Essay on Value of Discipline in our Life - Important India

An essay on Max Weber's view of objectivity in social science, by Steve Hoenisch.

Essay on Value of Discipline in our Life

The most important aspect of necessity that we must nowrecognize, is the necessity of abandoning the commons inbreeding. No technical solution can rescue us from the misery ofoverpopulation. Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all. At themoment, to avoid hard decisions many of us are tempted topropagandize for conscience and responsible parenthood. Thetemptation must be resisted, because an appeal to independentlyacting consciences selects for the disappearance of allconscience in the long run, and an increase in anxiety in theshort.

The VNT is denied by the value-laden thesis, which asserts thatcontextual values are essential for scientific research.

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Modern astronomy is the natural continuation and development of the work of and of Ptolemy [see under ]; modern physics of that of and of ; it was long before modern biological science outgrew the knowledge bequeathed to us by , by , and by .We cannot know all the best thoughts and sayings of the Greeks unless we know what they thought about natural phenomena.

The deepest source of the current erosion of scientific authorityconsists in insisting on the value-freedom of GenuineScience…

Feyerabend's writings on objectivity and values in science have anepistemic as well as a political dimension. Regarding the first, theleading philosophy of science figures in Feyerabend's young days suchas Carnap, Hempel and Popper characterized scientific method in termsof rules for rational scientific reasoning. Some of them, like Popper,devoted special attention to the demarcation of science from“pseudo-science” and imposture, thereby derogating othertraditions as irrational or, in any case, inferior. Feyerabend thinks,however, that science must be protected from a “rule ofrationality”, identified with strict adherence to scientificmethod: such rules only suppress an open exchange of ideas, extinguishscientific creativity and prevent a free and truly democraticscience.

Similarly, the study of thehuman mind, which was a part of philosophy, has now been separated from philosophy and has become the science ofpsychology.

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In other words, the defenders of scientific method abuse the word“objective” for proving the superiority of Western sciencevis-à-vis other worldviews. To this, Feyerabend adds that whendismissing other traditions, we actually project our own worldview,and our own value judgments, into them instead of making an impartialcomparison (1978: 80–83). There is no purely rationaljustification for dismissing other perspectives in favor of theWestern scientific worldview. To illustrate his point, Feyerabendcompares the defenders of a strong, value-free notion of objectivityto scientists who stick to the concepts of absolute length and time inspite of the Theory of Relativity. A staunch defense of objectivityand value freedom may just expose our own narrow-mindedness. This isnot meant to say that truth loses its function as a normative conceptin science, nor that all scientific claims are equallyacceptable. Rather, Feyerabend demands that we move toward a genuineepistemic pluralism that accepts diverse approachesto searching an acquiring knowledge. In such an epistemic pluralism,science may regain its objectivity in the sense of respecting thediversity of values and traditions that drive our inquiries about theworld (1978: 106–107).

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The drawbacks of an objective, value-free and method-bound view onscience and scientific method are not only epistemic. Such a viewnarrows down our perspective and makes us less free, open-minded,creative, and ultimately, less human in our thinking (Feyerabend 1975:154). It is therefore neither possible nor desirable to have anobjective, value-free science (cf. Feyerabend 1978: 78–79). As aconsequence, Feyerabend sees traditional forms of inquiry about ourworld (e.g., Chinese medicine) on a par with their Westerncompetitors. He denounces appeals to objective standards as barelydisguised statements of preference for one's own worldview:

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In his classic “Against Method” (1975:chs. 8–13), Feyerabend elaborates on this criticism by examininga famous episode in the history of science: the development ofGalilean mechanics and the discovery of the Jupiter moons. Insuperficial treatments of this episode, it is stressed that anobscurantist and value-driven Catholic Church forced Galilei to recantfrom a scientifically superior position backed by value-free,objective findings. But in fact, Feyerabend argues, the Church had thebetter arguments by the standards of 17th century science. Theirconservatism regarding their Weltanschauung wasscientifically backed: Galilei's telescopes were unreliable forcelestial observations, and many well-established phenomena (no fixedstar parallax, invariance of laws of motion) could at first not beexplained in the heliocentric system. Hence, scientific method was noton Galilei's side, but on the side of the Church who gave preferenceto the old, Ptolemaic worldview. With hindsight, Galilei managed toachieve groundbreaking scientific progress just because hedeliberately violated rules of scientific reasoning, because hestubbornly stuck to a problematic approach until decisive theoreticaland technological innovations were made. Hence Feyerabend's dictum“Anything goes”: no methodology whatsoever is able tocapture the creative and often irrational ways by which sciencedeepens our understanding of the world.