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Grazer Philosophische Studien

Volume 30, 1987

Science and Ethics

Keith Lehrer
Pages 65-76

Science, Morality and the Prisoner's Dilemma

The problems that I address concern the morality and rationality of decisions with respect to the application and practice of science. Formally, the situation is a standard decision theoretic one in which one has a set of alternatives and a set of outcomes. The standard solution is to maximize expected utility. This formal simplicity conceals considerable philosophical complexity. The most obvious is — whose expected utility should we maximize? The second is — are there any moral constraints on what utility assignments we shall allow? The principle of rationality I am assuming is that a rational decision should be based on the total information available. Failure to cooperate in effecting such an amalgamation is subversive with respect to this overriding principle of rationality. It is a fundamental principle of truth seeking. Given the prima facie moral obligation to seek truth, failure to cooperate is prima facie immoral as well.

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