Illegitimate Values, Confirmation Bias, and Mandevillian Cognition in Science

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (4):1061-1081 (2021)
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In the philosophy of science, it is a common proposal that values are illegitimate in science and should be counteracted whenever they drive inquiry to the confirmation of predetermined conclusions. Drawing on recent cognitive scientific research on human reasoning and confirmation bias, I argue that this view should be rejected. Advocates of it have overlooked that values that drive inquiry to the confirmation of predetermined conclusions can contribute to the reliability of scientific inquiry at the group level even when they negatively affect an individual’s cognition. This casts doubt on the proposal that such values should always be illegitimate in science. It also suggests that advocates of that proposal assume a narrow, individualistic account of science that threatens to undermine their own project of ensuring reliable belief formation in science.

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Uwe Peters
Utrecht University


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