Foundations of Science 24 (2):247-273 (2019)

Ricardo Crespo
Universidad Nacional de Cuyo
The ‘value-free ideal’ has been called into question for several reasons. It does not include “epistemic values”—viewed as characteristic of ‘good science’—and rejects the so-called ‘contextual’, ‘non-cognitive’ or ‘non-epistemic’ values—all of them personal, moral, or political values. This paper analyzes a possible complementary argument about the dubitable validity of the value-free ideal, specifically focusing on social sciences, with a two-fold strategy. First, it will consider that values are natural facts in a broad or ‘liberal naturalist’ sense and, thus, a legitimate part of those sciences. Second, the paper will not reject the value-free ideal; rather, it will construe this ideal in a special way, not casting values aside in sciences, but bringing them to the table and rationally discussing them. Today’s predominant naturalistic view has tended to ‘naturalize’ values by looking for physicalist explanations for them—a move resisted by defenders of normativism in social sciences. At the same time, a contending ‘liberal naturalist’ stream has emerged, claiming that not all natural entities can be explained by the methods and concepts of physical sciences, and favors a non-materialist naturalism which includes mind, consciousness, meaning and value as fundamental parts of nature that cannot be reduced to matter. Hence, it may be posited that non-epistemic values could be ‘naturally’ included in the field of human sciences.
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DOI 10.1007/s10699-018-9565-z
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