Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Value-Free Social Science
John G. Gunnell
Much of the modern debate about value freedom in social science has taken place within a framework articulated, in the early twentieth century, by the sociologist Max Weber. In his discussions of objectivity and ethical neutrality in social science, Weber made a sharp distinction between the “vocations” of science and politics on the basis of what he insisted was a fundamental logical difference between a claim about what “is” and a claim about what “ought” to be. The latter included value judgments, ideals, and interests, which were assumed to be expressions of choice and decision whose validity was largely a matter of faith rather than factual or empirical demonstration. Weber, however, stressed the interaction between these spheres. He noted that because values inevitably inform empirical inquiry through the perspective, commitments, and presuppositions of the investigator, there could be no absolutely objective analysis of social phenomena, but he also argued that ...