EPSA11 Perspectives and Foundational Problems in Philosophy of Science

Volume 2 of the series The European Philosophy of Science Association Proceedings pp 479-491


The Democratic Control of the Scientific Control of Politics

  • Matthew J. BrownAffiliated withCenter for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology, The University of Texas at Dallas Email author 

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I discuss two popular but apparently contradictory theses:
  1. T1.

    The democratic control of science – the aims and activities of science should be subject to public scrutiny via democratic processes of representation and participation.

  2. T2.

    The scientific control of policy, i.e. technocracy – political processes should be problem-solving pursuits determined by the methods and results of science and technology.


Many arguments can be given for (T1), both epistemic and moral/political; I will focus on an argument based on the role of non-epistemic values in policy-relevant science. I will argue that we must accept (T2) as a result of an appraisal of the nature of contemporary political problems. Technocratic systems, however, are subject to serious moral and political objections; these difficulties are sufficiently mitigated by (T1). I will set out a framework in which (T1) and (T2) can be consistently and compellingly combined.