Unexamined life is not worth living. Unexamined values are not worth having. As we examine life and values together, we invariably stumble over this big wall of science which appears so huge to us, so impenetrable, almost made of concrete. We have been so often told that science and its world view this big wall have nothing to do with values. If we want to entertain some values (so we were told), we may do so, but very quietly and privately. Thus in intimate corners of our private universe, we have been struggling with values. We have been asking such questions as "What to do with ethics? What to do with science? What to do with ourselves?
Yet this is the picture of the past. The big wall of science has crumbled. However something else has remained. The picture of the physical world as described by classical science is gone. The knowledge through which this picture was erected and maintained somehow stays on. Cognitive claims of science, of whatever science and however flimsy they are, are still regarded as superior to value judgments. The old mentality of science and its ethos still prevail; and also its ethics. The ethos of science and its ethics exert a great deal of influence over our minds. I shall explain in some detail what I mean by the ethics of science as we go along.
Let me start by asserting that we have not perceived so far, or at least not sufficiently, that behind what we consider to be the architecture of science, there exists an invisible scaffolding its normative structure, or simply its ethics. We have accepted that the edifice of the world as described by science has crumbled. We have not perceived so far that something else has crumbled the ethical system embedded in and underlying classical science and the world view that follows from it. Thus I am arguing that the collapse of the picture of the world of classical science consists of both the collapse of its underlying cognitive structure and of its underlying ethical structure.
I am going to propose that this ethical structure is the form underlying
the ethos of the edifice. This ethos has been guiding scientists and the
pursuit of science for the last three centuries. Taking the clues from
ancient philosophy, I wish to propose an Aristotelian view of this form.
Aristotle claimed that a substance of an object and its form are a unity.
Once you break a jar, you have broken its underlying form. This is in
contrast to the Platonic position which argues that even if you brake
a jar, the underlying form persists because it is imperishable.
Let me observe that most philosophers, and especially scientists, are Platonists in respect to the point I have raised. They think that we may give up the edifice of the world as constructed by science and yet retain its scaffoldings, its language, its underlying cognitive structure with its specific criteria of validity and its hidden ethics. This to me is a mistake. Of stupendous proportions.
We treat scientific knowledge on its face value. It tells us it is value free. We believe it. It tells us that its cognitive claims are value free and furthermore that these claims are superior to values. We believe it to be so. But it is not so. Scientific knowledge is a system of values. It is based on a core of values. It perpetuates distinctive values. Cognitive claims of physical knowledge are laced with values. These claims (and the rationality underlying them) tell us: "You should approach the world objectively;" "You should be rational in your approach:" (while this rationality is fashioned by science itself); "You should rely only on physical facts and reject all non-physical phenomena." Add to these "You should not accept value judgments..." while underneath, in an invisible ink, it is written "...except the value judgments which the physicalist paradigm proclaims."
We need to see it clearly that the demise of the external edifice
the physical picture of the world which science had erected, signifies
also the demise of the scaffolding on which science was erected; and this
means its underlying form, its cognitive criteria of validity; and yes
its ethics. We must clearly see the ethical plight of science.
Its bold assumption which was for far too long unexamined
was that you only need to describe the world physically. And somehow,
through this description, we can create a sustainable human world. This
has led to disastrous human, social and ecological consequences.
Let me express my main thesis: cognitive strictures of science regarding human values and the normative underpinning of human lives, do not have any authority any more.
This statement immediately frees us to develop new knowledge and new ethics. Our main criterion for both should be whether and to what extent it is life-enhancing, for both human life and non-human life; whether it contributes to harmony and avoids destruction, whether it contributes to the joy of life and its further self-realization. I am aware that these are value judgments. These are new life-enhancing value judgments. And nobody from the old cognitive/empiricist paradigm should tell us that we should not make them.
Thus instead of the old ethics : it is a physical fact, a physical theory, a physical structure, a physical description, therefore it is good (for such has been the unwritten ethical imperative of science); we are now asserting: it is a structure, a theory, a form of human behavior which contributes to the fullness and blossoming of life (is life-enhancing) therefore it is good.
The difficulties in accepting this new perspective may be considerable. But they are a trifle in comparison with the agony which we have experienced while trying to live with the unviable and unsustainable paradigm of knowledge/values which we have evolved in the post-Renaissance times. Once we accept that together with the broken jar the form of the jar is broken; once we understand that the assertion "cognitive claims are superior to normative judgments" is itself a value judgment and an expression of the intellectual tyranny, then the door to liberation is open. What I am proposing is a liberation of ethics from the cognitive grid of science, which claims to be value-neutral, while it perpetuates distinctive empiricist values of the materialist world view.
Let me draw two final conclusions. I suggest that there is no such thing as knowledge independent of and neutral with regard to values. Physical knowledge (classical science) has operated through its distinctive values through which it has attempted to suppress (with a great success as a matter of fact) other values. With the end of the physicalist paradigm, this form of ethical tyranny comes to an end.
And the final point. Every cosmology contains both ontology and its corresponding ethics. We have thought for a while that it was different with mechanistic cosmology, and that it was a structure without an ethics built into it. This is simply not true. The hidden ethics of mechanistic cosmology has been a poisonous chalice which has poisoned the whole civilization. A holistic reverential cosmology and its corresponding life-enhancing ethics are an imperative of our times as we are proceeding along the Third Millennium.