Paul L. Franco
Philosophical topics at the intermediate level. Content varies each quarter, depending on instructor.
Topic: Science, Values, and Objectivity. Picture science as practiced by solitary geniuses, concerned only with the facts. On this view, science is the pursuit of truth, guided by rigorous standards of experimentation and observation. But for the last half-century, a new picture of science as guided by extra-scientific values has emerged. On this view, political, economic, or cultural values might shape many areas of scientific practice. For example, climate change skeptics note that peer review is a conservative and insular process or that a lot of research money hinges on the success of certain projects. Climate change scientists respond by recalling the picture of science as a truth-seeking enterprise, noting that their results have passed rigorous standards of experimentation and observation. Given debates like the one above, we might conclude that that science is no longer objective. In this class, rather than take this easy solution, we will try to combine the old and new perspectives of science to provide a more nuanced picture of scientific objectivity that pays respect to the insights of each. We won’t directly address specific debates like the one about climate change, but instead we’ll look at more general questions about scientific objectivity: Are what scientific theories scientists develop influenced by extra-scientific values? Do social facts determine what counts as scientific truth? What do our answers mean for the claim that science aims at (and sometimes achieves) objective truth? Though, we’ll approach these questions from a mainly philosophical perspective, the texts we will consider relate these questions to real cases drawn from scientific practice. TEXT: TBA
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