On the possibility of a rational ethics in  Helmut Coing's legal philosophy.
By Professor Dr. Jesus Escandon Alomar. University of Concepcion Law school.
Translated by Professor Beatriz Larrain Martinez . University of Concepcion Law school.
 
1.General aspects: After stating that the human sciences (geisteswissenschaften) posses the rank of true sciences, Coing takes a stand regarding the philosophy of law in general, as well as with respect to certain aspects or partial elements that conform the philosophy of law. Any hypothesis or theory that is formulated regarding these elements must be treated with the same methodologies and techniques that these human sciences utilize. Among the elements that conform Coing's position, ethics plays a major role. The ethical value of justice is, to him, the basic element from where all juridical-philosophical systems begin to differ from each other. Therefore, to begin with, we will examine how this author sketches the possibility of a rational ethics.

2. Some elementary assertions regarding ethics: According to Coing, ethics is an inherent phenomenon to the human race and to human society, which possesses certain characteristics and   at the same time an independent dimension within which it operates. On the basis of the mentioned methods of the human sciences we can make a series of statements regarding ethics:

a) Ethics is a universal phenomenon. There is no human society or culture, which has not had  morals. In this sense, ethics is a primal phenomenon of man's spiritual life. According to Coing, this has been corroborated by cultural anthropologyi. Regrettably, on this point he does not indicate the sources or names of authors which support his thesis. He simply presents  it as  a generally valid and obvious statement. This void that his work presents can be filled by recurring to some of the authors that lye  in the background of his theory on ethics, authors like Nohl, Stoker, Scheler, Patzig, Bergson and especially Morris Ginsberg. In all of these authors we can find concordant opinions with the one sustained by Coing. Now, if we accept Coing's position that morality  is a universal phenomenon, an immediate doubt  arises. This relates to the content that the different universal morales have had, content which is diverse and even contradictory. An objection of this nature does not go by unattended  to by Coing. His line of argumentation in this aspect is similar to Morris Ginsberg's , and it has to do, among other things, with the rejection of ethical relativism.  Specifically he tells us "The conclusions that can be deduced from this exam of the main variations among opinions and moral feelings can now be briefly synthesized. First of all, morality is universal in the sense that everywhere we can find an implicit or explicit acknowledgement of the fact that conduct must  be regulated according to certain principles.  In second place, the content of the different moral systems varies greatly, but these variations are far from arbitrary. The acknowledgment of the fact that rules must exist in order to regulate human conduct is not enough in the sense that it does not tell us what these rules will actually be. These rules have been formed slowly and with a great amount of work and they contain judgments on what is good and bad, attributable to primary experiences of value. These judgments have been made on very many different levels of knowledge and experience. However, and in third place, our greater development is evident. Development in the sense of a greater knowledge of the laws of nature and general conditions of well being, made possible by a more ample experience regarding the necessities and capacities of the human being and of the conditions of social cooperation."ii

b) A second statement that Coing makes regarding the ethical phenomenon is that this phenomenon expresses itself in rules of conduct which contain certain ideal forms of behavior such as virtues and values, which must be respected and carried out. In this way our philosopher begins to make precisions on the issue of the content of this universal ethics. In relationship to the value content of this universal ethics, Coing makes a  philosophical classification of the ethical phenomenon from two different viewpoints. The first places emphasis on the norm itself and the second on the value contained in the norm or that the norm aspires to carry out. These two classification criteria are not incompatible, rather they tend towards the same objective and only try to characterize the phenomenon from different angles. In this way,  if we emphasize the normative aspect, ethics is conceived as a system of internal mandates, such as laws, which tell us what we must and must not do. Some examples of this conception include what Coing calls "ethics of the law", such as the biblical ten commandments, and Kant's ethics, among others. The other conception, which places emphasis on values, begins by trying to answer the question of what objectives man should pursue or what is true happiness. Beneath these questions lies the idea that  man should aspire to do good and to avoid bad. This principle, which is expressed in such general terms,  requires greater specification. With this greater specification then, we have the problem regarding  the goals and ends to which man should aspire, such as, for example, courage, diligence, etc. This conception of  ethics, that may be called ethics of  virtues or of  values, has in Aristotle one of its most typical exponents. Finally, Coing tells us that while  "ethics of the law"  is built  around a catalog of norms,  "ethics of  values"  is built around a group values.
According to our legal philosopher, an immediate way that we have of approaching  values with the purpose of apprehending them, is turning our attention to language. From the observation of the uses in the ethical language we can deduce, according to Coing,  the moral ideals of a group and the changes that they experiment. However, this is a general statement which needs  greater specification in order to be understood. Entering into the detail of this assertion, he tells us that whenever we speak of values or virtues like  justice, courage, truthfulness, etc., in the initial moment we don't associate them with rigorous and general concepts, but rather we associate  them to certain people and their acts. Only later, in a second moment, do we associate these values with a more general element: certain typical situations of life. For example, the relationship of a professor with his  students can be a typical model of fair or just behavior. With this association, a bigger grade of accuracy is introduced in the concept of  values. However,  the concept of value can still be made ampler by way of analogy. This is the case, for example, of courage,  that was linked initially only to acts of war, and which later extends to acts of civil courage. Something similar  would happen with justice and the rest of the values. However, this amplification of the concept does not go so far as to give us the possibility to always  build a general concept of every  value. On the contrary, frequently, when we want to determine their meaning with clarity we must recur to what he calls concrete and typical situations. This happens also with ethical norms.  Moral commandments are clarified with precision by recurring to specific examples, like in the case of Kant's categorical imperative or in the commandments of the new testament where parables are used.
 An important consequence that Coing extracts from the fact that values and ethical norms are related to specific situations,  is the thesis that neither a value nor a norm, considered individually, constitute a complete morale. This is because morality  is conformed, most of the time, by a cosmos of values. Moral life demands more than the execution of a single value or of a single norm. Every individual value requires another in order to be complete.  Moral life is always, truly, a synthesis of values, whether it refers to a single individual or to an entire society.
   As a consequence of the previous reflections, Coing also introduces a series of distinctions or classifications of moral values that are of the greatest importance for the global configuration of his legal philosophy. Starting from these classifications it is possible to establish a hierarchy that serves as a criteria for preferring,  in the event of conflict, among  different  values and that, at the same time, constitutes a formula that allows for the overcoming of  ethical relativism, problem that he is so concerned with. Before entering into Coing's classification of  values it is convenient  to say that  there is a difference between the classification he makes in what can be called the first version of his legal philosophy and the one elaborated in the second version. We think that there is no incompatibility among them, but  they are clearly different. As we estimate that the latter  is not only more present in his thought, but is also more fruitful, we will dedicate greater attention to it.  In the first one, contained in his work "Die obersten Grundsäge des Rechts" and in the first edition of  "Grundzúge der Rechtsphilosophie", the most important classification is the one that he makes of values dividing them into spiritual and material values (Scheler). He locates spiritual values on a higher level and states that in the event of conflict they should be preferred before material ones. Further still, he specifies that this hierarchical superiority is determined with clarity in the intellectual process of apprehension of  moral values. In his  opinion, once we have  the experience of a superior value it is impossible to give pre-eminence to an  inferior oneiii. In the second version of his legal philosophy, the classification of  values that he proposes begins by distinguishing  among those values he calls ethical values in the strict sense and those that he calls ethical values in an ample sense. On group belongs to the personal dimension, the other to that of  culture. That is why they can be called personal values and objective cultural values. Within the personal values it is possible to make a distinction among vital values (force, for example) and spiritual values (justice, for example). However, this classification is later transformed to the benefit of another that he considers more important (that he introduces in the second version of his legal philosophy) which is the one that distinguishes between "elementary or basic values" and "ideal life values ". It is this last one that our author considers and develops. He tells us that elementary values and ideal life values are a supposition of  civilized mutual behavior among men. In turn, among the elementary values it is possible to differentiate two groups: one, strictly relative to the individual personality such as diligence, self-control, honesty with oneself , etc.; and another which  facilitates human life in common, such as for example, respect for others, justice, truthfulness, etc. To the elementary values, Coing opposes the ideal life values. These  refer to the consummation of an individual life, as far as they allow the individual to reach a higher level of development in diverse fields, they are the scientific values, artistic values, etc. Now then, among both classes of values there is an essential difference. The elementary values are directed to all and they oblige everyone. On the other hand, the ideal life values depend on each individual case, according to possibilities, aptitudes, vocations, etc.  The cultural objective values, on their part, represent the product of human creation, the product itself, for example Mozart's symphony, the Prussian State , the University of Paris, etc. They can, in Coing's  opinion, influence and  guide, within  certain limits, the behavior of men but they cannot demand a specific conduct. On our part, we think that, although  the distinction between personal values and cultural objectives, is legitimate, it is also justified to state that there are many bonds and points of contact among them.  Both are expressions of  man's spiritual activity.
 
c) A  third statement that Coing makes with regard to the ethical phenomenon, is that it is cultural communities that carry and transmit norms and ethical valuesiv. Because of this,  in his  opinion, their formation is based, in the first term, on education, which would reach its goal when the one being educated assumes as his own, the ideals and norms that he is being taught in such a way that they become part of his own behavior. Further, Coing here warns us that morality demands that we act out of our own intellect, according to our own knowledge and convictions. This certainly doesn't imply that he defends the elimination of education in this area, rather he simply defends an education that is libertarian and respectful with the one being educated. Only one (education) that  facilitates and promotes a free moral behavior starting from one's own conscience, would be genuinely ethical. This way then, all superior ethics is autonomous and  the fact that man is responsible for his own actions stands out . When man commits a fault, from the ethical point of view, he commits a fault against his true humanity, against his true destination as a man. This is only reflected in his conscience, since the sanctions behind ethical commandments are internal, not external.
 
d) In the last statement of general character that our author makes in connection to ethics, he sustains that ethics, as far as being a cultural  phenomenon, possesses its own and independent dimension. It has its own substance, which is not reducible to any other element that could be considered primary. This thesis is of the greatest importance for his entire  legal philosophy  because it constitutes one of the most important foundations (if not the most important) on which he rests his theory that the value justice also possesses its own and independent dimension.
   With the purpose of demonstrating the thesis of the independence and substance of the ethical phenomenon, Coing attacks a series of doctrines which he qualifies as reductionists. These doctrines, although they vary in their arguments, have in common that they deny that a certain phenomenon, in our case ethics, possesses its own entity, but rather it is reducible to another element considered  primaryv. Among the reductionist doctrines with regards to morals, he  mentions  psychoanalysis, that sustains that morals are sublimated libido; he also mentions  utilitarianism that reduces it to an aspiration to pleasure;  Lorenz's theory, for whom  morals is a manifestation of  aggressiveness or of the contention of it for the purpose of maintaining the species; Nietzsche's philosophy, etc. Of all the doctrines that have just been named, he only dedicates some attention to Nietzche's. For this philosopher,  the current form of morality (Nietzsche is sufficiently close to us to consider him current), is Christian morality  with a strong Socratic and Platonic root. This morality is nothing short of the manifestation of resentment felt by the oppressed ones, therefore morality would be reduced to this. Apart from this, it is a degraded morality  resulting from the process of transmutation of the original values, that is to say, of the vital values that would be the authentic values. According to Nietzsche, the development of this process of transmutation of  values can be followed through the history of  language. Many of the words that now designate moral values (in the current sense pointed out by Nietzsche), in the past designated physical or corporal qualities, that is, values understood in a vital sense. To refute these reductionist theories in ethical matters, Coing, in the first place, tells us that the eventual knowledge of the historical development or of the evolution of an organ, of a feeling or of a spiritual quality, doesn't give us enough information about the essence of these realities. Coinciding with the ideas of Rudolf Otto as presented in his book on the sacredvi, he  sustains that the mentioned evolution is a condition for certain feelings or psychic processes to occur, but they are not their cause or element. In second place, an argument against these theories would also be the immediate fact, because moral feelings are there, immediately present, they exist and they act out. Therefore, reductionist  theories start off on the wrong foot when they try to explain morality by means of complicated hypothesis that cannot be demonstrated in their detail. For example, Nietzsche takes for granted the fact that the virtue of humility also expresses authentic life experiences and is not just manifestation of pure resentment. With regard to the utilitarian doctrine of Bentham, a critique  can be formulated in connection with the concept of pleasure to which he seeks to reduce morality. Indeed, he uses it in such an ample sense that in it we can fit an infinity of elements, and as a consequence of this in the end we cannot explain anything but rather darken that which it seeks to clarify. In the first edition of "Grundzüge der Rechtsphilosophie" we find a statement  (that appears in another context in the second)  relative to the reductionist theories: " Those theories succumb to a tendency that without a doubt is characteristic of all human thought, but that  often leads us to error and that is  the tendency towards  monism, to reduce to an only cause the unquiet multiplicity of phenomena " vii. In conclusion,  morality  is for our philosopher an irreductible and original element of spiritual life that possesses its own dimension and sustainability. Next, we will see that morality is also an object of study that is located inside the realm of rationality.
 
3. The answers of the human sciences (geisteswissenschaften)as instruments for affirming the rationality of ethical knowledge:
   After affirming the existence of ethics as something substantive, non-reductible to other elements, Coing goes about the task of proving that knowledge of the ethical phenomenon falls within the realm of the rational,  that propositions and ethical judgments can be analyzed and founded on a rational basis. In opposition to this theory we have extreme positivism and relativism, both of which deny this characteristic to ethical propositions or judgments. These are not objective propositions, but rather, they are only positions adopted by the person who is judging  or by the group to whom he belongs,  without any scientific foundation. For relativism, on the other hand, what happens is that once we arrive at a certain point (point up to which one can argue rationally) we must choose between values or systems of values. This choice implies an irrational decision. Coing arguments against each one of these positions separately.
   With respect to extreme positivism he reminds us of the observation that has been made regarding opposed moral judgments. These opposed moral judgments that people sustain regarding the same facts, should not be considered as contradictory, because those people may have different feelings regarding those same facts. In this way, it would be  compatible if one person says that "Leonid in  Termopiles acted well and heroically", and if another says "he acted badly and in a cowardly way". This situation  that Coing considers shocking viii at first sight, he will later consider as totally lacking any basis or foundation. On the basis of this analysis he establishes that  moral judgments do not respond to pure arbitrary feeling, but rather they have an objective foundation.  Indeed, we already know that  values have an effective existence (among them moral values as we have seen)  and that the initial form that we have of apprehending them is referring them to some certain typical situations.  We take as a model, among others, a certain behavior and based on it we elaborate a concept about the value in question, which may be more or less exact but that nonetheless gives us an objective base on which to build it.  For example, based on a certain act of physical courage that we consider a typical situation in this respect, we form a concept of courage which we never separate from this factual and concrete reference. When we later want to formulate some kind of judgment of other behavior, what we do is compare them,  measure them with the typical behavior that we have taken as reference and on the base of which we have formed the concept of  value.  This concept then is not an abstract concept, but rather a concrete one, inseparable from the factual situation.  We will see later that, for Coing, there are diverse forms of conceptualizing, not only the abstract form.  This way then, considering the comparison and measurement, the value judgment that we formulate is framed in the realm of objectivity and rationality. Of course  the example that we have used here is elementary and representative only of the initial phases of the construction of value judgments. It is only the first step, although without a doubt it is the most important one, which   is susceptible of amplification and development. "If we have a situation that is not referred to any specific value, it is possible to build it relating it to one, possibly by means of analogy. This way for example, for the cases of civil courage, we will compare and conclude that for each real life situation we need the same requirements as for the case of Leonid that we already discussed. In  this way, ethical thinking, as well as legal thinking , is developed on a case to case basis. We pass on the value judgments from one  case to another. Apart from this, we must also state that in ethical studies for the most part, the exact investigation and analysis of the facts  plays a major role.ix " Once this point is reached, point which marks the overcoming of extreme positivism, we are faced with the problem of  relativism because in order to formulate an ethical judgment, Coing tells us, the most frequent thing is that we need to consider a plurality of values, not just one. There is  the certain possibility of conflict among them, therefore we must find a way to solve that problem. We have already seen that our philosopher makes a series of classifications among  values, which sets down a basis on which  to sketch a hierarchy and a criteria for preference.  In this case, he limits himself to reminding us of the existence of it  and of the possibility of recurring to it.  But in particular, he  develops a more concrete procedure with this purpose.  He tells us that, when several values are implied and we want to formulate a judgment with respect to them, we must first establish which is the decisive value in order to clarify the situation and not to reproduce conflicts and contradictions that would invalidate it as rational judgment. The basis to solve this problem, according to Coing,  can be found in the same situation where values are present and in their concrete circumstance.  Therefore in order to solve it concretely we must appeal to experience. For example, if  somebody is left as depositary of a weapon, and he knows that the person that left the weapon wishes to commit murder with it, he has a conflict between his duty to return it (value) and his duty  to avoid the commission of a crime (value).  Here it will be the concrete case and its circumstances which will   determine the basis on which we will choose a value, since it is in real life experience where values are defined mutually. Certainly,  examples of this type can be found almost without limit. Coing finds one very suggestive example in the review that Perelman makes of the many definitions of justice that have been givenx.  Determining  which is the most appropriate, this philosopher estimates, will depend mainly on concrete circumstances. For example, if it is defined as "giving to each one according to his  necessities", in order to determine whether this is correct or not we must look at  whether there are sufficient resources to satisfy this need, etc. In this way we can see that the whole process of elaboration of value judgments is a rational process, being concreteness (and not abstraction) one of its main characteristics. Of course this rationality is not that of  subsumption which is characteristic of formal logic, but rather that of human sciences which is  justified argumentation. "This is valid for the factual side of the matter as well as for the ethical considerations. It is possible that an ethical proposition can only be initially verified intuitively, in connection with our feelings. Later  this emotional position can be controlled and  justified based on rationality. By this means ethical propositions are also included in the sphere of  rationality, as far as practical reason. Ethical value judgments, therefore, are authentic judgments. They verify that a certain behavior, according to certain values, corresponds or doesn't correspond to a valuable ideal"xi.
Now we will consider in more detail how our author refutes relativism.  Before approaching this matter, however, we want to state the way in which he approaches the problem of the existence and knowledge of  ethical values in the first edition of  "Grunzüge der Rechtsphilosophie" where the influence of Dilthey, Scheler and Hartmann is more  noticeable than in the second edition. "We arrive at ethical knowledge through reflection on the content of our moral feeling, or, in Dilthey's terms,  by means of an analysis of the moral conscience. All moral knowledge is based on  the experience of  values that take place within  our feelings and in acts of preference.  In our moral conscience we are faced with certain spiritual facts: justice, truthfulness, loyalty, etc., which we call values. They constitute an independent realm within the ideal being.  Also here it is necessary to distinguish between our own representations and feelings and the facts at which they are aimed.  Values are not mere phenomena of conscience: they are independent of the conscience that apprehends them. The analysis of the moral conscience  results in the fact that in the moral terrain we are not in the presence of a unique value, (the value goodness, for example) but rather in the presence of a multiplicity of specific and diverse moral values. To say it graphically, we will speak of the kingdom of moral values, kingdom that is presented to us in our moral feelings".xii
   Turning now to the issue of how Coing argues against relativism, we must begin by expressing that with what has been said previously only the groundwork has been set. The task is still far from complete. Although the consideration of the concrete situation allows us, on one hand, to determine the values implied in relationship to the problem that we are interested in solving and, on the other, to reduce the number of possibilities as far as  specifying  which is the main value for the formulation of a proposition of this class, reduction usually does not go all the way to the point of establishing an only value as the most important but rather only arrives at a point where we are left with some (two or more) values. We must then choose one of these values. However, it is on this point that the divergence of opinion arises among  the different relativist doctrines, some of which sustain that this choice is irrational and the other ones (among which we find Coing's theory) that sustain its rationality. To prove his statement, our philosopher finds support in the work of Morris Ginsberg, but also, to a lesser degree, in Scheler and Patzig.  We are interested therefore in presenting what Ginsberg understands by ethical relativism (or ethical relativity to use his  terminology). "Ethical relativity should mean, in the first place, that  moral value is relative with regards to the subject who affirms it or regarding the society within which it is commonly held. In both cases, the consequence is that there is no rational way of deciding among different moral judgments and individually that the distinction between true and false cannot properly be applied.  But ethical relativity is sometimes used in another very different sense, to imply that what is fair under a series of conditions can be unfair in another, or, said in another way, that to value the moral quality of an act we must take into consideration the circumstance or situation that surrounds it. Relative, in this sense, means that it must be related with the conditions and circumstances, to the subjectivity or the  mentality of the person being  judged " xiii. In our view, it is perfectly licit, and also convenient, to distinguish between these two meanings of the expression "ethical relativism" (or ethical relativity in the recently used terminology). This should not take us to the point of opposing them rigidly, which Ginsberg doesn't do, even though it should prevent us from the negative consequences of confusing the two. Further still, we think that it is possible to find in both meanings, (in our opinion) a point of complementation. This is so despite the fact that at first sight Coing's concept of ethical relativism  coincides with the first concept presented by Ginsberg, because, as we must remember, moral values for him are formed beginning from concrete typical situations. Of course Coing doesn't want to insinuate with this that between the concept of value and the respective typical situation the relationship of dependence is necessary and absolute. We have already said that Coing presents a sort of attenuated relativism, not an extreme relativism that is the one that he now tries to overcome. To go about this task he begins by stating that it is an effective truth that different valuations are carried out within the different cultures and further still within one culture in different historical times.  For example we can see, on the one hand, the different forms of valuing the man and the woman in the classical ethical system of  Islam, and, on the other, the different valuation of  sexual morality, in  western society, in Victorian times and in our times. Immediately though, he notes that the difference in moral valuations are not as great as they appear at  first glance. Differences are smaller than if ethical valuations were only a matter of individual feelings or if they were associated to a group. It is certainly important for the objectivity and rationality of  ethical propositions, and especially in order to overcome relativism, that the valuation of the same facts and of the same behaviors (also considering the problem of determining when the circumstances or situations are the same) does not present great differences. Coing tell us that the ethically correct valuations that  men make, (in spite of the differences in times and of cultures)  have a high degree of coincidence due to the following reasons:
In the first place, because we often include as ethical valuations, certain points of view that truly have nothing to do with moral issues, but rather deal with extra-ethical matters. What happens then, is that we believe that we are faced with different ethical valuations of a fact, when in reality what we have is a different appreciation or different  point of view on an extra ethical issue. This could be the case, for example, of two different scientific conceptions of the same phenomenon. Coing gives us the example of how diverse cultures have understood the phenomenon of  procreation.  Another extra ethical element that plays an important role in making it appear as if there were more numerous and deeper differences than there are among the ethical valuations that men make (and which apparently Coing only considers  as a social or cultural element) is presented by Coing based on the distinction made by Bergson between open morals (universal) and closed morals.  In agreement with Bergson, he says that respect for life and freedom, is something that,  in one way or another,  is present in all societies. However, the fact that frequently these rights are only given to members of the group,  is a typical example of closed morals that  open morals must overcome since it implies attributing to people of other groups characteristics that are notoriously false, such as ones related to their physical or psychological qualities. All high morals are always universal, Coing tells us. There is still, for Coing,  another extra ethical element that as the previous ones, plays a role in deforming moral valuations. This element is the general living conditions of a society.  For example, in a society where duel is accepted or one in which the woman occupies a certain position, different moral valuations will be made that in another where the duel  is not acceptable as a suitable challenge, or the woman occupies a different position. Based on all this he concludes that after eliminating all of these extra ethical elements, we are left with an ample  consensus ( not a total one certainly)  among ethical valuations and value judgments that are formulated in diverse times and cultures.
   A second reason  why we can state that there is actually greater coincidence than difference among  the different moral valuations, can be extracted from the classification of  values that he proposes. He says that coincidence of opinions in connection with the basic ethical values, is much greater than with regard to the ideal life values, or to the cultural objective values. This  distinction, in Coing's opinion has not been sufficiently taken into consideration. This way, for example, when Max Weber (who from a relativist position highlighted the issue of conflict among values), refers to conflict of values he usually considers cultural values, such as for example what profession to choose or whether to opt for French or German culture, etc. but he leaves out basic values, such as  justice,  which he simply does not consider.  This is a major error because this coincidence with regard to basic values is not only important in the sense that it mitigates the effects of relativism, but also because it contributes to the greater rationality and objectivity of value judgments.  In spite of all of this, ( the elimination of extra ethical elements in order to evaluate moral judgments and the distinction between basic values and those that are not basic)  an important  residue of relativism subsists, which plays against this desired objectivity and rationality of  ethical judgments. Because we will always ask ourselves questions like these:  must we opt for a fair distribution of goods, or for a free market economy?, if we choose the first alternative, won't we be postponing freedom?, is it more important to worry about personal development or to serve to the community?,  etc. It is necessary, therefore, to reduce relativism to tolerable limits since, in general, it is not possible to eliminate it completely. Further, we think that from Coing's perspective  it would not be convenient to eliminate it totally because this way we leave a certain space for liberty (given the nature of human knowledge) and for the development of science.
To reduce  relativism to these reasonable limits, Coing proposes certain rules or criteria that constitute appropriate instruments to measure the objectivity of  moral valuations.  They conform, in his opinion, the third reason why we can state that moral valuations (when they are made correctly), are not in fact as diverse as they seem. He formulates these criteria of objectivity mainly based on the work of Ginsbergxiv, and in his opinion these criteria should be the following: "a) We have seen that moral valuations are frequently closely related to the consideration of  factual circumstances. The greater or lesser  accuracy in the consideration of such factual circumstances is, consequently, a first approach for the valuation of  moral systems. b) Another approach is  the internal consequences of a moral doctrine. This doctrine cannot present internal contradictions. A contradiction of this type is given, for example, when a moral system  proclaims on one hand, the importance of man's interior value, but, on the other hand, upholds the protection of man's external honor by means of a duel. c) A third approach would be the universality of  the moral system. A superior moral system  is universal, it includes all men, giving every individual personal value. An inferior moral system is linked to a group, it considers moral bonds only within the members of the group. This distinction between "Morale ouverte" and "Moral close"  has been presented plastically by Bergson. It is clear that this approach is closely related with the first two. d) The last  point of view is obtained starting from the consideration that any ethical formation of man tends to elevate man, to a configuration of the natural being by the spirit. Liberty, in the sense of  simply letting one be, cannot be a moral principle. This already seems to be in man's biological structure. To be a man means to be subjected and coerced by norms. All conventions, all morals, all law, articulates,  channels and  subjects the corresponding tendencies. From this, two consequences are obtained:  ethics cannot forget that it must form a being of nature, nor can it forget that it must educate him as a spiritual being. According to these approaches, we will distinguish the primitive ethical cultures from  those that are developed. Because of this we do not accept, from the start,  as being correct, every  change in fact in value ".xv
With all the above mentioned, he hopes to have demonstrated the possibility of a rational ethics.  That the apprehension of  ethical values is not something that is carried out by means of the irrational feeling but rather it falls fully within rationality. Obviously, these ideas of Coing are, perfectly susceptible of being subject to critiques.  In our view , the core of this critique can be found in the problem of the validity of the methods of the human sciences in the way that he understands them. Especially as they would make formal logic inapplicable in their field. Our opinion is that neither the uselessness of formal logic, nor the utility of other methods is sufficiently demonstrated. Also, we find that he uses indiscriminately a terminology that is related to logical, epistemological, and methodological  issues, as well as to a variety of other disciplines, without introducing the appropriate distinctions to avoid confusions among them. A series of other particular critiques can also be formulated such as, for example, if those elements that he qualifies as extra-ethical are really extra ethical. This seems doubtful in many cases. Likewise, the utility of the classification of moral values in avoiding relativism seems scarce because he presents it  in an incomplete way, etc. With everything, the great merit of Coing resides in approaching in a serious, reasoned and rigorous way a topic that is recurrent in the field of ethics, of  philosophy and of the philosophy of law.
 

 
 
i - "The main task of cultural anthropology is, the study of the similarities  and  differences in behavior among  human groups, the description of the character of the diverse cultures and of the processes of stability, change and development that characterize them.  Each one of the big groups of men has elaborated a  different series of answers to the same problems that  they must all face". Article on cultural  anthropology, in "International Encyclopedia of the social sciences", p. 398, Volume 1, Spanish edition , Madrid, Editorial Aguilar, 1974.
ii  Ginsberg, Morris "On the diversities of  morals"  p. 118-119. This essay, in Spanish, is included in a collection of articles titled  "Essays on sociology and social philosophy", Madrid, Editorial Aguilar, 1961. Translation Adolfo Maillo.

iii Coing, "Fundamentals of Legal Philosophy", pg. 122, Barcelona, Ariel, 1961 (reprinted in 1976).
iv - Coing "Grundzüge der Rechtsphilosophie", p. 106, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1976
v - " Reductionism  in the absolute sense is an epistemological  theory , corresponding to a monistic ontology  that postulates the strict reduction of all the integrative levels of  reality into one level and consequently of all the sciences to one science. In a relative sense one can also maintain a limited reductionist attitude, limited to some of  the levels of reality. This type of weak reductionism  or relative reductionism  is common in the social and human sciences, and expressions of it are economicism  (to reduce all the levels of  social reality to the economic one), sociologism, psychologism, etc". Quintanilla, M.A. "Dictionary of contemporary philosophy" p. 424, ed. cit.  Even though this form of understanding reductionism  is very helpful and clarifying , the definition of Ferrater Mora seems to us more appropriate to the ideas of Coing . Ferrater Mora states that the term reduction can be used in logic, in psychology, in phenomenology, in natural science and in "a very general sense". Referring to this last one he tells us that  reduction is the act or  fact of transforming something into an object considered as previous or more  fundamental" . Ferrater Mora, José "Philosophy Dictionary", Vol. 4, p. 2801, Madrid, Editorial Alianz, 1980, second edition in Alianza Dictionaries.
vi 6. - Otto, Rudolf  "The sacred thing. the rational thing and the irrational thing in the idea of God". Madrid, Editorial Alianza, 1980, Translation: Fernando Veils.
vii Coing ,"Foundations of the philosophy of law", p. 114 op. cit.
viii The example here cited is taken by Coing from Patzig.
ix Coing ,"Grundzüge der Rechtsphilosophie", pgs. 111-112, op. cit..
x Perelman, Chaim. "On  Justice", Mexico, UNAM, 1964,  translation by  Ricardo Guerra
xi Coing "Grundzüge der Rechtsphilosophie" p. 114, ed. cit.
xii - Coing, "Foundations of the Philosophy of Law ", pg. 120, op. cit.
 
xiii Ginsberg, Morris  "On the diversity of morals", pgs. 120 and 121, ed. cit.
xiv Ginsberg, Morris, "On the diversity of  morals", pgs. 120 and 121, ed. cit.
xv - Coing, " Grundzüge der Rechtsphilosophie", pgs 118-119, ed. cit.