Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"The Status of the Fact-Value Distinction in the Teleological Sciences," talk by Jack Justus

Jack will be speaking in the Refectory, Wed 10 March, 3.30 - 5.00 pm.

Unlike descriptive sciences that are principally concerned with discovering, describing, and explaining phenomena, environmental sciences pursue more immediate goals, such as providing scientific bases for the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources. What distinguishes sciences of this kind from descriptive science is their emphasis on achieving non-epistemic objectives humans consider valuable. They can be labeled ‘teleological’ for this reason. Recent analyses have suggested teleological sciences are value-laden in a strong sense: attempts to demarcate the function of facts and values within them are misguided and obscure rather than illuminate their structure. In fact, the claim that values inextricably permeate teleological sciences has recently been taken to challenge the view that a “gap” exists between facts and values, the gap widely believed to explain why, for example, determining what agents should do is distinct from studying what they actually do and why they do it. These claims are overstated. Teleological sciences are better conceptualized as having a conditional form where stipulated goals reflecting ethical values set much of their general structure and methodologies, but in which this influence can be demarcated from the factual status of claims made within them. The conditional nature of teleological sciences makes this demarcation possible, and helps clarify the function of values in science in general.

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