Ontological Choices and the Value-Free Ideal

Erkenntnis (6):1-20 (2015)
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Abstract

The aim of this article is to argue that ontological choices in scientific practice undermine common formulations of the value-free ideal in science. First, I argue that the truth values of scientific statements depend on ontological choices. For example, statements about entities such as species, race, memory, intelligence, depression, or obesity are true or false relative to the choice of a biological, psychological, or medical ontology. Second, I show that ontological choices often depend on non-epistemic values. On the basis of these premises, I argue that it is often neither possible nor desirable to evaluate scientific statements independently of non-epistemic values. Finally, I suggest that considerations of ontological choices do not only challenge the value-free ideal but also help to specify positive roles of non-epistemic values in an often neglected area of scientific practice

Author's Profile

David Ludwig
Wageningen University and Research

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