The Third Construal On Quine’s Methodological Infirmity of Ethics

Oyelakin, Richard Taye


This paper shows that many attempts that have been made to provide a defence of ethical theory against Quine’s allegation of methodological infirmity have failed to answer Quine’s question. These attempts to answer the question have only demonstrated a misconception of ethical enquiry and this has engendered wrong strategies. Such strategies have attempted to show that ethics is not infirm when brought before the tribunal of scientific methodology. These attempts, however, is bound to fail because it is a mutilation of ethics. This owes to nothing but the peculiarity of ethics. It is this peculiarity of ethics which makes it not amenable to scientific methodology. This will always make it infirm before the tribunal of science. This paper identifies as deficient, the two main angles, matters of fact and relations of idea, from which ethics has been defended over the years. Attempt to show that ethical statements are truths about empirical facts is doomed. Ethical truths are not analytical truths either. The paper shows, however, that Quine’s declaration of methodological infirmity on ethics does not mean meaning infirmity.  It is on this background that the paper establishes the faculty of reasoning or intuition as the third way; the ground upon which ethical truth may be strongly established and sufficiently justified.

Keywords: Methodological Infirmity, Web of Knowledge, Synonymy, Summon bonum, Ethical enquiry

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