Epistemological reflection has long crossed paths with ethics, and vice versa, which calls into question their alleged incompatibility. Think of the analysis of moral language in analytical philosophy, or of the verifiability of value assertions carried out by neopositivism, or of the recognition of values and beliefs as found in contemporary epistemology. These are issues that, although coming from different fields, are increasingly encountered in current debates. Research conducted in this regard is present, albeit implicitly, in the procedures of scientific investigation.
Observation is the fundamental attitude of all inquiry. It is an essentially selective and affective attitude. St. Thomas noted that ubi amor, ibi oculus (“Where there is love, there rests the eye,” 3 Sent., d. 35, 1, 2, I): the act of seeing, focusing on something and leaving the rest in the background, manifests the desire that dwells in the heart, the true motivator of attention. In turn, observation influences the habits and personality of those who carry it out, shaping their mentality and modus operandi.
The belief that the scientific approach to reality is completely impartial and detached has been one of the most shared assumptions of modern philosophy. Locke tried to justify it, using the distinction between primary qualities (related to form and quantity), considered objective and independent from the subject, and secondary qualities (such as color, smell and taste), influenced by the observer, and therefore subjective. According to the English philosopher, only the first qualities can be the object of scientific investigation. However, if one examines the issue in depth, this distinction is unsustainable: the point of view of the observer is essential even in the way in which we perceive the world. Moreover, the very notion of “world,” which contemporary epistemology recognizes to be a mental construction of the human being, is problematic. In this way, not only the notion of primary quality is unsustainable, but so is the more general materialist approach to reality