Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Living Spiritual Rhythms–October 22

Atheist Sam Harris argues that facts and values are the same thing (Google his TED talk on morality and science). Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (Tractatus) contends that they have nothing to do with each other. Both exaggerate. One conflates, the other deflates. Facts, says Harris, are scientific and therefore so are values. That’s true in some sense and facts do play a role in some of what we value, but facts and values cannot be collapsed into the same thing. Wittgenstein proposes that values are unspeakable and mystical, and thus completely differ from propositions of natural science as facts. I wager, Harris is reductionistic by putting them together, Wittgenstein by keeping them entirely apart. And reductionism in a holistic world is neither a fact nor a value. Alas, values go beyond facts, since they pertain to courage, trust, love, commitment, and the like, but these types of values may also have a factual ring to them. While it may turn out that the brain can produce such values, the ultimate testing ground for them is not merely scientific analysis, but the laboratory of relationality. A more pertinent illustration of facts and values, therefore, would be to understand they are related and distinct, and then to work out this living tension in the world.