AP9: Evidence for use – Evidence for us.

On the legitimizing function of evidence for science

Prof. Dr. phil. Elif Özmen (Political Philosophy, Justus Liebig University): Project Manager

“Evidence” is a central term of science which differentiates itself from other knowledge forms through its systemic structure and methodological (self-)control, and by generating societal expectations of credibility and trustworthiness. In doing so, ascriptions of evidence have an important but, so far, unreflected upon function of legitimization for the authority and acknowledgement of science as science; from both within and externally. The overriding goal of this project is thus to analyze the function of legitimization of evidence with regards to what we have termed the “plea” and the “settlement” character.  Although evidence constitutes part of scientific research, argumentation and understanding, the issue of validity cannot be overlooked; that is to say, ascriptions of evidence can claim rather then prove reliability, not only quid faci but also quid juris.

We will therefore treat evidence as an epistemic value which is anchored in the scientific ethos. We are interested in the normative function of evidence as an epistemic value for the self-image and the self-confidence of the sciences and their central actors. On the other hand, evidence is also a sociopolitical-ethical category; meaning the inner and outer scientific forms and functions of appreciation of evidence also play a role in the contexts of genesis and the justification and appreciation of scientific contents and results.  This directs the focus of the inquiry towards the processes in which evidence is “produced”, interpreted and acknowledged as “evidence for”; not only in scientific rules and standards, but also in societal arrangement of norms.

Scientific attributions of evidence and claims of objectivity by the sciences are social phenomena, which can be determined and analyzed using the methods and concepts of practical philosophy. The tensions and interactions of ‘evidence for use and evidence for us’ will be explored via a systematic display of the semantics and functions of evidence as well as via a historical case study. In this way the project reacts towards a twofold research desideratum; connecting a practical-philosophical contribution to evidence research with the under-researched thematic field of the philosophy of the chemical sciences.