The fact–value distinction
• is a fundamental epistemological distinction described between
1.'Statements of fact' ('positive' or 'descriptive statements'), based
upon reason and physical observation, and which are examined via
the empirical method.
2.'Statements of value' ('normative' or 'prescriptive statements'), which
encompass ethics and aesthetics, and are studied via axiology.
This barrier between 'fact' and 'value' implies it is impossible to derive
ethical claims from factual arguments, or to defend the former using the
What is fact?
• According to Goode and Hatt, fact is ‘an empirically verifiable
• Thus, facts are those situations or circumstances concerning which there
does not seem to be valid room for disagreement.
Characteristics of Facts:
• Derived from Latin word factum which means ‘something made or done’.
• A fact refers to something actually happened. Example: it is a fact that British
left India in August 15 1947.
• It can be subjected to empirical scrutiny:
• Its existence cannot be denied: because it refers to is and not ought or nought
smacking of some preferential orientation. (example: man’s desire for power)
• A fact is an objective reality:
• A fact is an empirically verifiable observation that can be agreed upon as real, definite and
• Facts can be perceived by our tactical and audio-visual senses.
• Objective facts constitutes the subject matter of natural sciences.
• Similar attempts were also made in Sociology. Eg: Durkheim gave the concept of social facts.
• But there is no agreement even among Sociologists themselves that which social facts are
• There is difficulty in understanding and defining social facts.
• Human consciousness cannot be measured against dry factual standards.
• It is the subjective disposition arising out of experiences, bias, preferences and beliefs.
• Values can be personal, cultural, temporal and situation specific.
• They guide our objectives, goals, means for such goals and our actions.
• Values are a medium of social control.
• Social research has to take into account the value component as well.
• If Sociologists will not promote social values, Sociology will be dominated by the values of the
• Values judgments constitute a large share of social science data.
• Social science data is heavily influenced by people’s subjective opinions about
what is right and wrong.
• For example the study of socialization is nothing but the study of the gradual acquisition
of values by child and the comparative historical surveys measure changes in values
within a cultural system.
• value judgments do not make true or false statements about objects of the world.
• Rather they serve as expressions of subjective preferences, desires, or utilities (perhaps
grounded in emotions).
• 1. Values are Preferences: The central position of value judgments in
social sciences lies in the fact that value judgments are merely formalized
expressions of sentiments and emotions derived from culture and
impelling men to action. Thus a value is a preference, positive or
• 2. Values are in the Ought To form: It follows from the above that values cannot
be treated as facts, for they are related to the ‘ought’ and ‘nought’ of things. For
example, “all people should take part in the management of public affairs so as
to make their democratic system successful”, is a matter of value judgment.
• A moralist may say that man should always be guided by the idea of ‘good life’; a
metaphysicist may say that ‘a man should inform his activity by the principle of
self-imposed categorical imperative of duty.
• A value is an ought-form premise in contrast to an is-form statement. A study of
values in all possible forms is called ‘axiology’ wherein focus on epistemological
and metaphysical aspects of values is characteristically noticeable.
• Values are not absolute: it could vary from people to people and person to
• Values are Relational: when we make a value judgment, we are not saying
something about ourselves. The terms which we use to make value judgments,
according to this analysis, do not designate any property of the objects of which
they are predicted; rather they are actually relational concept; they expose a
relationship between the speaker and the objects of which he is speaking.
• 5. Based on Speculation
• 6. Values are all bout Right and Wrong not True or False
Role of Value:
• It is indispensible in human society:
• Values enter the cultural framework within which all socio-political
analysis takes place. And this cultural framework is a necessary condition
for social analysis, therefore, cannot be placed in abeyance.
• Helpful for Social Planning and Policy Making
• Values Supplement Facts
• Values guide behavior
SCIENCE, IT IS
CLAIMED, IS A
MAY DEAL WITH
UNLESS THEY TREAT
THE VALUES AS
GIVES STRESS ON
Science as Value Free
• The claim that science is value free is that science deals
exclusively with facts and—at its core—admits of no proper place
for ethical (and social) values.
Why Science is Value Free
• (1) Scientific knowledge is impartial: Ethical values should not be among
the criteria for accepting or rejecting scientific theories and appraising
• (2) Ethical values have no fundamental role in the practices of gaining and
appraising scientific knowledge, because the broad characteristics of
scientific methodology should be responsive only to the interest of
gaining understanding of phenomena.
Why Science is Value Free…
• (3) Similarly, research priorities should not be shaped systematically by
particular values. The point of both (2) and (3) is that scientific practices
• (4) Scientific theories are neutral: Value judgments are not among the
logical implications of scientific theories (cognitive neutrality); and, on
application (e.g., in technology), in principle these theories can
evenhandedly inform interests fostered by a wide range of value outlooks
• According to materialist metaphysics, the "world of facts" is identical to
the "world as it really is in itself." This world consists of the totality of the
underlying (normally unobservable) structure and its components,
processes, interactions, and mathematically expressed laws, whose
generative powers explain phenomena, in a way that dissociates them
from any relation to human experience, social and ecological
organization, or values—the totality of bare facts, purely material facts.
Isaac Newton's law of gravitation,
• it makes no sense to ask whether it is good or bad, or whether one
ought to act in accordance with it or not.
• Newton's law expresses a bare fact; faithful to the way the world is,
it makes an objective statement.
• The efficacy of technological objects, attested to by confirmed scientific
theories, stands on the side of facts.
• Legitimating their uses, however, involves ethical judgments, which
cannot be derived from the bare facts that account for the technology's
efficacy and the material possibilities that it makes available.
The Entanglement of Fact and Value
• NO UNBRIDGEABLE GAP
• FACTS AS PRESUPPOSITIONS AND SUPPORT FOR VALUES.
• SOME SENTENCES MAKE BOTH FACTUAL STATEMENTS AND
• SCIENTIFIC APPRAISAL MAY INEXTRICABLY INVOLVE EMPIRICAL
CONSIDERATIONS AND VALUE JUDGMENTS.
• MODERN SCIENCE HAS FOSTERED THE VALUE OF EXPANDING
HUMAN CAPACITIES TO EXERCISE CONTROL OVER NATURE.
• As both facts and values stand in a poll opposite, the dichotomy of facts
and values cannot be denied.
• To resolve this dichotomy ‘scientific value relativism’ was developed, in
which facts and values should not be studied in absolute sense, rather
they should be studied in relative terms.
• Thus, what we need is not value rejection but value neutralization, a
sensitivity to rather than ignoring of values.
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