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Douglas, Heather. Values in Social Science
2014, In: Philosophy of Social Science A New Introduction. Edited by Nancy Cartwright and Eleonora Montuschi
Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Karoline Paier

Introduction: The social sciences have long had an inferiority complex. Because the social sciences emerged as distinct disciplines after the natural sciences, comparisons between the mature and successful natural sciences and the fledgling social sciences were quickly made. One of the primary concerns that arose was over the role of values in the social sciences. There were several reasons for this. First, the social sciences did not have the clear empirical successes that the natural sciences did in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to bolster confidence in their reliability. Some postulated that an undue influence of values on the social sciences contributed to this deficit of empirical success. Second, social sciences such as economics and psychology emerged from their philosophical precursors gradually and often carried with them the clear normative trappings of their disciplinary origins. Third, although formal rules on the treatment of human subjects would not emerge until the second half of the twentieth century, by the time the social sciences emerged, it was obvious there were both ethical and epistemic challenges to experimenting on human subjects and human communities. Controlled settings were (and are) often difficult to achieve (or are unethical to achieve), making clear empirical success even more elusive. Finally, there is the additional com-plication that social sciences invariably study and/or comment upon human values. All of these considerations lent credence to the view that social sciences were inevitably more value-laden, and as a result less reliable, than the natural sciences.


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