Freedom from Value Judgments: Value-Free Social Science and Objectivity in Germany, 1880-1914

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Freedom from Value Judgments: Value-Free Social Science and Objectivity in Germany, 1880-1914

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Title: Freedom from Value Judgments: Value-Free Social Science and Objectivity in Germany, 1880-1914
Author: Spadafora, Andrew Jeffrey
Citation: Spadafora, Andrew Jeffrey. 2013. Freedom from Value Judgments: Value-Free Social Science and Objectivity in Germany, 1880-1914. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation addresses a central issue in the methodological debates that raged in the German academy around the turn of the twentieth century. The idea of "value-free" social science, or "value-freedom," was passed down to subsequent decades as a way of thinking about the objectivity of knowledge, but because of its name it has been widely misunderstood. Moreover, it has been seen either as a clever invention of the polymath scholar Max Weber, or as some form of ideology masquerading as neutrality (or both). Instead, a contextually sensitive historical analysis of the work of five German and Austrian scholars—Carl Menger, Ferdinand Tönnies, Georg Jellinek, Hermann Kantorowicz, and Gustav Radbruch—demonstrates that value-freedom was a complex doctrine with widely ramified sources in the intellectual history of economics, sociology, and law. It was accepted on a variety of grounds and by individuals of differing personalities, politics, philosophical training, and academic disciplines. "Value-free" social science in the work of these men meant anything but the removal of values from scholarly consideration. Instead, its advocates promoted a focus on the subjectivity and the will of the individual, goal-directed agent. Value-freedom took the form of several interrelated distinctions, between theory and practice, fact and value, "is" and "ought," means and ends; but each of these scholars coupled his preferred formulation with the shared view that human values are incapable of rational justification. They insisted on the importance of the analytical separation of the positive and normative but recognized a legitimate role for the social sciences in the positive discussion of values. However, the attempt to bridge the subjective world of human values and the objective world of social scientific fact foundered for most of them on the inherently subjective choices made by the individual scholar, leading them to face the possibility that value-freedom could not provide a successful theory of objectivity without reformulation. The dissertation spans three decades and several disciplines, including the work of important jurists whose social scientific credentials have been neglected owing to their disciplinary backgrounds.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10947518
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