Epistemic Values in Science
Iranzo (Valeriano)
Source: Sorites 1, April 1995; 81-95
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

    |The paper is a critical examination of some aspects of Laudan’s views in his book Science and Values. Not only do the aims of science change; there are axiological disputes in science as well. Scientific disagreements are not solely theoretical or methodological. Progress in science consists not only in developing new theories more suitable for implementing certain epistemic values than earlier ones but also in reaching a deeper understanding of those values. The paper considers whether there are principles to guide axiological choices in science, whether the task of assessing the legitimacy of goals makes any sense. Larry Laudan’s criteria to settle questions concerning the aims of science are critically canvassed. According to Laudan, axiological choices are on the same footing as the theoretical and methodological ones: all of them may be objectively grounded. The generality of the principles and their naturalistic flavour are the most remarkable merits of Laudan’s account but the results are rather meagre. His principle of coherence may be, in the end, a mere a posteriori justification of changes in axiological direction carried out by the scientific community. The rejection of a demonstrable utopian goal, granting naturalistic assumptions, is completely sound but it has a very limited scope. The paper suggests that science could not demonstrate much about goals. From the rejection of semantic utopianism we can draw a need for a previous clarification rather than substantive criticisms and, finally, Laudan’s charge of epistemic utopianism is very controversial.


Filed electronically with the full edition of Sorites 01

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