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A Value Judgment on Value Judgments (1941)


Economics is full of problems which seem to find no rest. They are being turned over again and again and seen now in this light, now in another. Problems of this sort are such which do not admit of any dogmatic answer in one sense or another. Instead, they seem to demand solutions which follow some reasonable middle course and which are embroidered by a number of variable qualifications and reserves.

To this group of problems belongs the question of the scientific legitimacy of judgments of value. It has so long and so feverishly been discussed that it appears tedious to make any attempt to stir up the discussion again. Recent personal experiences, however, suggest that a fairly general consensus on a dangerously dogmatic answer has become crystallized in our academic world, a dogmatism which is not far from being a real impediment in our academic activities. To a great number of social scientists it seems to be beyond any possible dispute that every judgment on what ought to be in economic life must be scientifically illegitimate. For them the question appears to be settled once and for all while in our view it is and will remain an extremely delicate and intricate problem.

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