Event Detail

Wed Mar 11, 2015
234 Moses Hall, 6–8 PM
Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Science
Mark Fedyk (Mount Allison University)
Ethics, as an Empirical Discipline

A hallmark of reliable scientific inquiry is the revision of conceptual meaning and associated inferential connections, where the revisions are often induced by empirical evidence, and where the aim of the revisions is usually the accommodation of scientific theories to the natural world as closely as possible. Can ethical inquiry exemplify the same conceptual flexibility, in pursuit of the same aim, and do so without reducing itself to another scientific discipline? I will describe a way of defining ethical norms according to which they are hypotheses that can be subject to empirical evaluation, and I will also describe some of the specific kinds of observations and inferences from empirical data that would be relevant to confirming or disconfirming these ‘empirical’ ethical hypotheses. Of course, I will also present some philosophical arguments in favour of expanding our conception of ethical inquiry so that it can sometimes be pursued using empirical methods. However, my primary focus will simply be to describe what ethics may look like, if it is an empirical discipline.