(1971) Man and World 4 (2).

Szientismus versus Dialektik

Paul Lorenzen

pp. 151-168

The discussion "scientism vs. dialectic" centers around the problem of value-judgements since Max Weber. Scientism holds the thesis that in all scholarly disciplines (whether politics, economics, law or the sciences) the value-free methods of the sciences should be followed. The dialectical scholars, following Kant, Hegel and Marx claim on the other hand the primacy of practical reason, i.e. that reason can (and should) justify norms. After an historical introduction into the controversy, this lecture sketches how the dialectical thesis can be proven. The new approach consists in a critical reconstruction ofall the words relevant for the discussion, beginning with such ethical modalities as "obligatory," "permissible." With these words we judge about aims: the judgements are norms of the form, e.g., "Under the condition C, the aim A is obligatory" (in Symbols: C Δ A).The task in practical reason is to justify such norms. Practical philosophy has to provide the basic vocabulary and the principles of justification. It starts with basic terms of the philosophy of mind as "wanting" and "willing." The teaching method has to be described without using these words. (For all details cf.Normative Logic and Ethics, B.J. Mannheim, 1969.) In the same sense as "true" opinions are the result of reasonable discussions in which all participants try to overcome ("transcend") their merely subjective opinions, it is the result of "transsubjective" argumentation whether in a certain situation an aim is (morally) required or forbidden. This categorical imperative of transcending all mere subjectivity is a "formal" principle for justifying norms. Material norms are justifiable only by investigating the genesis of the cultural situation in which they are applied. This leads, in a critical reconstruction of a method of Hegel (especially in his "philosophy or right"), to the formulation of a "dialectical" method as a spiral movement from factual geneses to normative geneses.By this method philosophy does not prescribe any "values" but prescribes how the cultural sciences should proceed in establishing material norms.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/BF01248600

Full citation:

Lorenzen, P. (1971). Szientismus versus Dialektik. Man and World 4 (2), pp. 151-168.

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