Values in Science

This autumn meeting in the National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science is hosted by the Section for History and Philosophy of Science, Department of Science Education, UCPH.

The meeting presents two talks on science and values with commentaries and open discussion. The meeting also provides the opportunity for Danish historians and philosophers of science to meet – as well as a chance of seeing the new Niels Bohr Building from the inside.


13.00-13.05: Welcome and introduction by Hanne Andersen

13.05-13.50: Jacob Stegenga (University of Cambridge): Sisyphean Science: Why Value Freedom Is Worth Pursuing

13.50-14.30: Commentary, Jesper Lundsfryd Rasmussen, Response and discussion (Q&A)

14.30-15.00: Coffee break

15.00-15.30: Joeri Witteveen (University of Copenhagen): From Epistemic to Ontic Risk

15.30-16.15: Commentary by Sara Green, Response and discussion (Q&A)

Refreshments hosted by the Section for History and Philosophy of Science

18.00 Dinner, Neighbourhood Pizza & Cocktails, Jægersborggade 56 (at own expense, dkk 165 per person for food&water; additional beverages at additional costs. Registration required).


Please send an e-mail to no later than November 9 if you wish to participate, and please note whether you wish to participate in after-talk refreshments as well as the joint dinner.


Sisyphean Science: Why Value Freedom Is Worth Pursuing

Jacob Stegenga (University of Cambridge) and Tarun Menon (Azim Premji University)

The value-free ideal in science has been criticised as both unattainable and undesirable. We argue that it can be defended as a practical principle guiding scientific research even if the unattainability and undesirability of a value-free end-state are granted. If a goal is unattainable, then one can separate the desirability of accomplishing the goal from the desirability of pursuing it. We articulate a novel value-free ideal, which holds that scientists should act as if science should be value-free, and we argue that even if a purely value-free science is undesirable, this value-free ideal is desirable to pursue.

From Epistemic to Ontic Risk

Joeri Witteveen (University of Copenhagen)

In this talk I will argue the taxonomy of ‘phronetic risks’ in science should be revised and extended. In the first part of the talk, I consider whether and how the notions of ‘epistemic’ and ‘representational’ risk that philosophers have introduced into the literature in recent years relate to the original ‘error argument’ that informed the Rudnerian argument from inductive risk. I argue that while these recent philosophical treatments of risk have made progress in identifying different kinds of errors that can occur in scientific practice, they fail to properly articulate how they produce risks that scientists need to manage. In short, it is unclear what the 'risk' in accounts of epistemic and representational risk really is. I argue that the only genuine dimension of phronetic risk that can distilled from these philosophical discussions is a distinct kind of ‘classificatory risk’. In the second part of the talk, I argue that the recognition of classificatory risk as a distinct kind of phronetic risk paves the way for recognizing yet another kind of phronetic ‘ontic’ risk: the risk involved in making classificatory choices that have ontologically performative effects. I will explore the notion of ontic risk using a case study from the biological taxonomy of threatened species.