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Bias and Belief Part 4: Rationality and Science

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 1 month ago

Rationality and Science


Up: Book Index



  • Concepts of Rationality
  • Making the Distinction in Practice
  • Constrained Assertion and the Character of Science
  • Other Demarcation Criteria
  • How Many Epistemic Utilities Are There?
  • Is Bias Essential to Science? The Value Neutrality Thesis




  • Scientific rationality can be defined in terms of the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic motivation. The scientific rationality invoked here is not the same as the basic rationality assumed in intentional explanation. It is also a separate concept from that of instrumental rationality, although as defined here scientific rationality is just instrumental rationality with respect to epistemic goals.


  • As an argument that science should be so defined, we can consider the distinguishing properties that epistemically motivated agents would have, as opposed to the properties of non-epistemically motivated agents. We see that the resulting distinction is a good match for existing informal and philosophical distinctions between science and pseudo-science.


  • From a premise of implicit assertion (that the assertion of a proposition can involve the assertion of what is collectively seen to be a consequence) and a premise that assertion is constrained (i.e. that some combinations of assertions are not possible) it follows that a purely epistemically motivated agent can prefer to accept meaningless or even falsified statements. Therefore the fact that scientists accept general laws, purely theoretical statements and theories with known falsifying instances is not an argument against, and could even be an argument for, the claim that scientists are interested purely in informative truth.


  • Some suggested epistemic values can be reduced to the value of informative truth using arguments from inductive logic. However, these arguments depend on analysing that property of theories in terms of probability. This is a non-trivial task and one may well disagree with a particular probabilistic analysis.


  • Some philosophers argue that science is not necessarily improved by being freed of value bias. However, the features that these arguments present as necessary for science (diversity of opinion and diversity of actively pursued inquiries) could still exist even in the absence of value bias.


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