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When Do Non-Epistemic Values Play an Epistemically Illegitimate Role in Science?

Alex Reutlinger
Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 3:45 pm – 5:10 pm

In current philosophy of science, the value-free ideal has been
rejected, i.e. the view that scientific knowledge should avoid appeal to
non-epistemic (e.g. political, moral, and economic) values and
interests. This ideal has been replaced by a new received view:
non-epistemic values may play a legitimate role in science. The new
received view has been supported by different arguments referring to the
role of non-epistemic values in determining the research agenda, in
evaluating inductive risks at various stages of scientific research, in
thick concepts used in science, in drawing the distinction between
foreground causes and background conditions, and so on.

However, even if there is a legitimate role for values (as the
proponents of the new received view hold), there also seem to be cases
in which values clearly play an epistemically illegitimate role. Hence,
the Gretchenfrage of the current science and values debate - and my main
question - is this: What makes the role of a non-epistemic value in
science epistemically illegitimate?

I will argue for an account according to which the role of a value is
epistemically illegitime if being motivated by this value explains
certain epistemic errors. I will use examples of strategic science
skepticism to illustrate and support my approach.