I feel compelled to reply to the comment made by Doconnor to my last post because this goes to the heart of what I have been trying to say. Furthermore, I believe it is motivated by a philosophical misunderstanding that not only doconnor makes but is rampant in our culture. Though I am sure that doconnor and I would agree on many things politically speaking and I appreciate his/her comments, we are operating in different paradigms. First of all and most pressingly, I think doconnor makes the mistake that many people make and which the work of philosophers of science like Feryabend attempt to correct, which is that he conflates so-called "facts" with "science" as though the two were the same thing, which of course they are not. Science is an ideological construct that attempts to organize a picture of the world which is more or less consistent and under the rubric of science there are many, often conflicting methodologies for doing this. "Facts," on the other hand, are a simple form of 'truth' claim. And of course, using Habermas' forumla in his monumental work "Theory of Communicative Action," there are other kinds of 'truth claims' such as normative and dramaturgical ones. Thus, to also follow Habermas, all three types of truth claims operate on different levels and continually operate together in order to function in the world. Obviously one can never entirely separate claims of fact, for example, from normative claims. They are interdependent. Now it is a common misconception, to which I believe doconnor is falling victim here, that assumes that pragmatic (think Rorty) or 'post-modern' operative philosophical approaches (think Derrida or Foucault) are attempting to circumvent 'factual' claims, which they are not. Rather, the real issue here is that all claims of 'fact' are (and think Nietzsche here)indelibly (and a priori) coloured by our normative judgments, many of which are assumptions of what the Germans call Lebenswelt. Seen in this light, 'science' is an entirely different matter and must be seen in an ideological light (here think Althusser). An effort to see it otherwise is bound, I believe, to fall into the worst kind of scientism.
Now, in this light, I think I can show why doconnor's statement that one can have "fact without ethics" is false and misunderstands the nature of epistemology and the interactions between different kinds of truth claims. Philosophers who are variously referred to as "rationalist" or "objectivist" or under some other rubric, have failed since Montaigne to understand the relationship between so-called rationalist standards and what one might call 'pre-rationalist' judgements. Montaigne's skepticism goes to the heart of this epistemological discourse. One cannot have "facts" without 'ethics" (and I use ethics in the broadest normative sense here) because our normative, non-rationalist, assumptions and judgments predate our perception and understanding of 'facts.' I think even the work of THomas Kuhn demonstrates this. First of all, many people, if not most, will be unable to see certain "facts" until they have colonized the lebenswelt.But second, there is a more subtle and complex issue at stake, which is for 'factual' claims to be in any way organized and meaningful to us as thinking beings, we must assume an entire structure of normative and ethical assumptions. In other words, while it is clear that one could not make normative claims without assuming certain 'facts' about the world because norms assume an external world in which to operate, it must also be said that you could not have facts without normative structures. (This is not, of course, to claim that the physical world of 'facts' doesn't exist without our judgements of it. Rather, it is only a claim that the two are co-dependent. A tree may have a physical reality whether or not we recognize it as such but it would have no "meaning" as a tree without an entire normative structure from we observe it.) Since the advent of the Enlightenment, Western rationalist philosophers have been, in Feyarabend's words, operating in a Conquest of the Abundance of the world. But regardless of what rationalists (or even scientists) believe they are doing, facts are not instructive, we cannot derive an ought from an is, and facts will only be widely accepted as such, or socially meaningful, when they properly relate to or are integrated into some kind of normative structure.
The problem with having this argument, and I have had it for twenty years with philosophers as well as scientists, is that it is paradigmatic in nature and in recent generations a paradigm has formed which is profoundly different from, and often hostile to, this position. Just as Odysseus was completely baffled by Achilles' paradigmatic rejection of the system of honour when he left the battle of Troy, people who are steeped in the contemporary rationalist paradigm will simply be baffled by such a position or falsely believe that it is a naive or an overly metaphysical kind of philosophy. It is always difficult to converse across paradigms, because people find it difficult to imagine that there are other meaningful world-views than their own. And the left has been just as guilty of this as any other group. But even more significantly, it has become very difficult to question the Western rationalist and scientific paradigm because people who adhere to it are so certain that they simply see the world "as it is" and everyone else is confused or deluded. Just as people on all sides of the political spectrum are hostile to anarchistic ideas, so most people are hostile to ideas that they think are relativistic or overly pragmatic. But all societies are dependent upon certain kinds of 'myths.' A member of the Aztec society would think you were deluded or insane if you claimed that the Sun was no more than a ball of fire. And most members of the capitalist society think you are similarly crazy if you say, for example, that competition is unhealthy. We have not reached (and I am not sure we can) the social position that Habermas thinks we have, in which people recognize conflicting ideas as meaningful positions that are all subject to discursive redemption.
So are we trapped in a kind of paradigmatic 'double-bind' or can we find a way to relate to each other? I am not sure. I am fairly confident, however, that the great philosopher Max Weber has been sadly overlooked in recent times and that the technocratic, scientism which grows out of Western rationalism is leading us to an iron cage of teleological efficiency and rational control that is widely misunderstood even by people who think that they live with a different worldview than the prevailing capitalist one. Herein lies the rub.