Friday 18:15, 19. October 2018

What Is the Source of Nature’s Moral Authority?

FLECK lecture

Lecture by Prof. Dr. Lorraine Daston

In many cultures and epochs, natural orders have been invoked by revolutionaries and reactionaries alike as support for various political, social, and moral order:

the stately movements of the stars served the ancient Stoics as the model of the good life; revolutionaries in Enlightenment America and France appealed to nature’s universal laws to justify rebellion; homosexuality has been condemned as “against nature”; recent floods and storms prompt headlines about the “revenge of nature” taken upon human greed and thoughtlessness. Yet for centuries philosophers such as Hume, Kant, and John Stuart Mill have argued that nature has no moral authority; nature simply is, and it is an error of logic to infer an “ought” from an “is”. These calls to drive a wedge between natural and moral orders have gone largely unheeded, as current debates about genetically modified organisms, new reproductive technologies, and homosexual marriage testify. Why do we continue to seek moral authority in nature, despite learned advice to the contrary?

Moderation: Hartmut von Sass

Lecture in English, Diskussion English / German

Dr. Hartmut von Sass is Associate Professor at the Institute of Hermeneutics and the Philosophy of Religion at the University of Zurich and Acting Director of the Collegium Helveticum. More

Lorraine Daston is Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science More

The Ludwik Fleck Center is a research institution for science theory at the Collegium Helveticum. More

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