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Values in Science


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to MA students in Philosophy.


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

This course aims to give students insight into recent debates about the place of values in science. It teaches students how to thinking confidently and critically about 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;

  • find, analyze, and discuss relevant specialist literature beyond the prescribed texts;

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

  • write and present a research proposal on this topic.


See Timetables Philosophy 2014-2015 , Timetables MA Philosophy 60 EC/120 EC.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (10 EC): 280 hours
Class attendance (14 weeks x approx. 3 hours): 40 hours
Literature study (approx. 400 pages): 60 hours
Preparation of class presentation: 40 hours
Writing research proposal: 40 hours
Writing final essay: 100 hours

Assessment method

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

  • written research proposal and presentation of it in class;

  • final paper of 20–25 pages.
    The last two items count for 80% of the 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 will be used for posting course material.

Reading list

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


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Registration for courses and examinations

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable for courses in the column under the heading “Act.nbr”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


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