Utrecht, Netherlands

Science and Values: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives

when 25 July 2022 - 29 July 2022
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 250

What are the values that drive scientific knowledge production? What is the value of science in society? What are the values that give scientific knowledge legitimacy and authority? This summer school focuses on the role of values in and of science and their relevance in past and present scientific investigations and debates. While epistemic and non-epistemic values often are implicit to our knowledge production practices, they play a fundamental role in defining our understandings of what counts as science, as pseudoscience, or non-science. In addition, they contribute to how we draw disciplinary boundaries, and address complex issues of societal relevance. By taking a perspective of integrated history and philosophy of science, this summer school will introduce you to the main philosophical debates on epistemic and non-epistemic scientific values in different historical contexts. You will develop a critical understanding of the various roles that values play in scientists’ knowledge production as well as the analytical skills and historical sensibility that will enable you to analyze past and present value-driven scientific debates. This summer school is co-organized by members of the Department of Philosophy I at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany and the Freudenthal Institute at Utrecht University.

By taking current problems and challenges such as the climate crisis, sustainability issues, and the coronavirus crisis as case studies, the summer school addresses three general topics:

Science, pseudoscience, and non-science
Scientific knowledge, scientific institutions and scientists are often at the center of public critique. These critiques range from genuine concerns coming from various societal actors to anti-intellectualism and ‘alternative facts’. In this situation, science (again) faces the necessity to reflect on its values, in order to understand due to which epistemic and non-epistemic values it (should) conduct and communicate research and thus learn how to secure its integrity and separate itself from other kinds of knowledge productions or public opinions. This includes reflecting on the value (and duties) of science in society in contrast to other knowledge systems.

Today, interdisciplinarity is often taken to be a virtue in itself or, in some general way, to allow for better or more complete knowledge about complex issues through scientific pluralism. Philosophers have less often explored the exact values that make interdisciplinarity desirable and possible. In order to avoid that ‘interdisciplinarity’ turns into an empty label, such reflection is strongly needed. We will discuss criteria of epistemic pluralism as well as differences (and similarities) in explanatory standards across disciplinary boundaries. We will also pay attention to epistemic injustice problems especially in transdisciplinary science and the authority of different ‘knowers’ involved in epistemic practices. Moreover, we will reflect on whether interdisciplinarity is a value in itself in face of global challenges that are orthogonal to traditional disciplinary boundaries of science.

Complexity and uncertainty
In a world that seemingly gets more complicated by the minute and in which science is addressing more and more complex phenomena, traditional values like simplicity and predictive power of scientific explanations becomes problematic. In face of this challenge, we ask, among others, whether science needs new value systems for Big-Data approaches and for addressing complex global challenges. We discuss how in past and present investigations of complex phenomena, phases of doubt and uncertainty originate, and whether uncertainty should be considered less a vice and more an epistemic virtue that can drive scientific enterprises. We will also analyze the consequences of different approaches to uncertainty and complexity in society at large.

Course leader

Abigail Nieves Delgado (Utrecht University), Jan Baedke (Ruhr University Bochum)

Target group

- Advance bachelor students
- Master students of history and philosophy of science, philosophy of science, history of science and related programs
- Early PhD students

Fee info

EUR 250: Course fee