, Volume 191, Issue 14, pp 3271–3295 | Cite as

A new direction for science and values



The controversy over the old ideal of “value-free science” has cooled significantly over the past decade. Many philosophers of science now agree that even ethical and political values may play a substantial role in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Consequently, in the last few years, work in science and values has become more specific: Which values may influence science, and in which ways? Or, how do we distinguish illegitimate from illegitimate kinds of influence? In this paper, I argue that this problem requires philosophers of science to take a new direction. I present two case studies in the influence of values on scientific inquiry: feminist values in archaeology and commercial values in pharmaceutical research. I offer a preliminary assessment of these cases, that the influence of values was legitimate in the feminist case, but not in the pharmaceutical case. I then turn to three major approaches to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate influences of values, including the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic values and Heather Douglas’ distinction between direct and indirect roles for values. I argue that none of these three approaches gives an adequate analysis of the two cases. In the concluding section, I briefly sketch my own approach, which draws more heavily on ethics than the others, and is more promising as a solution to the current problem. This is the new direction in which I think science and values should move.


Science and values Feminism Pharmaceuticals Commercial science Relativism Epistemic values Direct and indirect roles 



Thanks to Kevin Elliott, Heather Douglas, Charles Pence, Robert Audi, Amelia Hicks, Kenny Boyce, Aaron Segal, Rachael Brown, Kerry McKenzie, and Keizo Matsurbara for comments on earlier versions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rotman Institute of PhilosophyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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