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A Rawlsian Solution to the New Demarcation Problem
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 July 2023
In the last two decades, a robust consensus has emerged among philosophers of science, whereby political, ethical, or social values must play some role in scientific inquiry, and that the ‘value-free ideal’ is thus a misguided conception of science. However, the question of how to distinguish, in a principled way, which values may legitimately influence science remains. This question, which has been dubbed the ‘new demarcation problem,’ has until recently received comparatively less attention from philosophers of science. In this paper, I appeal to Rawls’s theory of justice (1971) on the basis of which I defend a Rawlsian solution to the new demarcation problem. As I argue, the Rawlsian solution places plausible constraints on which values ought to influence scientific inquiry, and, moreover, can be fruitfully applied to concrete cases to determine how the conflicting interests of stakeholders should be balanced. After considering and responding to the objection that Rawls’s theory of justice applies only to the “basic structure” of society, I compare the Rawlsian solution to some other approaches to the new demarcation problem, especially those that emphasize democratic criteria.
- © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Canadian Journal of Philosophy