Symmetries and Asymmetries in Epistemic Risk Management

Author:

Torsten Wilholt

Abstract:

A characteristic feature of Heather Douglas’s distinction between permissible and impermissible kinds of value influences in scientific research is that as far as indirect value influences are concerned, scientists may (and should) consider the extra-scientific costs of getting it wrong in their methodological decisions. According to Douglas, the extra-scientific benefits of getting it right may and should not be thus taken into account.In this talk, I will critically discuss this asymmetry between the costs of getting it wrong and the benefits of getting it right. I will argue in favor of treating them symmetrically: Ceteris paribus, in cases of decisions in which scientists are obliged (or permitted) to consider the costs of getting it wrong, the situation is such that scientists are equally obliged (respectively permitted) to consider the benefits of getting it right.

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