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The problem of inductive risk and the ethics of communication

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Philosophers of science long ago rejected the distinction between contexts of discovery and of justification. More recently, many have challenged the claim that the practice of science ought to be free of non-cognitive ethical or political values. My aim in this talk is to defend the ‘value-free ideal’ for science against one attack – the argument from inductive risk – by appeal to a distinction between different contexts of scientific activity. Specifically, I argue that close attention to the norms which ought to govern the context of scientific communication can provide second-order value-considerations in favour of a first-order value-free science. Along the way, I point to some more general lessons about the proper role of values in science and the need to distinguish different forms of communication, particularly in health and environmental contexts.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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