Straightening the ‘value-laden turn’: minimising the influence of extra-scientific values in science

Synthese 203 (20):1-38 (2024)
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Straightening the current ‘value-laden turn’ (VLT) in the philosophical literature on values in science, and reviving the legacy of the value-free ideal of science (VFI), this paper argues that the influence of extra-scientific values should be minimised—not excluded—in the core phase of scientific inquiry where claims are accepted or rejected. Noting that the original arguments for the VFI (ensuring the truth of scientific knowledge, respecting the autonomy of science results users, preserving public trust in science) have not been satisfactorily addressed by proponents of the VLT, it proposes four prerequisites which any model for values in the acceptance/rejection phase of scientific inquiry should respect, coming from the fundamental requirement to distinguish between facts and values: (1) the truth of scientific knowledge must be ensured; (2) the uncertainties associated with scientific claims must be stated clearly; (3) claims accepted into the scientific corpus must be distinguished from claims taken as a basis for action. An additional prerequisite of (4) simplicity and systematicity is desirable, if the model is to be applicable. Methodological documents from international institutions and regulation agencies are used to illustrate the prerequisites. A model combining Betz’s conception (stating uncertainties associated with scientific claims) and Hansson’s corpus model (ensuring the truth of the scientific corpus and distinguishing it from other claims taken as a basis for action) is proposed. Additional prerequisites are finally suggested for future research, stemming from the requirement for philosophy of science to self-reflect on its own values: (5) any model for values in science must be descriptively and normatively relevant; and (6) its consequences must be thoroughly assessed.

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Philippe Stamenkovic
Uppsala University


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