Private Epistemic Virtue, Public Vices: Moral Responsibility in the Policy Sciences
In this chapter we address what we call “The-Everybody-Did-It” (TEDI) Syndrome, a symptom for collective negligence. Our main thesis is that the character of scientific communities can be evaluated morally and be found wanting in terms of moral responsibility. Even an epistemically successful scientific community can be morally responsible for consequences that were unforeseen by it and its members and that follow from policy advice given by its individual members. We motivate our account by a critical discussion of a recent proposal by Heather Douglas. We offer three, related criticisms of Douglas’s account. First, she assumes that scientific fields are communicative communities. Second, in a system where the scientific community autonomously sets standards, there is a danger of self-affirming reasoning. Third, she ignores that the character of a scientific community is subject to moral evaluation. We argue that these omissions in Douglas’s theory leave it with no adequate response to TEDI Syndrome. Moreover, we deny that science ought to be characterized by unanimity of belief among its competent practitioners, this leads easily to the vices of close-mindedness and expert-overconfidence. If a scientific community wishes to avoid these vices it should create conditions for an active pluralism when it and its members aspire to the position of rational policy decision-making.
KeywordsScientific Community Moral Responsibility Policy Scientist Reasonable Person Policy Advice
We are grateful to M. Ali Khan, David Levy, Neil Levy, Roger Koppl, and Frank Zenker for very helpful suggestions. We are especially grateful for the generous feedback by Heather Douglas. We also thank audiences at Lund, New York University, George Mason University, and Bayreuth for very helpful comments. The usual caveats apply.
- Anderson, Elizabeth. 2011. Feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2011/entries/feminism-epistemology/.
- Batens, D. 1974. Rationality and justification. Philosophica 14: 83–103.Google Scholar
- Batens, D. 2004. Menselijke Kennis: Pleidooi voor een Bruikbare Rationaliteit, 2nd ed. Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant.Google Scholar
- Bernstein, A. 2001. Restatement (third) of torts: General principles and the prescription of masculine order. Vanderbilt Law Review 54(3): 1367–1411.Google Scholar
- Boettke, P.J., P.T. Leeson, and C.J. Coyne. 2010. Contra-Whig history of economic ideas and the problem of the endogenous past. GMU Working Paper in Economics, No. 10-31. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1686134.
- Bridgman, P.W. 1947. Scientists and social responsibility. Scientific Monthly 65: 48–154.Google Scholar
- de Jong, Jasper, Mark Roscam Abbing, and Johan Verbruggen. 2010. Voorspellen in crisistijd: De CPB-ramingen tijdens de Grote Recessie. CPB Document No 207. http://www.cpb.nl/sites/default/files/publicaties/download/voorspellen-crisistijd-de-cpb-ramingen-tijdens-degrote-recessie.pdf. Accessed on 17 May 2011.
- De Langhe, R. 2009. Why should I adopt pluralism. In Economic pluralism, ed. R. Garnett, E. Olsen, and M. Starr, 87–98. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- De Mey, T. Forthcoming. Human, all too human. In Proceedings of logic reasoning and rationality.Google Scholar
- Douglas, H. 2009. Science, policy and the value-free ideal. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
- Düppe, T., and E.R. Weintraub. 2013. Finding equilibrium. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Emmett, R. 2009. Frank Knight and the Chicago school in American economics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Feinberg, J. 1970. Doing and deserving. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Greenawalt, K. 1992. Law and objectivity. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Hacking, I. 1992. The self-vindication of laboratory sciences. In Science as practice and culture, ed. A. Pickering. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Harberger, A.C. 1971. Three basic postulates for applied welfare economics: An interpretive essay. Journal of Economic Literature 9(3): 785–797.Google Scholar
- Hetcher, S. 2001. Non-utilitarian negligence norms and the reasonable person standard. Vanderbilt Law Review 54(3): 863–892.Google Scholar
- Holmes, O.W. 1881. The common law. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
- Honoré, T. 1988. Responsibility and luck. The Law Quarterly Review 104: 530–553.Google Scholar
- Keynes, John Maynard. 1921. Treatise on probability. London: Macmillan & Co.Google Scholar
- Khan, M.A. 1992a. On measuring the social opportunity cost of labour in the presence of tariffs and an informal sector. The Pakistan Development Review 31(4 I): 535–564.Google Scholar
- Khan, M.A. 1992b. Comments on Professor Summers. The Pakistan Development Review 31: 394–400.Google Scholar
- Khan, M.A. 1993. On education as a commodity. The Pakistan Development Review 32: 541–579.Google Scholar
- Kitcher, Philip. 2001. Science, truth, and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Knight, Frank H. 1921. Risk, uncertainty, and profit. Boston: Hart, Schaffner and Marx/Houghton Mifflin Co.Google Scholar
- Levy, David M., and Sandra J. Peart. 2008. Analytical egalitarianism. American Journal of Economics and Sociology 67(3): 473–479. Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
- McIntyre, A. 2011. Doctrine of double effect. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, Fall 2011 ed, ed. Edward N. Zalta. URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/double-effect/.
- Nersessian, N. 2008. Creating scientific concepts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Scalet, S. 2003. Fitting the people they are meant to serve: Reasonable persons in the American legal system. Law and Philosophy 22: 75–110.Google Scholar
- Schliesser, Eric. 2009. Prophecy, eclipses and whole-sale markets: A case study on why data driven economic history requires history of economics, a philosopher's reflection. Jarhrbuch für Wirthschaftsgeschichte 50(1): 195–208.Google Scholar
- Stigler, G.J. 1975. The citizen and the State: Essays on regulation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Tullock, G. 2005. The selected works of Gordon Tullock, The organization of inquiry, vol. 3. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
- Van Bouwel, J. 2005. Towards a framework for the pluralisms in economics. Post-Autistic Economics Review 30: art.3.Google Scholar
- Van Bouwel, Jeroen. 2015. Towards democratic models of sciennce: Exploring the case of scientific pluralism. Philosophy and Religion (in press).Google Scholar
- Votsis, I. 2011. Structural realism: Continuity and its limits. In Scientific structuralism, ed. P. Bokulich and A. Bokulich. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar