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MODEL OF NEUTRAL-INCLUSIVITY
BOOK OF INSTRUMENTS
ELEMENTS OF NORMATIVE PHILOSOPHY
ABOUT SAYING WHAT SHOULD BE

7.1.3 

MONISM VERSUS PLURALISM


The usual criticism against nonfactualist objectivism is that there is no test for value, that there are no ways to establish or prove that a certain action is right or wrong. Subjectivists are eager to point out that what is lacking in moral disputes is 'the acceptance of a common method' (such as the experimental method in empirical science) and 'the willingness of both sides to accept the judgment of disinterested observers after they have examined the evidence'. The question is then, first of all, The acceptance of a common method by whom?. An experimental scientific method, for instance, may be accepted by all scientists, or all people adhering to the same scientific paradigm, yet it is definitely not accepted by supernaturalists. (This is not to preclude the psychosocial possibility that one and the same person may adopt the air of a scientist in the lab and the air of a supernaturalist in the temple.) Why should it be required that a normative method be accepted by all people while no scientific method has ever been adopted by all people in all places or circumstances?

Another part of the criticism against nonfactualist objectivism focuses on experiments and on observers who examine evidence, but this is a requirement which can logically only be made with respect to factual disciplinary thought. Yet, as follows from our analysis in The normativeness of 'purely descriptive' theorizing (3.2.3), the criticism itself objectively establishes a number of values, namely truth (or falsity as a disvalue), relevance (or irrelevance as a disvalue), one or more focuses of relevancy and some principle of conceptual and axiomatic austerity. As soon as a subjectivist claims that there is no test for value and expects this to be not a merely factual, personal utterance, but a valid criticism of objectivism, 'e implicitly takes it that both a subjectivist and an objectivist must (or ought to) agree that tests themselves have value. Why would they have value? To make sure that the normative judgments are at least not false or irrelevant! The subjectivist's criticism thus contains an intersubjective or objective, normative core itself, namely that truth and relevance are fundamental values, and that tests have an instrumental value because they serve to establish what judgments are plausible in the light of truth and relevance.

No normative theory is adequate which does not somehow have truth and relevance as explicit or implicit principles. But we will now take a brief look at the role of austerity or simplicity. All science is governed by some principle of simplicity. When comparing scientific with normative, disciplinary thought one can therefore not forgo the question what such a principle entails when governing a normative doctrine, not only with respect to its concepts but particularly with respect to its normative ground-world principle or principles.

Of two theories which are, or could, both be true, and which have the same substantive scope, the one is more simple than the other if it makes fewer distinctions, that is, fewer irrelevant distinctions. To aim at disciplinary simplicity is therefore to aim at an undifferentiated oneness without encroaching upon truth and relevance, and without diminishing the informative content of the theory. (If informative content did not matter, the simplest theory possible would be something like Truth is.) The attitude underlying the principle of simplicity is the same as that underlying the so-called 'principle of the uniformity of nature' in empirical science, which reads that 'the course of nature continues always uniformly the same' and that 'instances of which we have had no experience resemble those of which we have had experience'. It cannot be proved that this principle is true; it functions as a universal hypothesis in inductivist science, and it furnishes the more specific hypotheses in more specific theories. Once the specialist scientific theories have been developed with their own specialist principles there is bound to arise a need to search for the lost unity. It is then that scientists may start looking upon different types of physical forces as all representing one archetype. They may accomplish unification directly in that they manage to describe the various forces under one heading in one theory; or indirectly in that they still must be dealt with in several theories, but with complete analogies between these theories or their mathematical equations.

The ideal of a unitary field in science, or in certain departments of science, is a factual type of monism. The meaning of this monism is different in philosophical and religious metaphysics, where it refers to the view that there is merely one kind of ultimate substance in the universe. This kind of substance may be called "matter", "mind" or "the abstract"; it may be called "the ultimate, undefinable reality which is beyond all concepts and cannot be comprehended by the intellect or adequately described in words"; it may also be 'one truly substantial thing' in the whole universe like nature or a 'supreme soul without beginning or end'. A form of normative monism in ideology is normative authoritarianism. While the prime example of authoritarian practise may be political, the prime example of authoritarian theory (and perhaps practise as well) is orthodox monotheism. It teaches that the moral code is an objective and infallible guide to correct behavior which is the expression of the will of a supreme being (the ubiquitous Mono of the previous chapter). If Mono had proscribed and prescribed the very opposites of what he is believed to have proscribed and prescribed, the former proscriptions and prescriptions would have been considered the morally correct ones. Of course, something is not true (nor false) because a person, or personified being, has said or commanded so (while disregarding all the contradictions in that being's professions). But however fallacious or fascistoid monotheist (or for that matter non-monotheist) authoritarianism may be, it certainly is 'Monistic'; and its sole principle is: Whatever Mono has said, says and will say is true. (Note that where polytheist religion is also monistic, yet not authoritarian, its monism is of the metaphysical type.)

Authoritarianism is the worst and most counterscientific form not only of normative but also of factual and modal monism in disciplinary thought. Hence, it is time to look at normative monism in a more sensible shape. It is, then, to be contrasted with normative pluralism. The easiest way to compare the two is in terms of 'values', but one may also read "values, rights and/or duties": a normative doctrine which is monistic recognizes only one ultimate value; one which is pluralistic recognizes two or more values which --it suggests-- cannot be reduced to each other, or to a common origin. If, for example, two values really cannot be reduced to each other, or both to a third value, it suffices to examine whether the values in question engender plausible should-statements. But, perhaps, the pluralists in question do not realize that all the separate values they believe in can be reduced to one, even tho each of these values engenders plausible should-statements on its own. Theoretical simplicity then requires us to opt for the monistic variant instead of the pluralist one, altho the latter is equally true. To put it more generally: in disciplinary thought which is scientific, or which evinces the same quality of argumentation in the nonscientific sphere, monism is an ideal in itself. In a certain respect every degree of theoretical pluralism is an admission of intellectual failure. (When it is advocated that the members of diverse groups in a society should be allowed to maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their own subcultures or special interests, such societal pluralism is or can be based on people's rights or on respect for persons -- an entirely different subject altogether.)

Granted that every comprehensive normative doctrine will have to acknowledge at least truth and relevance as principles, and at least one focus of relevancy, no normative doctrine can be monistic in the strict sense. And this does not only follow from the values of truth and relevance, but also from the hierarchy of propositional levels which corresponds to a great variety of types of norms (and als of types of facts and modes). From the perspective of our ontology monism will only make sense with respect to a particular type of norm or principle, that is, one principle governing nonpropositional reality, one governing first-level propositional reality, one governing the correspondence between nonpropositional and first-level propositional reality, and so on. Coherence is, then, clearly a principle applying to the first and all higher levels of propositional reality. Truth is clearly a principle applying to the correspondence between a first- or higher-level propositional reality and the lower levels of propositional or nonpropositional reality. The status of a principle of relevance is not so clear as that of coherence and truth, but such a principle requires at least one focus, that is, a value, in nonpropositional reality. If it can be shown that there is merely one such value in nonpropositional reality, the normative doctrine is as little pluralistic as it can be, and --excepting a principle of relevance-- even monistic with regard to the ground-world.

The question of monism versus pluralism is still much more complicated than sketched so far. When we continue our discussion of normative-philosophical issues and are going to develop our own normative doctrine, we will be confronted with two other fundamental questions which have an important bearing on its being monistic or pluralistic. Our rule shall remain tho, that every distinction to be made in the typology of values, or in the addition of a new value, right or duty, must be a justifiable one. On the whole we will have to take a few steps away from the most absolute form of monism in order to arrive at the proper point, but we will do so by justifying every deviation from such an absolute form. This approach is quite different from that of those who prepare themselves some hotchpotch of solid or soft values, savory or unsavory duties and sweet or sour rights, and who will care about their underlying unity or lack of it later, if ever.


©MVVM, 41-64 ASWW
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