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79. Values in Science


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science, value

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00082.x


A century ago, nearly all of those who wrote about the nature of science would have been in agreement that science ought to be “value-free.” This had been a particular emphasis on the part of the first positivists, as it would later be on the part of their twentieth-century successors. Science, so it was said, deals with facts , and facts and values are irreducibly distinct. Facts are objective; they are what we seek in our knowledge of the world. Values are subjective; they bear the mark of human interest; they are the radically individual products of feeling and desire. Fact and value cannot, therefore, mix. Value cannot be inferred from fact; fact ought not be influenced by value. There were philosophers, notably some in the Kantian tradition, who viewed the relation of the human individual to the universalist aspirations of science rather differently. But the legacy of three centuries of largely empiricist reflection on the “new” sciences ushered in by Galileo and his successors was as unqualified in its distrust of value as in its extolling of the virtues of fact (see galileo ). A century later, the maxim that scientific knowledge is “value-laden” seems almost as entrenched as its opposite was earlier. The supposed wall between fact and value has been breached, and philosophers of science seem quite at home with the thought that science and values may be closely intertwined ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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