chapter  22
14 Pages

Science and ethics: problems of foundations ANNE FAGOT-LARGEAULT

Today, the medieval ideal of an understanding of the universe that is both scientific and teleological is somewhat harder to achieve. In the absence of a global synthesis, it was hoped to draw from biology some universal principles of a ‘scientific ethics’. Arnold Berleant (1977) considers that ‘normative facts’ emerge from certain regions of knowledge. Biological universals revolve around the maintenance of homeostasis: first, one must survive (if not, ethical questions cannot even be asked); next, one must adapt (‘adaptation is the central moral concept’), and if the style of this adaptation is largely imposed by social life, the primary conditions are those of biological good and bad (the preservation of health, of genetic heritage, and so on). Psychology and anthropology complete the picture, in that they sketch in the conditions of individual development (Fromm, Maslow, Rogers and Skinner) and of insertion within the collectivity (Murdock, Kroeber, Kluckhohn and Harris), between which conditions we naturally observe a ‘convergence’.