AP1: Evidence as an epistemic and moral value

Scientific-ethical contexts of evidence

Prof. Dr. Elif Özmen (Practical Philosphy, Gießen University)

Evidence is a foundational concept in philosophy, enabling scientific-historical and sociological connections to be made, and which has been integrated into the conceptual inventory of the ‘Disenchantment of the World’, and ‘The Modern’. It is with respect to this connection that claims concerning evidence and their associated practices function as reference points for both the acceptance of concrete scientific activity/individual scientific actors within the scientific community and society as a whole. Furthermore, evidence plays orienting and legitimating roles in scientific application and method. Insofar as sciences secure their legitimacy and meaningfulness—and consequently their normative authority—through specific appeals to evidence, the currently proposed project seeks to critically investigate the scientific-ethical contexts relating to evidence.

The aim of the project is to examine the normative dimensions of evidence in two respects: its normative role in building self-confidence in scientific reasoning and activity, and conversely, societal trust in science. With recourse to the chiasmus practicing evidence – evidencing practice, evidence will first be analyzed as an epistemic value that condenses various characteristics into the ethos of science(s). Both good scientific practice and the good scientist are foundational concepts in the ethics of science, and normatively ensure in its ethos the quality and the trustworthiness of science. The proposed thesis of the first phase of this project is that public trust in the institutions and mechanisms of scientific self-monitoring is based upon the functionality of this ethos and represents a central source for the societal legitimation and acceptance of science. Additionally, the normative sources of societal trust in science will be investigated.

Ethical problems, which can arise in scientific research, raise the questions of whether and which ethical concepts of evidence will assure the increase of scientific integrity – rationality, clarity, and reliability – in the applied ethics of science. A philosophical analysis of evidence as a moral value will lead to a discourse concerning the responsibility of science and scientists. This second phase of the project will be guided by the thesis that moral evidence-expectations (and consequently an evidence-based ethics of science) are analogous to the normative role played by epistemic evidence-expectations: To support the moral credibility and trust that determine the relationship between science and society.