Science and Social Science: An Introduction

By Malcolm Williams | Go to book overview
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The interface of ethics and science presents scientists with particular difficulties because scientific knowledge, though it will have ethical impacts, does not in itself have its own ethical character. In other words scientific knowledge can transcend particular concepts of good or right. This problem is made more complex because of the specific science-society relationships that reflect or embody the character of the wider society. Scientists and citizens (and scientists as citizens) will hold a range of complex ethical positions, they will differ within and between societies and these positions will impact on the character of science. If, then, science is to have any existence other than an epiphenomenon of particular societies, it must have at least one enduring character. This I suggested is objectivity, but objectivity rendered as intersubjective agreement is inadequate because it is then hostage to a particular ethic in a time and place. My conclusion, then, amounts to support for a variant of Weberian objectivity, with the caveat that the constitutive values upon which it depends will have a contextual basis in society and this is unavoidable. Contexts, however, do not necessarily have ethical implications (in for example measurement values) and even if they did their ability to transcend any particular ethical context is itself a test of their reliability.

Suggested further reading


c
Chalmers, A. (1990) Science and its Fabrication, Buckingham: Open University Press.

m
Morley, D. (ed.) (1978) The Sensitive Scientist, London: SCM.

t
Tauber, A. (ed.) (1997) Science and the Quest for Reality, London: Macmillan.
Trigg, R. (1993) Rationality and Science: Can Science Explain Everything?, Oxford: Blackwell.

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