How attending to a simple philosophical distinction can help improve political discussion
NY Magazine published a companion piece to your article:
Utilitarianism. I learned a new word today, thanks Max.
I was actually thinking of the trolley problem and thought experiments the whole time I read your article.
As a socialist I believe in the principle of utilitarianism for SOME things, but definitely not all.
As a whole I believe in the greater good humanity of course. But the verbiage of “benefit society as a whole” is one I’m extremely wary of because it has almost always been used dishonestly in the past and present to harm marginalized groups of people (currently with anti trans legislation, especially in sports as well as ableist discrimination for the trolly problem .)
Try that argument with any Objectivist who seems to believe that Ayn Rand “solved” the fact-value distinction already. They seem not to be bothered with her strange interpretation of Aristotle’s meaning of A=A nor do they think it’s problematic to say that proving “X is a *right*” is equivalent to proving “X is right to do”
Great analysis of the difference between values and facts in political discourse.
A few years ago, I wrote a long paper about laws and rights that, I think, operationalizes this distinction in terms of how laws are structured. This might interest you; I posted it on Researchgate:
One thing that I noted, which you don't quite distinguish in your discussion, is that our values weight our attitudes towards categories whose construal should be on naturalistic, and therefore value-neutral, grounds. This sense of "categories" is different than "facts" in that the former are conceptual, while the latter are conditional. In my view, values operate in a middle ground between how we conceptualize the world, and the specific outcomes that follow from specific contingent sets of events under a repeatable rule (i.e., "facts").