Science, Values, and the Priority of Evidence

Logos and Episteme 9 (4):413-431 (2018)
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Abstract

It is now commonly held that values play a role in scientific judgment, but many arguments for that conclusion are limited. First, many arguments do not show that values are, strictly speaking, indispensable. The role of values could in principle be filled by a random or arbitrary decision. Second, many arguments concern scientific theories and concepts which have obvious practical consequences, thus suggesting or at least leaving open the possibility that abstruse sciences without such a connection could be value-free. Third, many arguments concern the role values play in inferring from evidence, thus taking evidence as given. This paper argues that these limitations do not hold in general. There are values involved in every scientific judgment. They cannot even conceivably be replaced by a coin toss, they arise as much for exotic as for practical sciences, and they are at issue as much for observation as for explicit inference.

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P. D. Magnus
State University of New York, Albany

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