To understand Max Weber and Francis Bacon’s reasoning for the separation between science and ethics, it is important to know the historical background of each philosopher. For Bacon, he was writing during a time when religion was the dominant source of truths, and he witnessed the result of those who challenged the church, such as Galileo. Therefore, Bacon’s doctrine draws a careful division between science and religion, where scientists seek truth and knowledge with God’s help. (1) He is deliberate in clearly stating that science cannot overshadow the divine, and science is a tool of showing charity and worshipping God. (2) Bacon asserts that society has become stagnant, simply improving on existing learning without producing any original ideas, so he proposes a revival of science as a way of obtaining truth, in conformity with God’s (the church’s) law. Bacon’s philosophy advocates a hierarchical coexistence between science and religion, explaining science as a form of respect to God. Bacon argues that science is not for personal benefit, “laying the foundations not of a sect or of a dogma, but of human progress and empowerment.” (3)
On the other hand, Weber’s work was a reaction to skepticism produced by Foucault and Nietzsche, who do not believe in moral truths and promote philosophies which contest any divide between science and morality. In response to this skepticism, Weber argues that science is limited in its ability to conduct normative assessments and obtain moral truths. Weber argues that science is in constant motion where “every scientific ‘fulfilment’ raises new ‘questions’; it asks to be ‘surpassed’ and outdated.” (4) Weber posits that science cannot answer normative questions, so people must choose an end among a variety of investigable means, for science is limited in its ability to investigate these ends. (5) Weber’s philosophy ultimately leaves the spheres of ethics, religion, morality, and values preserved for individuals to decide amongst them. His philosophical approach maintains other spheres by constraining science from answering normative questions.
By defining a division between science and morality, Bacon and Weber uphold different sects of belief and prevent potential clashes among scholars. Bacon and Weber’s separation is beneficial, for it helps clarify meaning and offer insight into the means to a given ends. Weber’s philosophy, in particular, demonstrates respect for the other fields while still allowing researchers to check the internal validity of ideas. Without this division, philosophers, religious advocates, and scientists would have to grapple with their differences and confront opposition. This separation forces scientific inquiries to be narrow in nature and leaves normative questions unanswered or left without a systematic method of discovery. Thus, in the case of my research, if the separation were eliminated, I could expand my inquiry or potentially implement a variety of methodological techniques.
(1) Francis Bacon, “The Great Renewal,” New Organon, , 11.
(2) Ebid., 12.
(3) Ebid., 13.
(4) Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” 3.
(5) Ebid., 10.