A new direction for science and values

Synthese 191 (14):3271-95 (2014)
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Abstract

The controversy over the old ideal of “value-free science” has cooled significantly over the past decade. Many philosophers of science now agree that even ethical and political values may play a substantial role in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Consequently, in the last few years, work in science and values has become more specific: Which values may influence science, and in which ways? Or, how do we distinguish illegitimate from illegitimate kinds of influence? In this paper, I argue that this problem requires philosophers of science to take a new direction. I present two case studies in the influence of values on scientific inquiry: feminist values in archaeology and commercial values in pharmaceutical research. I offer a preliminary assessment of these cases, that the influence of values was legitimate in the feminist case, but not in the pharmaceutical case. I then turn to three major approaches to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate influences of values, including the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic values and Heather Douglas’ distinction between direct and indirect roles for values. I argue that none of these three approaches gives an adequate analysis of the two cases. In the concluding section, I briefly sketch my own approach, which draws more heavily on ethics than the others, and is more promising as a solution to the current problem. This is the new direction in which I think science and values should move.

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