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A new way to defend the value free ideal for science

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Philosophers of science debate whether a value-free ideal can or should be maintained for scientific activity. But actual scientific activity (like all organized human activity) will not easily confirm claims about how it can or should function. When faced with the task of understanding complex systems, scientists often create simplified models. We examine what happens to the debate if we recast philosophers as imaginatively simplifying scientific activity by devising models of it. Some models might focus on the influence of epistemic values by ignoring all non-epistemic values. Some might do the opposite. And such models might fruitfully be combined. Thus recast, some disagreements between philosophers evaporate, as different models explain different aspects of the same system of activity. Remaining disagreements exist, but these concern the coherence and usefulness of models, which are more fruitful sorts of disagreement. Finally, two new ways to understand the value free ideal are identified, both of which may be plausible when considered in weaker forms.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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