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Is and Ought

Guillermina Jasso


Understanding the relation between Is and Ought questions and their relation to theory and empirics is a central task for social science. This chapter makes several contributions. First, it presents two substantive approaches, a deeper forces approach (including two engines of behaviour - to know the causes of things and to judge the goodness of things - leading directly to Is and Ought questions, respectively) and a middle-range theory which recently unified theories of justice, status, and power. Second, it reviews three theory types (two deductive, one nondeductive). Third, it examines postulates and predictions from the new unified theory and its component theories. Fourth, it provides five illustrations tracing the path from ideas to theory to empirics - (1) five types of persons and five types of societies in the new unified theory, (2) three questions on inequality, (3) justice and impartiality, (4) salary secrecy, and (5) theft and punishment. Along the way the chapter notes the classical sources for the ideas, the special tools such as probability distributions for theory and factorial surveys for empirics, and the major embedded Is and Ought questions and behaviour. The chapter also introduces a new kind of question - Is-about- Ought - which represents the scientific search for knowledge about the normative views to which persons subscribe.

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