Here's another prospectus on normative inquiry that I wrote up in September 

Prospects For Inquiry Driven Systems

1.3.1. Logic, Ethics, Esthetics

The philosophy I find myself converging to more often lately is the pragmatism of C.S. Peirce and John Dewey. According to this account, logic, ethics, and esthetics form a concentric series of normative sciences, each a subdiscipline of the next. Logic tells how one ought to conduct one's reasoning in order to achieve the stated goals of reasoning in general. Thus logic is a special application of ethics. Ethics tells how one ought to conduct one's activities in general in order to achieve the good appropriate to each enterprise. What makes the difference between a normative science and a prescriptive dogma is whether this "telling" is based on actual inquiry into the relationship of conduct to result, or not.

In this view, logic and ethics do not set goals, they merely serve them. Of course, logic may examine the consistency of an arbitrary selection of goals in the light of what science tells about the likely repercussions in nature of trying to actualize them all. Logic and ethics may serve the criticism of certain goals by pointing out the deductive implications and probable effects of striving toward them, but it has to be some other science which finds and tells whether these effects are preferred and encouraged or detested and discouraged relative to a particular form of being.

The science which examines individual goods, species goods, and generic goods from an outside perspective must be an esthetic science. The capacity for inquiry into a subject must depend on the capacity for uncertainty about that subject. Esthetics is capable of inquiry into the nature of the good precisely because it is able to be in question about what is good. Whether conceived as empirical science or as experimental art, it is the job of esthetics to determine what might be good for us. Through the exploration of artistic media we find out what satisfies our own form of being. Through the expeditions of science we discover and further the goals of own species' evolution.

Outriggers to these excursions are given by the comparative study of biological species and the computational study of abstractly specified systems. These provide extra ways to find out what is the sensible goal of an individual system and what is the perceived good for a particular species of creature. It is especially interesting to learn about the relationships that can be represented internally to a system's development between the good of a system and the system's perception, knowledge, intuition, feeling, or whatever sense it may have of its goal. This amounts to asking the questions: What good can a system be able to sense for itself? How can a system discover its own best interests? How can a system achieve, from the evidence of experience, a cognizance, evidenced in behavior, of its own best interests?




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