standing alone, cannot tell you the "ought". Ultimately, science and
>technology will provide us with a complete list of what we CAN do, but we'll
>still have to face the question of what we OUGHT to do.

I disagree with Greg here (and appear to agree with Curt Adams). I think that "ought" questions are a subset of "is" questions. There is some matter of fact regarding what it is that I want, and what it is that I would want if I understood myself and the world better. If you knew enough about my brain and the world I live in, you could figure out what I want. And as far as I can tell, all interesting moral/ethical/ought questions are equivalent to questions about what various creatures want.

"Science" and "humanities" are both approaches that are in principle capable of helping us find out what we want. The post-modern is one particular style within the humanities, and some post-modern approaches are likely more effective than others. Most likely there are also several approaches which are best described as neither science nor humanities. The question is which, if any, approach is more effective in helping us find out what we want. And we should keep in mind that people tend to exaggerate the differences between approaches.

Robin Hanson Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323