Social Science and Morality: An Empirical Analysis
Sociology and Criminal Justice
Philip Gorski’s effort to bridge the gap between social science and morality is well intended, but misguided. His attempt to tear down the wall between facts and values does not succeed. To understand why, we must recognize that morality is an enterprise in which we humans participate; one based on the creation, modification, and implementation of moral rules. It is, in short, prescriptive rather than descriptive. Language that suggests otherwise is misleading. Normal, as opposed to “moral,” facts do apply to morality, but their role is best explicated in a tripartite theory of morality. This argues that moral rules are: 1) informal and paradigmatically learned, 2) created and modified in polarized social negotiations, and 3) largely enforced by emotional means. Once this is understood, the temptation of social scientists to import their own moral commitments into their scientific endeavors makes sense, as does the need to draw a line between these.