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Logos & Episteme

Volume 12, Issue 2, 2021

Joby Varghese
Pages 227-246

A Functional Approach to Characterize Values in the Context of ‘Values in Science’ Debates

This paper proposes a functional approach to characterize epistemic and nonepistemic values. The paper argues that epistemic values are functionally homogeneous since (i) they act as criteria to evaluate the epistemic virtues a hypothesis ought to possess, and (ii) they validate scientific knowledge claims objectively. Conversely, non-epistemic values are functionally heterogeneous since they may promote multiple and sometimes conflicting aims in different research contexts. An incentive of espousing the functional approach is that it helps us understand how values can operate in appropriate and inappropriate ways in scientific research and inappropriate influences can eventually be prevented. The idea is to argue that since non-epistemic values are functionally heterogeneous, they cannot provide objective reasons for the acceptance of a hypothesis. However, their involvement is necessary in certain research contexts and the problem is the involvement of these need not be always legitimate. By analyzing a case from chemical research, I demonstrate that how non-epistemic values might influence scientific research and, then, I go on to demonstrate that how a proper understanding of the functions of different kinds of values might promote the attainment of multiple goals of a particular research in a legitimate and socially relevant way.