In the post before last I wrote that Harvey Mansfield introduced me to this idea, or argument, called the Fact-Value Distinction. I haven’t yet read about it because reading about it is going to take some time. There are several old authors to have read on the subject before I can claim to say anything informed about the Fact-Value Distinction; David Hume for example. (Right now I’m reading Antifragile…finally.) Regardless of my ignorance, I keep thinking about the fact-value distinction because there are some deep implications. I mean: There are fundamental pre-thought assumptions that influence my thoughts before I consciously think about anything!
Basically, if I understand it from Mansfield’s brief explanation, whenever we observe (see, hear, touch, etc.) something, we either accept it as a brute, naked fact (This is the Fact side of the F-VD) or we make a judgement what we observe (This is the value side.). The Fact side is the realm of mathematics and science. The best example I can think of at the moment is “2+2=4”. No judgement can or should be made about that. (Mostly. More in a bit.) The Value side is the realm of religion and philosophy: What ought to be, and what ought to be observed.
Our worldview, modernity, is possessed with an obsession of the Fact view of life, and deeply discounts Values–judgements. When Science! (the collective institutions of politically influential scientists) declares on a subject it is declared in a way that we are to accept it like we should accept 2+2=4. Any divergence or dispute from what Science! has decreed is taken as an expression of insanity as looney as disputing that 2+2≠4.
But if you think about it for a moment, Science! is hiding the ball. Even if they do not mean to deceive they have because before they present an observation as Fact, they’ve already made a judgement that the observation has Value as a Fact, and that the Fact is good for them (and us) to know, and to make decisions based upon them. In other words: The way of Science! and of the whole modern world is to make one Value distinction to say that every thing and every observation is a Fact. Since every Fact is True like 2+2=4, and since every observation becomes a thought, then every thought is True. But we observe different things; even contradictory things. Collectively, then, we moderns observe that 2+2=∞, and go about making Fact of it.
Anyone who recognizes this then has a choice:
- Degrade all observations, thoughts, and knowledge as insane and random. Then wonder what you, an insane person, means by insane.
- Commit an incoherent doublethink by accepting the idea of moral relativism while ignoring the fact that moral relativism is destroyed by the basic value assumption that facts exists.
- Recognize that you make Value judgements about every single observation you have, and then wonder in terror what you are to do next.
Let me give a more concrete example of what I believe is an improper Fact-Value Distinction. It is from the very same video of Mansfield where he taught me of the F-VD, and who is in favor of Value distinctions. It’s said clumsily as often happens in conversation, but if you watch the section of the video on Manliness you understand that Mansfield disagrees with the idea that men and women are the same, or even think the same. But then he goes on to make an assertion of Fact when a judgement of Value is more correct. He says:
[W]e reason differently. It just isn’t the case. This is the most important thing that men and women think the same. We have different outlooks. So, to have a different body somehow goes with having a different soul.
And, so for example, women are more pacifistic. Well, they have children, that’s a big investment, nine months – nine months of your life for each one of them. You’re not going to go throwing away human life recklessly.
Well, maybe that’s comical, but I think that’s – that kind of thinking is very common and even wise. There is a kind of wisdom in that correspondence of roles and ways of thinking.
That’s slightly, but importantly, wrong. It would have been right to say because women have to make a huge investment of nine months, they ought to recognize that investment and not throw away human life recklessly. It’s not a fact that women aren’t reckless with human life, or that they are pacifistic because of the term of pregnancy. Women abort their babies. Women kill their children. Women go to war. Women fight and start fights. Women do all kinds of things which are anathema to human life and pacifism.
The importance of this particular error is this: Once we make a Value judgement that women ought not throw away human life recklessly, then we have to make another Value judgement about whether we ought, or ought not, impose that expectation of on them. Modern men don’t want to do that. We’d rather pretend women are Facts, and we’d rather pretend that if we imagine them to be pacifists of factual reason, that too is a Fact.