Program Conference Objectivity in Science, 10-12 June 2015

The entire conference will be held in the Cobbenhagen Building (ground floor), on the campus of Tilburg University

Campus Map

Wednesday, 10 June

9:00—9:45 Registration
9:45—10:00 Opening
10:00—11:15 Room CZ7: Keynote speaker #1: Martin Kusch
“Epistemic Relativism, Scepticism, Pluralism
11:15—11:45 Coffee Break
11:45—13:05 Parallel Sessions 1
Room CZ6: History of Science and Case Studies Room CZ8: The Value-Free Ideal #1 
Joeri Witteveen: “Objectivity, historicity, and taxonomy” Christian J. Feldbacher: “Values in science: a Case study of the L’Aquila 2009 Trial”
Eduardo Zubia: “Objectivity and visual practices: Astrophysics as a benchmark for scientific imaging” Silvia Ivani: “Non-Cognitive Values and Objectivity”
13:05—14:15 Lunch Break
14:15—16:15 Parallel Sessions 2
Room CZ6: Philosophy of the Life Sciences #1 Room CZ8: General Philosophy of Science #1: Causation
Armando Menéndez: “Objectivity and cancer prevention” Elena Popa: “Manipulability and the objectivity of causal relations”
Saana Jukola: “The ideals of objectivity, meta-analysis, and medical research” Roland Poellinger: “Non-causal links in causal chains”
Victor Gijsbers: “How objective can an agency theory of causation be?”
16:15—16:45 Coffee Break
16:45—18:05 Parallel Sessions 3
Room CZ6: Epistemology and Physics Room CZ8: Philosophy of Social Science/Economics #1 
Filip Buekens: “Truth, accuracy and objectivity: A distinction with a difference” Kian Mintz-Woo: “Objectivity in economics: Rethinking prescriptivism and descriptivism”
Matthias Egg: “Objectivity in fundamental physics” Tobias Henschen: “Causality and objectivity in the social sciences”
18:05— Welcome Reception

Thursday, 11 June

10:00—11:15 Room CZ7: Keynote speaker 2: Marcel Weber
“How objective are biological functions?
11:15—11:45 Coffee Break
11:45—13:05 Parallel Sessions 4
Room CZ6: General Philosophy of Science #2: Knowledge and Argumentation Room CZ8: The Value-Free Ideal #2
Erik P. Nyberg: ”Tailored Explanations” Matteo Colombo, Leandra Bucher and Yoel Inbar: “Explanatory Judgment, moral offence and value-free science”
David Ludwig: “The objectivity of local knowledge. Lessons from ethnobiology” Paul Teller: “Value free science as an artifiact of true theories”
13:05—14:15 Lunch Break
14:15—16:15 Parallel Sessions 5
Room CZ6: Science in a Society Context Room CZ8: General Philosophy of Science #3: Laws, Realism and Robustness
Inkeri Koskinen: “Extra-academic knowledge in academic research and the challenge of objectivity” Max Bialek: “Interest Relativity in the Best System Analysis of Laws”
Rico Hauswald: “Objectivity in science and the role of social activism” Chiara Lisciandra: “Is robustness conducive to objectivity?”
Jaana Eigi: “Different motivations, similar proposals: objectivity in scientific community and representative democracy” Richard Dawid and Stephan Hartmann: “The No Miracles Argument Without Base Rate Fallacy”
16:15—16:45 Coffee Break
16:45—18:05 Parallel Sessions 6
Room CZ6: General Philosophy of Science #4: Explanation Room CZ8: Models of Scientific Research
Ludwig Fahrbach: “IBE and Bayesianism: A couple in harmony” Guilherme S. Oliveira: “Ecological Psychology, Extended Cognition, and Objectivity: A Challenge to the Realism-Relativism Dichotomy”
Raoul Gervais: “Convergent objectivity, explanation, and electric eels” Dunja Seselja: “Is interaction conducive of scientific objectivity”
20:00— Conference Dinner

Friday, 12 June 

10:00—11:15 Room CZ7: Keynote Speaker 3: Stéphanie Ruphy
“What is left of (ontological) objectivity in a pluralist view of science?
11:15—11:45 Coffee Break
11:45—13:05 Parallel Sessions 7
Room CZ6: General Philosophy of Science #5: Rationality and Theory Choice Room CZ8: Philosophy of Economics/Social Science #2
Alexandru Marcoci and James Nguyen: “On the rationality of theory choice” Naftali Weinberger: “The Causal Faithfulness Condition is not a Parsimony Principle”
Colin Elliot: “Concepts of objectivity in Bayesianism” Carlo Martini: “Objectivity and transparency in economics: an analysis of monetary policy committees”
13:05—14:15 Lunch Break
14:15—16:15 Parallel Sessions 8
Room CZ6: Philosophy of the Life Sciences #2 Room CZ8: Philosophy of Statistics
Femke Truijens: “Objectivity in psychotherapy research: Do the numbers speak for themselves” Christian Hennig and Andrew Gelman: “Beyond subjective and objective in statistics”
Phoebe Friesen: “Reconceptualizing objectivity in psychiatry” Jan Sprenger: “Objectivity and Bias in Statistical Inference”
16:15—16:45 Coffee Break
16:45—18:00 Room CZ7: Keynote Speaker 4: James Woodward
“Objectivity in Variable Choice for Causal Inference”
18:00— Farewell Drinks



Abstracts in Alphabetical Order:

Author Title Short Abstract
Alexandru Marcoci and James Nguyen On the Rationality of Theory Choice In a recent paper, Okasha imports Arrow’s impossibility theorem into the context of theory choice to show that there is no function (satisfying certain desirable conditions) from profiles of preference rankings over competing theories, models or hypotheses provided by scientific virtues to a single all-things-considered ranking. This provides a prima facie threat to the rationality of theory choice. In this paper we provide a map of different notions of what it might mean for theory choice to be rational. We demonstrate that whilst Okasha’s argument rules out some of these, there are plausible ways of construing theory choice as a rational enterprise that are not precluded by Arrow’s result.
Armando Menéndez Viso Objectivity and cancer prevention This paper intends to grasp the peculiar kind of objectivity present in public policies for cancer prevention. Health authorities are required to build objective policies on uncertain, somewhat subjective scientific recommendations. Although risk management and actuarial tools seem to be a sensible option to deal with the issue, authorities and individuals in general tend to reason differently, using something similar to bounded rationality to achieve what can be called second-order objectivity, different from the purely scientific one. It will be shown how this second-order objectivity is developed in cancer prevention policies and how it differs from first-order objectivity.
Carlo Martini Objectivity and Transparency in Economics: An Analysis of Monetary Policy Committees Understanding objectivity as transparency and openness is one of the several, and non-mutually-exclusive, senses in which scholars think a science can achieve objectivity. Recently, the American Economic Association started to implement a disclosure policy on all submissions to its several journals. The move of the American Economic Association is an attempt to bring more transparency into the economic profession. The goal of my paper will be to explore some of the problems that arise from the request for transparency in economics, focusing in particular on monetary economics. I highlight the problems that are related to disclosing information on the workings, goals, and decisions of a monetary policy committee. There is fine line that policy makers have to walk between the efficiency of a committee, which requires its ability to make successful predictions, and its transparency, which requires the disclosing of as much information as is thought necessary.
Chiara Lisciandra Is robustness conducive to objectivity? Robustness analysis is a method of inquiry based on the principle that the predictions of a model or experiment should be invariant to certain changes in the assumptions from which the predictions are derived. In this way, robustness is supposed to minimize the subjective elements of our results by ensuring that they are not the side effect of the tools we use to investigate them. But although robustness analysis reflects a plausible line of thought, its epistemic virtues are not obvious. Three main problems will be explored–based respectively on an epistemological, a pragmatic, and a metaphysical argument– to show that robustness analysis as originally understood is controversial and not necessarily conducive to objectivity.
Christian Hennig and Andrew Gelman Beyond Subjective and Objective in Statistics The terms “objective” and “subjective” are often used in the discussion of the foundations of statistics. Statistical paradigms such as “frequentism” and “objective Bayes” pride themselves on their objectivity, whereas de Finetti explicitly defended “subjectivist” Bayesian statistics. We see the way how the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity are currently used in statistics as unhelpful and propose to use a larger collection of attributes, with objectivity replaced by transparency, consensus, impartiality, and correspondence to observable reality, and subjectivity replaced by awareness of multiple perspectives and context-dependence, which allows us to see all of them as complementary goals.
Christian J. Feldbacher Values in Science: A Case Study of the L’Aquila 2009 Trial The debate about the permissiveness of value judgements in science lasts now more than one century. It can be divided into three phases (cf. Schurz & Carrier 2013): The first phase in which Max Weber formulated the so-called “value-neutrality postulate”. According to this postulate value judgements should be avoided in science or should be at least clearly marked as such judgements. The second phase which coincides with the so-called “Positivismusstreit” in German sociology. In this phase proponents of critical theory as, e.g., Juergen Habermas argued against critical rationalists as, e.g., Karl Popper with the help of emancipatory reasons in favour of the value-ladenness of science. And finally the third phase which took place mainly in English speaking countries and in which new theoretical arguments in favour of the value-ladenness thesis were put forward.
In this contribution the main arguments of the third phase will be explicated and discussed with respect to the L’Aquila 2009 case where earthquake experts were sentenced for their faults in generating and communicating predictions about earthquake in this region. More specifically first we will extract by help of official documents the ethical and theoretical relevant facts of the case. Subsequently we provide a simple modelling of the case according to this facts. And finally we will conclude with an evaluation by help of the main arguments explicated before.
Colin Elliot Concepts of objectivity in Bayesianism The Pragmatism of G. Vailati and M. Calderoni was one of the main philosophical inspirations for B. de Finetti’s subjective Bayesianism. Today this is usually contrasted with the objective Bayesianism of authors such as J. Williamson and E.T. Jaynes. It is interesting to note that the Pragmatism guiding de Finetti’s theory was itself motivated by an attempt to make language more objective. Therefore, we propose to read the subjective versus objective Bayesianism debate as a clash between two, perhaps not easily reconcilable, ideas of objectivity.
David Ludwig The Objectivity of Local Knowledge. Lessons from Ethnobiology. The aim of this paper is to develop an account of the objectivity of local knowledge on the basis of current research in ethnobiology. First, I propose a model of the integration of indigenous and scientific knowledge in terms of property clusters. Second, I argue that this model needs to be supplemented by a notion of “deep locality” that explains limits of knowledge integration. While these limits reflect concerns that have been prominently stressed in poststructuralist and postcolonial accounts of local knowledge, I argue that they are compatible with a robust interpretation of the objectivity of local knowledge.
Dunja Seselja Is interaction conducive of scientific objectivity? A point often made in the literature on scientific pluralism is that interaction among scientists is a necessary condition for scientific objectivity. This stance has been challenged by Kevin Zollman. In view of a game-theoretic model Zollman has argued that reliable scientific knowledge requires either a restriction of the information flow among scientists or the scientists having extreme beliefs regarding their pursued hypotheses. In this paper I challenge some  basic ideas underlying Zollman’s model by showing that it is based on unwarranted assumptions about how scientists evaluate their hypotheses and how they respond to new evidence.
Eduardo Zubia Objectivity and visual practices: astrophysics as a benchmark for scientific imaging Peter Galison and Lorraine Daston have recently traced the genealogy of objectivity to automated imaging processes in the context of atlas making in the nineteenth century. The aim of this paper is to extend the category of objectivity as a valid concept in contemporary epistemology, remaining in the topic of visual practices, which we understand as an essential part of the natural sciences. We analyse published papers to try to identify the epistemic categories relevant to scientific imaging, and to select the best practices in order to shape a common visual language with which different subfields can meet and agree on what constitutes objective science, understood as intersubjective and empirically founded. We will show examples from galactic astronomy, and will make connections with research in botany. The identification of epistemic categories in scientific visual practices, involving phenomenological, heuristic, modelled and analytic images, and the description of how these fields interact, is the consequence of the leading methodology in modern science, in which models of data derived from the analysis of instrumental observations are compared with numerical simulations derived from analytical theories, in order to validate causal models and to constraint inductive classifications.
Elena Popa Manipulability and the objectivity of causal relations In this paper I will be defending the agency account by Menzies and Price against a particular critique by Woodward. The issue concerns the objectivity of causal relations, namely their dependence on the agent’s perspective. My arguments against this criticism will be twofold. First, I will show that if the agent’s perspective is shown to be uniform across different agents causal claims reach a satisfactory level of objectivity. Second, I will argue that, since Woodward’s concept of intervention is relative to a variable set, it is not completely independent from an agent’s choice of variables, therefore not fully agent-independent either.
Erik Nyberg Tailored Explanations Scientific explanations are, one might hope, objectively true and sufficient. But, clearly, different explanations are appropriate and satisfying for different individuals. Is this because truth is radically subjective? One more mundane reason is that different subjects already know different parts of the same objective story, so that each subject requires only the parts they are missing or mistaken about. Can we be more precise and nuanced about what would suffice for any given individual? I sketch a formal model for doing so. This involves two partially specified causal Bayesian networks, one representing the subject’s beliefs and the other representing the relevant objective truth. A sufficient explanation must provide an island of truth for the explanandum, separating it from the main. Several distinct types of correction may be required to the subject’s beliefs, beyond mere Bayesian updating. Thus, we can identify sets of corrections that will be both subjectively tailored and objectively adequate.
Femke Truijens Objectivity in psychotherapy research: Do the numbers speak for themselves? Psychotherapy research is characterized by a quest for evidence-based treatment. Systematic numerical comparison by means of randomized controlled trials is held as objective methodology resulting in evidence on efficacy of psychological treatments. In this pursuit, numbers are taken as speaking for themselves. However, I argue that the assumed procedural objectivity does not yield objectivity of evidence resulting from the method of choice. This discussion I base on the analysis of a clinical case example from our mixed method psychotherapy research, in which the numbers could speak for themselves, yet the conclusion does not at all.
Filip Buekens Truth, Accuracy and Objectivity: A distinction with a difference Accuracy, like relevance and salience, is an elusive notion. My aim is to precisify a useful concept in epistemology and philosophy of science by locating it within a network of epistemic and practical principles. Accuracy is an evaluative property of representations and models, while truth is a non-evaluative and non-normative property of propositions or contents. The key differences between accuracy and truth are not always acknowledged, and many philosophers use both concepts interchangeably. Ernest Sosa, for example, begins a recent presentation of his acclaimed virtue approach to knowledge with the thesis that ‘(b)belief is a kind of performance, which attains one level of success if it is true (or accurate)…’ (Sosa 2011, p. 3). The principle that ‘an epistemic agent ought to approximate the truth’, is called Accuracy by Leitgeb and Pettigrew (2010). Michael Lynch (2005, p. 23) holds that (‘beliefs) are accurate, or true, when they represent (the) world as being as it is.’ Linda Zagzebski holds that ‘(b)elief aims at accurately representing some part of reality propositionally. When a belief is true it is accurate’ (Zagzebski 2004, p. 135-6, note omitted). Other examples could be added. This tendency is unfortunate, because accuracy enjoys a number of properties truth lacks. It admits of degrees, is relative to standards, sensitive to extra-epistemic goals and is a property of representational devices (pictures, diagrams, models). Truth lacks these properties. Accuracy is an evaluative concept and it indicates a norm for representations. Truth is not an evaluative concept, and it applies not to representations but to propositions. Truth, according to the minimalist, cannot be grounded, while accuracy (i.e. the accuracy of a representation) is eminently explicable. Intuitions about objectivity are fed either by reflections on truth or accuracy.In the first part we show how the think concept of truth and the thick concept of accuracy are clearly distinguished in Frege’s Der Gedanke: a postcard ‘corresponds’, but a proposition doesn’t. Wittgenstein, confuses both notions in the Tractatus (“2.21 Das Bild stimmt mit der Wirklichkeit überein oder nicht; es ist richtig oder unrichtig, wahr oder falsch.”). A simple formal argument (due to Frege) shows that cashing out truth as ‘accurately representing the facts’ leads to an infinite regress. In the second part of our paper we give an account of accuracy and accurate representations. The full model should minimally include a representation R, the subject matter S represented, a way W of representing S, a Project P which requires that S is represented by R in way W and an operational standard S which determines to what degree the representation R should be accurate, given W and P. In the final part we explain how the approach explains confusions between true or false contents and accurate or inaccurate representations. While truth should be analysed minimalistically, a substantial notion of accuracy is needed to account for the way representations, models and images function in epistemic and pragmatic projects.
Guilherme S. Oliveira Ecological Psychology, Extended Cognition, and Objectivity: A Challenge to the Realism-Relativism Dichotomy Drawing from research on ecological psychology and extended cognition, I present a picture of scientific knowledge and practice that calls into question philosophical conceptions of objectivity. I begin by locating my proposal in the broader picture emerging from research on enculturated and socially-extended cognition. I then articulate an artefactual view of scientific models, framing model-target relationships in terms of affordances and scaffolding. I argue that the anchoring of scientific cognition via embodiment in socioculturally-extended cognitive systems reveals the superficiality of the realism-relativism dichotomy, and motivates a more nuanced understanding of science.
Inkeri Koskinen Extra-academic knowledge in academic research and the challenge of objectivity It is common today in many disciplines to integrate extra-academic knowledge with scientific knowledge. Researchers use artistic knowledge, tacit knowledge, indigenous knowledge, or the knowledge of “experts by experience” in participatory, collaborative and transdisciplinary projects. It is not obvious how objectivity is ensured when research is partly based on knowledge that has been acquired through extra-academic means. Instead of analysing the diverse extra-academic forms of knowledge, I suggest examining the objectivity of the new, emerging research communities that include extra-academic participants. Extra-academic social-epistemic practices must not not jeopardise the interactive objectivity of the new research communities.
Jaana Eigi Different motivations, similar proposals: objectivity in scientific community and representative democracy The aim of my presentation is to discuss similarities between one approach to objectivity in philosophy of science—Helen Longino’s—and some ideas about objectivity in political theory. I suggest that these similarities allow one to approach developments in the political sphere as if one of their aims were epistemic improvement that can be recommended on the basis of the philosophical account. Analyses of these political developments can thus be helpful for understanding the possibility to implement a philosophical proposal in practice.
Jan Sprenger Objectivity and Bias in Statistical Inference This presentation gives a survey about prevalent sources of bias in statistical inference related to the standard method of Null Hypothesis Significance Testing (NHST). As a result of such criticisms, some scientific journals are considering, or have implemented, a ban on p-values and NHST more generally, recommending descriptive statistics as an alternative (e.g., Trafimow and Marks 2015). I investigate to what extent such proposals can solve the problem of bias in statistical inference, and whether we need to keep hypothesis tests as a tool for drawing inferences from data. In particular, I explore the idea of a bias-free measure of the degree of corroboration of a null hypothesis.
Jim Woodward Objectivity in Variable Choice for Causal Inference It is well known that different choices of variables for causal representation can lead, when combined commonly accepted inference procedures and/or accounts of causation, to different conclusions about which causal relationships are present in some system of interest. My assumption in this talk will be that some choices of variables are superior to other choices for the purpose of causal analysis. I will describe a number of possible criteria for variable choice   and  then defend these within a broadly interventionist framework for thinking about causation. My basic strategy will employ  means/ends justificatory arguments: once one articulates clear goals or ends for successful causal inference, one can provide, relative to these, a justification for various criteria for variable choice by showing that these criteria contribute to the satisfaction of these goals.  This yields as much objectivity in variable choice as one can reasonably hope for.
Joeri Witteveen Objectivity, historicity, and taxonomy In their book *Objectivity* (2007), Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison present a historical-epistemological framework for the origins of scientific objectivity. Their aim is to show that there is a non-trivial sense in which “objectivity has a history”. Although D&G’s account has much historical depth, it is rather shallow on the side of philosophy. Martin Kusch in particular has driven home that the D&G’s framework scores badly on such desiderata as reflexivity and (micro-historical) causality. I present a micro-historical case study that combines the historicist premise of D&G with the desiderata that Kusch has outlined. This opens up an avenue for a philosophically substantiated history of objectivity.
Kian Mintz-Woo Objectivity in economics: Rethinking prescriptivism and descriptivism Stern’s (2007) report has engendered a methodological debate among climate economists. Descriptivists like Hutt (1940); Manne (1995); Nordhaus (1994, 2008) think that, by appealing to current market data, they can be more objective and avoid making their own value judgments. This view contrasts with prescriptivists (e.g. Arrow et al. 1996; Broome 1994, 2012; Dasgupta 2008; Stern 2007), who have argued that explicitly weighing the moral import of parameter assignments is unavoidable. I provide alternative nomenclature for the positions. Furthermore, in the case of the Ramsey formula, I introduce new worries for both positions. These worries come from recent behavioral psychological theories: prospect theory and heuristic theory.
Ludwig Fahrbach IBE and Bayesianism: A couple in harmony There is no epistemic concept that is common to the frameworks of IBE and Bayesianism. To compare the frameworks one must first establish suitable correspondences between the relevant epistemological concepts. I propose that the notion of explanatory quality of IBE corresponds to the product Pr(H) × Pr(E/H). This simple identification is inherently plausible, and it implies a straightforward correspondence between the criteria for successful inference within the two frameworks, namely that the hypothesis with the highest explanatory quality has a posterior probability near one. I discuss the pros and cons of this approach to linking IBE and Bayesianism, and compare it with other approaches in the literature.
Marcel Weber How objective are biological functions? Biological functions, due to their teleological ring, have always been shady citizens of the objective world. In a somewhat recent attack, John Searle has argued that functions owe their existence to the value that we put into life and survival. In a first part of my talk, I will show that Searle’s argument rests on a simple mistake, namely the failure to understand that functional predicates are (at least) three-place. These predicates relate not only a biological entity (e.g., the heart) and an activity that constitutes the function of this entity (e.g., pumping blood), they also contain a place for a goal state (e.g. survival or evolutionary fitness). A functional attribution without specification of such a goal state has no truth-value (of course, the goal state is often implicit in biological practice). But if completed with a goal state, functional attributions understood as three-place relations attain a truth-value, which is at least as objective as causal statements (provided that the latter are objective). Thus, Searle critique breaks down. What Searle ought to have said is that our valuing survival or other goal states is the reason why biology seeks functional knowledge, but this has nothing to do with ontology.
In a second part of my talk, I will explore how the objectivity of functions could be challenged even if what I said above is understood. A potential threat comes from considerations about the nature of biological mechanisms.
Marco Viola Why Research Evaluations should be freed from the objectivity ideal. A lesson from the Italian case Italian science governance has recently undergone a major reform, assigning a prominent role to research and researchers evaluations, whose goal was to give “objective” judgments.
Martin Kusch Epistemic Relativism, Scepticism, Pluralism All forms of epistemic relativism assume that it is impossible to show in a non-question-begging way that one epistemic system is
epistemically superior to (all) others. I shall call this assumption “No meta-justification” (=NM).  In this paper I shall discuss two currently popular attempts to attack NM. The first attacks NM by challenging a particular strategy of arguing for it: this strategy involves the ancient Pyrrhonian “Problem of the criterion”. The second attempt to refute NM targets its metaphysical underpinning: to wit, the “pluralist” claim that there are, or could be, several fundamentally different and irreconcilable ESs. I shall try to answer three questions: (i) Can the epistemic relativist rely on “the Problem of the Criterion” in support of NM?  (ii) Is a combination of Chisholmian “particularism” and epistemic naturalism an effective weapon against NM? (iii) Is pluralism a defensible assumption? I shall argue for “yes” to (i) and (iii), and “no” to (ii).
Matteo Colombo, Leandra Bucher and Yoel Inbar Explanatory Judgment, Moral Offense and Value-Free Science. An Empirical Study A popular view in philosophy of science contends that scientific reasoning is objective to the extent that the appraisal of scientific hypotheses is not influenced by moral, political, economic, or social values, but only by the available evidence. A large body of results in the psychology of motivated-reasoning has put pressure on the empirical adequacy of this view. The present study extends this body of results by providing direct evidence that the moral offensiveness of a scientific hypothesis biases explanatory judgment along several dimensions, even when prior credence in the hypothesis is controlled for. Furthermore, it is shown that this bias is insensitive to an economic incentive to be accurate in the evaluation of the evidence. These results contribute to call into question the attainability of the ideal of a value-free science.
Matthias Egg Objectivity in fundamental physics It is widely believed that scientific theories have a higher degree of objectivity the closer they are to fundamental physics. I will dispute this claim and argue instead that the maximum of objectivity is actually reached in an explicitly non-fundamental branch of physics, properly called “particle physics”.
Max Bialek Interest Relativity in the Best System Analysis of Laws Lewis’ Best System Analysis (BSA) of laws of nature is often criticized (as in Armstrong 1985) on the grounds that what it means to be the “best” system is too subjective for an analysis of lawhood. Recent proponents of the BSA have embraced the view’s interest relativity despite the objection. I argue that there remains a strategy for countering the “too subjective” objection that employs motivated instances of interest relativity to mitigate the challenge of identifying an objectively “best” system, and then provide examples of how this may work by looking at special science laws and common interest in inductive inference.
Naftali Weinberger “The Causal Faithfulness Condition is not a Parsimony Principle” Recent graphical causal modeling methods rely on the causal Markov condition (CMC). Very roughly, CMC says that if two variables are causally unrelated, then they are not correlated. The CMC alone is never able to rule out complete graphs, which represent causal hypotheses according to which every variable is directly causally relevant to every other variable in the graph. In order to provide a basis for choosing a graph with fewer edges over the complete graph, further principles are required. The best known such principle in the literature is the causal Faithfulness condition (CFC). I present an alternative principle, which I call “frugality”. Frugality says that among the graphs compatible with CMC, one should choose the one with the fewest causal arrows (in any direction). Frugality is a parsimony principle, since it specifies a simplicity criterion (i.e. number of arrows) and says that one should prefer simpler models. Although CFC is sometimes considered to be a parsimony principle, it is not a parsimony principle in the same sense as frugality is.  While CFC says that one should not accept models with a particular property (that of being faithful to the probability distribution), it cannot be interpreted as saying that simpler models are to be preferred.
Paul Teller Value free science as an artifact of true theories The appearance of a value free science is an artifact of the truth idealization: Our so called truths are true only insofar as they function as truths in the traditional absolute sense. The traditional idea of truth is an idealization that idealizes away from the limitations of function as a truth but only for some things – in the idealization a statement functions as a truth for EVERYTHING to which it might apply. But idealizing away the “functions as (but not for everything)” idealizes away the (or at least an important) point at which values enter.
Phoebe Friesen Reconceptualizing Objectivity in Psychiatry This paper proposes that a novel conception of objectivity should be adopted within investigations of psychiatric phenomena. After laying out the current discussion in philosophy of psychiatry, which revolves mainly around two questions concerning what mental disorders are and how we can classify them, I suggest that a third question might contribute to contemporary discussions by bringing important considerations to light. This question is an epistemological one and asks what we can in fact know of mental disorders, and in particular, what objectivity in psychiatric investigations might look like. I offer a response that takes inspiration from contemporary feminist critiques of objectivity, which eschew classical accounts of objectivity as universal and entirely neutral. I suggest that within psychiatric research, objectivity should instead be conceived of as dynamic, value-laden, and pluralistic. I argue that psychiatry ought to embrace objectivity as such, since it better represents the complexity of the phenomena of interest within the field, is more likely to produce accurate explanations and effective treatments for mental disorders, and acknowledges the significant role that values play in contributing to psychiatric knowledge.
Raoul Gervais Convergent objectivity, explanation, and electric eels Often, convergent objectivity (having multiple lines of evidence confirming a single explanation) is thought to be inferior to manipulation experiments. The idea is that those scientific disciplines that rely on convergent objectivity are typically the ones in which manipulation experiments are impossible for practical or ethical reasons. This view is mistaken however: convergent objectivity can be
the result of manipulation experiments, and it is frequently relied upon in disciplines where it is possible to do manipulation experiments. I will illustrate this with a historical case study: competing
explanations of the electric eel’s power to numb.
Richard Dawid and Stephan Hartmann The No Miracles Argument without Base Rate Fallacy According to an argument by Colin Howson, the no-miracles argument is contingent on committing the base-rate fallacy and is therefore bound to fail. In this note, we demonstrate that Howson’s argument only applies to one of two versions of the no-miracles argument. The other, more considerate version is not adequately reconstructed in Howson’s approach and thus remains unaffected by his line of reasoning. We provide a Bayesian reconstruction of this version of the no-miracles argument and show that it is sound.
Rico Hauswald Objectivity in Science and the Role of Social Activism In this paper, I shall examine the role social activist movements play for science. I identify activism as a kind of stakeholder, i.e. an extra-scientific factor which nevertheless has significant influence on science and should be taken into account when considering its functioning from a social epistemological point of view. In particular, I shall reveal the ambivalent relation social activism has towards science – on the one hand, being able to fulfill positive functions for it, on the other hand, posing serious threats to its integrity – and, in doing so, present new arguments regarding personnel exchanges between both sides.
Roland Poellinger Non-Causal Links in Causal Chains This paper is motivated by the observation that in many cases of reasoning about objective causal relations, non-causal, non-directional epistemic relations are drawn on, computed efficiently, and supported by strong intuitions. Modeling non-directional relations in standard Bayes net causal structures obviously violates the causal Markov condition. I will propose an extension of interventionist causal models to allow for the integration of non-causal, informational, subjective links as sub-portions of causal chains, and I will present an application of the framework to an instance of the “Cambridge Change”.
Saana Jukola The ideals of objectivity, meta-analysis, and medical research This paper focuses on the ideals of scientific objectivity as they emerge in discussions concerning medical research. I shall argue that the ideals we use for evaluating scientific practices can have significant non-epistemic consequences. As an example I discuss Jacob Stegenga’s (2011) criticism of meta-analyses status as “the platinum standard of evidence”. I show that Stegenga’s article fails to fully capture some of the most essential problems surrounding the use of meta-analyses because his analysis is based on the ideal of so-called procedural objectivity (Douglas 2004).
Silvia Ivani Non-Cognitive Values and Objectivity Philosophers traditionally deny a role for non-cognitive values in the assessment of scientific theories. These non-cognitive values go beyond the range of internal scientific values and include moral, social, religious, aesthetic, economic, and political values. According to this traditional perspective, genuine science is value-free: to exclude the influence of non-cognitive values in the appraisal of theories makes it possible to maintain science as an independent research and to produce objective knowledge. My aim is to show that some non-cognitive values can have a legitimate and beneficial role in the assessment of scientific theories. I argue that non-cognitive values do not necessarily compromise the adequacy and the objectivity of a scientific theory. In order to develop my analysis, I examine the influence of noncognitive values in the assessment of the hypotheses proposed by evolutionary psychology concerning partner choice.
Stephanie Ruphy What is left of (ontological) objectivity in a pluralist view of science? Philosophical attention has shifted away from theories to models and simulations as the primary representational media in science today and the traditional monist aim of grasping the real structure of the world has become a lost cause, and rightly so. More modest, pluralist expectations are well advised, for models and simulations, we are said, deliver partial and interest-dependent representations of the world, scientific knowledge is inherently perspectival (Giere 2006) and science can only provide us with a collection of idealized ontologies (Teller 2004).   I will investigate in this talk what kind of ontological objectivity comes with these various pluralist claims, emphasizing its modal nature. Illustrations of my proposition will be drawn from astrophysics and cosmology.
Tobias Henschen Causality and objectivity in the social sciences Social scientists who aim to justify social policy decisions tend to use structural models. One may say that structural modeling in social science is objective if structural models represent facts about the world (i.e. causal relations), or if social scientists accept or reject and gather evidence in support or against the causal hypotheses independently of the non-epistemic values that they happen to endorse. It’s the aim of the paper to show that objectivity in any of these senses is unattainable for social scientists, and that the only sort of objectivity that is attainable for social scientists is an agreement that they achieve with respect to the non-epistemic values that underlie structural modeling.
Victor Gijsbers How objective can an agency theory of causation be? Agency theories of causation turn causation, an objective relation, into something essentially related to subjects. Defenders of agency theories must respond to this apparent incoherence. Following Menzies and Price, they can embrace subjectivity and turn causation into a secondary quality. I argue that this approach fails, since the very notion of a secondary quality implies the existence of objective causal relations. It is more fruitful to argue, following a Kantian strategy, that all objects of knowledge are essentially related to subjects, and that an agency notion of causation is no worse off than any of the concepts of empirical science.

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