Professor Palmer delivered the first of the series of William Belden Noble lectures in Phillips Brooks House last night, his subject being "Ethics and the Descriptive Sciences." He prefaced his address with a sketch of the life of William Noble. He graduated from Harvard in 1885 and then entered the Divinity School. During his student days and later he was harassed by sickness, and he died before his life work had fairly begun. Such a course of lectures as this was thought to be the best means of giving expression to his aims and ideals.
In a division of the universe the fundamental distinction is between things conscious and unconscious. From this division we have physical sciences and philosophical sciences. To this latter class belongs ethics, which deals with a conscious being in his conscious moods, but which finally narrows itself to treat of those of his actions, where ideals are paramount and where facts must be made to correspond. The distinction between the descriptive sciences and ethics is well shown by calling them the natural and the moral sciences respectively. The moral sciences can not be described by the "Verb "is"; "ought" expresses them effectively. Ethical problems can not be solved by an appeal to physical, psychological, or historical facts. At the same time it is true that the moral sciences without the facts of the descriptive as a basis are empty; the descriptive without the ideals of the normative are undistinguishable.