Mauro Murzi's pages on Philosophy of Science - Logical Positivism
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[2. The Main Philosophical Tenets of Logical Positivism.]

g. Ethics.

A consequence of the Verifiability Principle is that statements about ethical principles are neither true nor false - they are expressions of feeling. Therefore a theory of ethics is impossible. But if ethics is meaningless, a question rises: what is the origin of ethical principles? Among logical positivists, Schlick was the most interested in ethics. He endeavored to give an account of ethics which was compatible with logical positivist philosophy. According to Schlick, ethics is a descriptive scientific theory. A person always prefers those conditions that do not produce pain or produce pleasure; good is whatever gives pleasure and no pain. Good is thus equivalent to beneficial. A person's actions are caused by a wish to benefit. So, the first ethical impulse is an egoistic one. But the motivations to act are not static - they are subjected to the natural evolution and selection. In a society, it is possible that an altruistic way of action is more beneficial than a purely egoistic one. So, there is a contrast between the very first impulse, which suggests an egoistic behavior, and the tendency to act generated by evolution, which suggests a social behavior. This is the origin of ethical principles.

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