During the second half of the 20th century, philosophical reflection of science went through fundamental changes. The previously dominant neo-positivist approach lost its appeal and Kuhn’s conception of science gained influence, accentuating the importance of social factors. Cultural, social and value dimensions of scientific knowledge are getting more prominent. Current debates highlight the importance of non-scientific factors, including gender, faith, power, interests and values; the classical image of science as value-neutral, a sphere of knowledge independent of the social context, is being critically reconsidered. These discussions are often characterized by lack of a balanced view about science, lack of realistic assessment of the role of cognitive and normative/value elements in scientific research.
Not only theoretical reflections on science, but science as an institution is currently undergoing a difficult transformation in the post-industrial society. The insitutional framework for the production of scientific knowledge is changing and the idea of the relation between science, society and values is formulated anew. Contemporary links between science and society (including cultural values) show a two-way effect: Not only the issue of how social and cultural contexts together with the prevailing value framework are affecting science, but also the issue of how science and the technology output thereof has entered into the shaping of social, cultural and value frameworks.
The role of science in determining social values has been an ongoing issue in recent years. The idea that science can, or even should establish moral values in the society is more and more prominent in connection with the survival of the human race in the long term. The above mentioned „scientific approach to morality“ is trying to challenge the „dogma“ that science has nothing to say about values, and that this competence must be left to others (religion, philosophy, undocumented habits, etc.). This controversial proposal deserves a thorough philosophical analysis that should critically examine the coherence of underlying assumptions and used terminology.
Although the problems outlined above are particularly relevant in theoretical and philosophical terms, we want to perceive them also as societal problems. These challenges, that are apparent in the mutual interactions between science and its value-saturated social environment, form a compound of interrelated issues that require multi-dimensional and complex philosophical research. We believe that detailed and comprehensive review of the current momentum in relations between science, values and society is essential and that such philosophical and ethical review is an important tool for clarifying and answering a number of questions arising in society regarding scientific development.
The main objective is a multidimensional philosophical and ethical research of the whole set of relations and forms of interaction between science/scientific research, values and the socio-cultural environment. By achieving this goal we expect to thoroughly clarify the dynamic between science and its socio-cultural context, with particular focus on current problems in the „science and society relationship.“ Hence, the following objectives have been set:
- Reviewing and reconstructing the traditional view on the link of science and social values, based on the principles of scientific objectivity and autonomy, as well as the dichotomy of fact and value. This reconstruction is to be supported by historical reference to specific and influential 19th-20th century conceptions and is expected to result in the reconceptualization of basic concepts that form the core of the traditional notion.
- Analyzing and reevaluating contemporary philosophical concepts of science and its value dimension, and thus contributing to the ongoing philosophical discussion and contributing to it with new philosophical knowledge. Developing a conceptual system that will help explain why values intervene in the creation of knowledge and the processes of accepting and using knowledge.
- Reviewing and philosophically analyzing relevant results of empirical research on how science works in order to determine the degree of conformity or inconsistency between the philosophical image of science and the actual process of creating scientific knowledge. In case of inconsistencies: Design and development of a conceptual system to philosophically process knowledge on how science actually works.
- Reviewing enforcement techniques, methods and strategies that affect science and „regimes of truth“ that are implemented in science, also reviewing subjectification processes where knowledge is contributing to forming a subject, including its practical relations and morals.
- Critically examining and evaluating the plausibility of addressing the moral state of society via scientific approach, not only in terms of the project’s actual viability, but also in terms of its consistency.
- Reviewing and shedding light on ethical issues associated with the use of science outputs, especially in biomedicine and biotechnology.
Due to the complexity of the researched issues and their mutual connection the stated objectives are achievable via multi-dimensional research utilizing perspectives of empistemology, ethics and social philosophy. Although the research focuses purely on current issues, it will be enriched by the historical-philosophical perspective to identify main inspirational sources for the solution of current issues, as well as their shortcomings.
The project plan consists of three fundamental stages. The first, preparatory, stage consists of analytical work (conceptual analysis), the objective of which is to submit a preliminary analysis of the project’s basic concepts, particularly the concept of science and the concept of value. The results achieved in the first phase will be used in the second, central stage, where we focus on researching current forms of the relationship between scientific knowledge and social value framework. The third stage aims to synthesize the partial results achieved in the first and the second stage. The core of the work is to prepare for the concluding project conference with the attendance of foreign experts and making the final synthetic-scientific monograph ready.