Essay about 03 Sociology 101

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Values and Facts 2:

Philosophy, Activism, Science, and Sociology
SPRING 2015
Joseph Padget

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The Problem of Action and Scientific Knowledge
Scientific knowledge alone CANNOT determine action decisions
Science alone cannot determine whether something is
 Good or bad
 Right or wrong

Under certain circumstances scientific knowledge claims can inform action decisions – contingent on someone’s set of VALUES

02:05:16 AM

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Facts vs. Values/Is vs. Ought
Statements of FACT tell us WHAT IS
 Based on observation, experimentation, etc.

Statements of VALUE tell us WHAT OUGHT TO BE
 Based on someone’s personal preferences

Factual knowledge alone cannot determine action decisions but value knowledge can
 Science alone DOES NOT care what ought to be, only what is or is likely to be
 Values do address what ought to be and are unique to individuals

02:05:18 AM

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EXAMPLE – Values, Facts, and Decisions
Education and Economic Productivity –
 Does education affect economic productivity?
 Should groups implement compulsory education?

Which of the above is a question of fact, which is a question of value?

02:05:19 AM

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EXAMPLE – Values, Facts, and Decisions
Does education affect economic productivity?
 THIS IS A QUESTION OF FACT, amenable to scientific theorizing

Should groups implement compulsory education?
 THIS IS A QUESTION OF VALUES, amenable to preference

We can study the scientific question and, based on a set of given values, we can make recommendations for action
Without a given set of values though, we cannot use science to recommend action

02:05:20 AM

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Education and Economic Productivity
A scientific investigation of the effects of education on economic productivity would be built, implicitly or explicitly, on some scientific theory
We might theorize that greater education leads to greater economic productivity
Explicitly as a theoretical model –

02:05:22 AM

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Education and Economic Productivity
To test this theory we can either –
 METHOD 1: Conduct an experiment by inducing occurrences in a lab
 METHOD 2: Gather data from existing occurrences
 We might also completely fabricate a universe and induce conditions inside of that universe which is really another version of M1

The goal of either method is to ‘control’ away all of the stuff we’re not concerned with and to discern precisely the effects of the things we are concerned with given our questions

02:05:26 AM

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What Do the Findings Say about Action?
 Assume our study shows that increases in education are certain to lead to greater economic productivity, then answer the following question using no other information –
 SHOULD SC IMPLEMENT COMPULSORY COLLEGE EDUCATION FOR ALL CITIZENS?

How does science alone answer the question?
 It doesn’t . . .

Now add your own values regarding education and economic productivity, then answer the question
 Do you value economic productivity? How much?
 Do you value the free will of the individual? How much?
 Which do you value more?
 . . . What, then, is your answer to the main question?

02:05:27 AM

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Facts, Values, and Action Decisions
Science says “All else being equal, if we increase education, economic productivity will increase.”
 That’s all, nothing more
…