Is Science Value Free? Values and Scientific Understanding

Is Science Value Free? Values and Scientific Understanding

Is Science Value Free? Values and Scientific Understanding

Is Science Value Free? Values and Scientific Understanding

Synopsis

Exploring the role of values in scientific inquiry, Hugh Lacey examines the nature and meaning of values, and looks at challenges to the view, posed by postmodernists, feminists, radical ecologists, Third-World advocates and religious fundamentalists, that science is value free. He also focuses on discussions of 'development', especially in Third World countries. This paperback edition includes a new preface.

Excerpt

This book aims to explicate and appraise the view that science is value free: making a contribution both to analytical philosophy of science and (more speculatively) to substantive moral reflection on the place of science in contemporary society. Regarding the latter, I have discussed how science and values interact, keeping an eye toward discussions of "development," and the place of science in it, that are taking place in many "third-world" countries.

Only in passing (and through the intermediary of interlocutors whom I identify in the text) do I interact with other philosophical perspectives that discuss the interaction of values and scientific understanding, namely: critical theory, phenomenology, post-structuralism, pragmatism and social studies of science. This reflects my personal biography, not a judgment that important insights into the issues cannot be obtained from these perspectives. I hope that the readers of the book will bring my arguments into interaction with theirs.

In order to focus on my chosen themes-scientific understanding, values, and the relations between them-I have inevitably had to short-change others, concerning which of mine have presuppositions and implications. Thus, for example, I have skipped over issues about the nature of scientific theories and about how to interpret them (realism, empiricism, constructivism); and about whether scientific knowledge should be regarded as the possession of individuals or groups of individuals as social or as belonging to an abstract domain. While my arguments are intended to be independent of where one stands on the issues I do not discuss, I have not been able to develop an idiom that is completely neutral with respect to them. Throughout the book, I have used a realist idiom, and, except when explicitly noted, I discuss the objectives of science in broadly realist terms. My intention is not so much to endorse realist interpretations of science, as to show that, even with realist interpretations, which are usually bearers of the idea of science as value free, important

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