The Backside of Nowhere (Freedom Trilogy Book 1)

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Not every philosopher entertains the same list of epistemic values. In Lycan's pragmatic perspective, simplicity is included because it reduces the cognitive workload of the scientific practitioner, and because it facilitates the use of scientific theories in dealing with real-world problems.

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McMullin , on the other hand, does not include simplicity because the notion is ambiguous, and because there are no conclusive arguments that simpler theories are more likely to be true, or empirically adequate. Subjective differences in ranking and applying epistemic values do not vanish, a point Kuhn made emphatically.

In most views, the objectivity and authority of science is not threatened by epistemic, but only by contextual non-cognitive values. Contextual values are moral, personal, social, political and cultural values such as pleasure, justice and equality, conservation of the natural environment and diversity. The most notorious cases of improper uses of such values involve travesties of scientific reasoning, where the intrusion of contextual values led to an intolerant and oppressive scientific agenda with devastating epistemic and social consequences.

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In the Third Reich, a large part of contemporary physics, such as the theory of relativity, was condemned because its inventors were Jewish; in the Soviet Union, biologist Nikolai Vavilov was sentenced to death and died in prison because his theories of genetic inheritance did not match Marxist-Leninist ideology. Less spectacular but numerically more significant cases analyzed by feminist philosophers of science involve gender or racial bias in biological theories e.

Moreover, a lot of industry-sponsored research in medicine and elsewhere is demonstrably biased toward the interests of the sponsors, usually large pharmaceutic firms e. This preference bias , defined by Wilholt as the infringement of conventional standards of the research community, with the aim of arriving at a particular result, is clearly epistemically harmful. Especially for sensitive high-stakes issues such as the admission of medical drugs or the consequences of anthropogenic global warming, it seems desirable that research scientists assess theories without being influenced by such considerations.

This is the core idea of the. Value-Free Ideal VFI : Scientists should strive to minimize the influence of contextual values on scientific reasoning, e.

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According to the VFI, scientific objectivity is characterized by absence of contextual values and by exclusive commitment to epistemic values in scientific reasoning. See Dorato 53—54 , Ruphy or Biddle for alternative formulations. While this latter thesis is defended less frequently than the VFI, it serves as a useful foil for discussing its attainability. Note that the VNT is not normative: it only investigates whether the judgments that scientists make are, or could possibly be, free of contextual values.

The VNT is denied by the value-laden thesis, which asserts that contextual values are essential for scientific research. The latter thesis is sometimes strengthened to the claim that both epistemic and contextual values are essential to scientific research—and pursuit of a science without contextual values would be harmful both epistemically and socially see section 3.

Either way, the acceptance of the value-laden thesis poses a challenge for re-defining scientific objectivity: one can either conclude that the ideal of objectivity is harmful and should be rejected as Feyerabend does , or one can come up with a different and refined conception of objectivity as Douglas and Longino do. This section discusses the VNT as applied to the assessment and acceptance of scientific hypothesis, the role of the VFI at the interface between scientific reasoning and policy advice, and Paul Feyerabend's radical attack on the VNT.

Regarding the assessment of scientific theories, the VNT is a relatively recent position in philosophy of science. Its rise is closely connected to Reichenbach's famous distinction between context of discovery and context of justification. Reichenbach first made this distinction with respect to the epistemology of mathematics:.

Reichenbach 36— The standard interpretation of this statement marks contextual values, which may have contributed to the discovery of a theory, as irrelevant for justifying the acceptance of a theory, and for assessing how evidence bears on theory—the relation that is crucial for the objectivity of science. Contextual values are restricted to a matter of individual psychology that may influence the discovery, development and proliferation of a scientific theory, but not its epistemic status.

This distinction played a crucial role in post-World War II philosophy of science. It presupposes, however, a clear-cut distinction between epistemic values on the one hand and contextual values on the other.

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While this may be prima facie plausible for disciplines such as physics, there is an abundance of contextual values in the social sciences, for instance, in the conceptualization and measurement of a nation's wealth, or in different ways to measure the inflation rate cf. More generally, three major lines of criticism can be identified. According to her, the use of epistemic values in scientific judgments is not always, not even normally, politically neutral.

She proposes to juxtapose these values with feminist values such as novelty, ontological heterogeneity, mutuality of interaction, applicability to human needs and diffusion of power, and argues that the use of the traditional value instead of its alternative e. Longino's argument here is different from the one discussed in section 3. It casts the very distinction between epistemic and contextual values into doubt.

The use of language in descriptions of scientific hypotheses and results poses a second challenge to VNT. It has descriptive content. But it also expresses our moral disapproval of Susan's behavior. To call someone cruel is to reprehend him or her. The term has therefore also normative content. Thick ethical terms are terms that, like cruel, have a mixed descriptive and normative content. Putnam argues at some length that a the normative content of thick ethical terms is ineliminable; and b thick ethical concepts cannot be factored into descriptive and normative components.

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Neither of these arguments would, if successful, necessarily cause concern for a defender of the VNT. The existence of terms in which facts and values are inextricably entangled does not pose a threat to scientists who wish to describe their hypotheses and results in a value-free manner: they could simply avoid using thick ethical terms. The crucial question is therefore whether or not scientific hypotheses and the description of results necessarily involves such terms. While it will often be possible to translate ethically thick descriptions into neutral ones, the translation cannot be made without losses, and these losses obtain precisely because human interests are involved.

Whether electrons have a positive or a negative charge and whether there is a black hole in the middle of our galaxy are questions of absolutely no immediate importance to us. The only human interests they touch and these they may indeed touch deeply are cognitive ones, and so the only values that they implicate are cognitive values. We now discuss Rudner's argument in some detail. This assumption stems from the practice of industrial quality control and other application-oriented research.

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In such contexts, it is often necessary to accept or to reject a hypothesis e. Second, he notes that no scientific hypothesis is ever confirmed beyond reasonable doubt—some probability of error always remains. When we accept or reject a hypothesis, there is always a chance that our decision is mistaken.

This corresponds to type I and type II error in statistical inference.

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Hence, ethical judgments and contextual values enter the scientist's core activity of accepting and rejecting hypotheses, and the VNT stands refuted. Closely related arguments can be found in Churchman and Braithwaite Hempel 91—92 gives a modified account of Rudner's argument by distinguishing between judgments of confirmation , which are free of contextual values, and judgments of acceptance. Contextual values influence scientific methods by determining the acceptable amount of inductive risk.

But how general are Rudner's findings? Apparently, the result holds true of applied science , but not necessarily of fundamental research. For instance, Richard Jeffrey notes that lawlike hypotheses in theoretical science e. Obviously, a scientist cannot fine-tune her decisions to their possible consequences in a wide variety of different contexts. So she should just refrain at all from the essentially pragmatic decision to accept or reject a hypothesis and restrict herself to gathering and interpreting the evidence. This objection was foreshadowed by the statistician, methodologist and geneticist Ronald A. Fisher 25—26, our emphasis. Levi observes that scientists commit themselves to certain standards of inference when they become a member of the profession. Value judgments may be implicit in the standards of scientific inference, but not in the daily work of an individual scientist. Such conventional standards are especially prolific in theoretical research where it does not make sense to specify application-oriented utilities of accepting or rejecting a hypothesis cf.

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Wilholt The VNT, and the idea of scientific objectivity as value freedom, could then be saved for the case of individual scientific reasoning. Both defenses of the VNT focus on the impact of values in theory choice, either by denying that scientists actually choose theories Jeffrey , or by referring to community standards Levi. Many decisions in the process of scientific inquiry may conceal implicit value judgments: the design of an experiment, the methodology for conducting it, the characterization of the data, the choice of a statistical method for processing and analyzing data, the interpretational process findings, etc.

None of these methodological decisions could be made without consideration of the possible consequences that could occur.