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Values in Science


Admission requirements

  • Students in the BA programme Wijsbegeerte: first year BA has been successfully completed, as well as the second-year course Wetenschapsfilosofie.

  • Prerequisites for students from other departments (including contractstudenten): first year BA has been successfully completed as well as the BA course Wetenschapsfilosofie or an equivalent course offered by another university.

This course has a limited number of places available for students from other departments.


Traditional philosophical accounts of science drew a distinction between values of two categories: epistemic values, which were internal to scientific inquiry and included the values of accuracy, consistency, and the like, and social values, which were external to science and included broader political and social values. On a traditional account, scientific objectivity depended on allowing only epistemic values to influence the conduct of inquiry: this is what the phrase “value-free science” was taken to mean.

In recent decades, this traditional account has been questioned from various angles: careful analysis of inductive inference, feminist and other critical approaches in philosophy of science, and a changing view of the relation between science and society.

This course examines recent debates about the place of values in science and their implications for scientific objectivity and the social roles of science.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • recent debates about the place of values in science;

  • normative aspects of scientific practice, the various distinctions between epistemic and social values that have been proposed, and the nature of scientific objectivity.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • give a critical discussion of recent debates in philosophy of science about values in science;

  • formulate a reasoned view about the place of values in science and justify it against criticism;

  • analyze the relationship between values and objectivity in science;

  • present their ideas orally (in a class presentation and discussion) and in writing (in an essay).


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2014-2015, BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), derde jaar.
See Timetables Philosophy 2014-2015 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (10 ECTS credits): 280 hours
Class attendance (14 weeks x 3 hours): 42 hours
Literature study (approx. 400 pages): 60 hours
Preparation of class presentation: 60 hours
Writing final essay (including reading / research): 118 hours

Assessment method

  • At least one class presentation (20% of the final mark)

  • Final paper of 15–20 pages (80% of the final mark)

Prerequisite for participation in examination: miss no more than two classes and take an active part in the discussion in class.

One resit will be offered, consisting of the final paper. Any student who did not take the first examination cannot take the resit.


Blackboard is used for posting course material.

Reading list

The literature list will be posted on Blackboard. No purchase of material is required. There is no requirement to study literature before the start of the course.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens
See Registration for courses and examinations

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the collegerooster in the column under the heading “”.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs
Registration Studeren à la carte: not applicable


For further information, please contact Dr. J.W. McAllister