The Likelihood Principle: Objectivity and the Values and Science Debate
This paper focuses on the debate of underdetermination in science, and asks the descriptive question: is objectivity possible in science?
Sean Boivin will introduce the problem of underdetermination in science and articulate a related argument presented by philosopher Helen Longino against the possibility for objectivity (traditionally understood) in science. In opposition to Longino, he aims to salvage the possibility of important objectivity. He begins from Likelihoodism – a normative view about the form that evidential reasoning should take.
After presenting different defenses of that view, he will show how it implies a descriptive claim – the Likelihood Principle – that opposes Longino’s cynicism about the descriptive possibility of objectivity in science. The Likelihood Principle compares the likelihoods of two hypotheses in relation to a body of evidence and says which hypothesis (if any) is consequently favored.
Bovin will argue that “favours” be interpreted as “objectively favours”, implying it is possible for some evidence to objectively favour one hypothesis over another without appeal to values. In addition to arguing that we should then infer a descriptive objectivism from this, he will interpret a case-study using the Likelihood Principle to illustrate how applications of it can be objective. Bovin will discuss what follows for the debate in the values and science literature, including what follows with respect to Longino’s views.