SP22 PHIL496/596

Special Topics: Values in Science (PHIL496/596)
Dr. Alysha Kassam
Tuesdays & Thursdays  ·  2:00pm–3:15pm  ·  LA1–312

Scientific practice has long portrayed itself as objective, in the sense that it is guided by epistemic values that are independent of ethical, social and political thought. The worry scientists have long had is that moral or political reasoning undermines science, as it contaminates the search for truth with social, political and ethical priorities and motives. However, there are many ways in which science is responsible to society, as the fruits of science are often used in value-laden settings. For instance, consider how science bears on the distribution of resources, or the evaluation of risks, or how it shapes the material conditions of our lives. When one considers this more seriously, a clear separation between science and social concerns starts to seem less plausible. For this reason, feminist philosophers of science have criticized the value-free ideal, pointing out that non-epistemic values (i.e., social, political, ethical values) are not only unavoidable, but also often critical to proper scientific reasoning. Grappling with the notion that non-epistemic values play an important role in scientific reasoning, philosophers have asked themselves: when and how do non-epistemic values serve a permissible role? In this course, we will survey the various responses to this question in the philosophical literature. Additionally, this course will connect the philosophical literature with existing scientific techniques in the hope of illuminating the ethical obligations scientists have to society at large. 

[PHIL496/596: Special Topics in Values and Evaluation may be repeated for up to 6 units with a change in topic.]