Value and Science

Agnes Koos

Forum: Enlightenment's Online Conference

To ask is to choose. We assume that it is meaningful to explore values, because they do possess some kind of existence – ontological reference or ontological effect – and we assume that scientific approach has something specific compared to other forms of seeing or experiencing the world.

The epistemic presupposition of the axiology is a representational cognitive psychology and it has to postulate a purpose-following/purposeful actor as anthropological assumption, because both the behaviorism and the normativist ethics can do without axiology. Then, within this frame the most differentiating factor becomes the value ontology that may be seized on a subjective-objective scale:

Value=irrational aim Value constituted

by social consensus

In rebus value Ante rem value

Individual action

preferential it transcends the individual, but he has possibilities of choice In case of adequate estimation there is only one possibility of action determined

(for sages)

Value's objective



consensual existing existing

Value judgement

=judgement of taste - it may be true or false in inferences containing value premises

- the truth-values may be compared in rational arguments

true or false


Human dignity, equality (maybe determination) justify the individual options social subsistence,


-natural law





(+e.g. moral


Values can be studied with

psychological methods sociological and soc. psychological methods virtually all methods maïeutiké

Adequate discipline

psychology sociology, soc. psych., culture anthropology sociology, soc.psych, ethics, philosophy, theology ethics, philosophy, theology

Typical theories

emotivism (Russell) sociologism Platonism


(basic standpoint in social



holism not specific individualism

The table suggests that most value theories experiment intermediate solutions and try to describe the social constitution of values next to the postulation of a few ontological principles destined to limit arbitrariness. Correspondingly, the epistemological status of the value oscillates between emotive-volitional motive and elaborated rational representation of the given.

Within immanent systems of thought all knowledge about values is necessarily secondary knowledge, abstracted from the practice of collectivity, which has to be considered rational till it allows subsistence, but isn't likely to function at maximum rationality.

The epistemological status of the values is further compromised by the difference between collective and individual knowledge. The same thing that may appear as a crystallized spiritual formation deducible from society's functioning for the sociologist or moralist, may be an amorphous irrational motive for the individual, or he may action only on the basis of the rules inculcated in him. However, independently of his will and consciousness, his action carries axiological meaning. More, the mere rule-obeying behavior is unable to reach the optimal solution in all imaginable cases.

According to the games theory, there are situations when or the golden rule, or the Kantian imperative, or both are inoperant or prescribe a choice below optimum1 . More, as a special case of the Gödel theorem, there is impossible to formulate a universal (moral) norm that would be successfully applicable in every game. The strategies can be compared in iterated games, there are better ones and worse ones (more yielding and less yielding ones), but there is no one that could warrant maximal gain in every circumstances. In iterated prisoners dilemma games - built on co-operation vs. competition as basic motives – the most successful strategy is the “nice» Tit for Tat, and pure competition is not the most yielding choice. Games theory concludes by proposing mixed strategies and probabilistic behavior in certain cases. This advice definitely opposes obedience to universal norms.

Obviously, games theory considers that rationality's very mode of existence is gain maximization and this presupposition is legitimately challangeable. For instance, it seems incompatible with the Weberian classes of rationality (of purpose, of value, traditional). But Weber defined these classes with reference to the individual actor, while the beneficiary of the gain maximizing strategy may be the collectivity as well. In these cases the tradition-obeying individual behavior serves the collectivity's gain maximizing strategy.

Similarly, we can differentiate between theoretic rationality aiming at the knowledge of causes and practical rationality thinking in purpose-instrument schemes, but within the greater collectivity's context even the theoretic rationality aims at the foundation of a successful practice. The ultimate sense of individual's value-rational action is to achieve collectivity 's approval and support. Often, in the background of certain apparently irrational actions we can detect their purposefulness and/or a (biased) concretization of the usual rational methods. (E.g. the activity of Durkeim's rainmaker is supported by statistical probability, the enamoured people tearing flower petals apply the psychological trick of distantiation.)

Basically the above argumentation aims at founding the followings:

(i) Morals/moral practice of a society are themselves social knowledge, or, even the most ungenerously formulated, a kind of rationality. 2

(ii) The frontiers between practical (intuitive) and theoretic (discursive) consciousness are fluctuating, obscure and permeable. The moral practice can be rationalized and studied, and an adequate value theory may blissfully re-act on society's moral practice. At the same time, the operation of abstracting values exhausts the notion of reification, with all the traps attributed to it, including ontological legitimization of arbitrarily chosen values.3

(iii) The leading motive of rationality is gain maximization, but near scarce resources (in zero-sum games) the social practice aims at maintaining the equilibrium (the saddle point) and this has important impact on individuals' rationality (in the direction of norm- or value-conform actions). At the same time we cannot affirm that most value-oriented actions would be sharply opposed either to the individual's well-being or to his instinctual drives. According to decision and games theory, and psychology as well, co-operation is not only a very productive social motive, but human beings have innate inclination towards it.

(iv) The moral feature is an emergent property of the action that manifests itself only in its relationships with other social phenomena. In the real social life the moral sphere has no autonomy at all. But conceptual constructions for study purposes may be built that are relatively autonomous within social theories and with reference to which the moral character of the individual act gets sense and direction – these are the value orders (rank orders or systems).


With the above we have claimed that science and scientific disciplines, respectively, are competent for studying values (and morals). But can we legitimately found science's competence for dealing with values, if it is value-laden, that is, presumably prejudiced? May it be able to seize an object generally evoking the sensation of intuition, responsibility, exaltedness or sacred with the flat means of discursive rationality? And can it – or even its frowning - have any impact on the social practice, when transmission of values is still realizing by accustoming, castigation/rewarding, affective persuasion and political propaganda? Moreover, characteristically to the 20. century's end status of the science, we may ask even if there is a difference between scientific approach and quotidian, mythical representations or transcendental revelations.


For us science produces information, not knowledge in its very sense of episteme , an ultimate and infallible truth as result of a deep comprehension of the object. We are always aware of a moment of relativity in getting knowledge, considered a multi-step & multi-level process with many alternatives and having an object susceptible of contingency.

Maybe there was only one epoch and only one society that considered science the real knowledge: the 18. century France. Formerly the intuitive knowledge had been regarded superior to the discursive one, while later a regression of the discursive rationality to its roots or bases began and resulted in the devaluation of the very notion of knowledge. The very rare exceptions occurred rather in the first period: a few materialists in the antique and medieval era. Even G. Bruno went to stake for his scientific truth while recognizing the superiority of intellectual vision against discursively obtained thoughts.

The beginning of the disenchantment of science is attributed to Kant: not only to the criticism exerted against pure reason, but to his segmented conception of the soul-bag. In 19. century philosophies the will and notionless vision emancipating from reason's domination did frequently emerge as destructive voluntarism or tragedy-destined life experience. But the mainstream thought about science has been simply skeptical, grabbing all means to doubt its prerogatives to producing real knowledge. These claims have been supported by the scientific progress itself: spreading of the historical and sociological vision and systematization of information in specific disciplines, e.g. epistemology, sociology, politics of science etc.

Anthropologists are predisposed to call the (social and individual) consciousness' contents systems of belief ranging from superstitions to scientifically founded knowledge. Not only believe they in the evolution of these systems, but they are able to explain the expansion of discursive rationality on the detriment of beliefs expressing emotive and volitional needs with social (or social psychology) causes. They have convincing arguments to explain changes from the archaic era till the antique one, the scheme is less fit for the class societies. (As a counterexample, the Roman rationality is challenged by the irrational Christianism of the slaves, which is organized in a rational theology only in the 13. century.)

The rationality existing in class societies has been a central object of sociology from its very beginnings. Beyond its historicity and social determination, noticed and emphasized by all founding fathers, Marx adds the ideological character rooted in class interests. Later, the sociology of knowledge ties the particular world views to both historic Denkstil and class position.

But by the middle of the 20. century all relativist consequences of these considerations confined to social sciences and did not really threaten the status of the natural sciences. The latter became popular with the Kuhnian system undermining science's credibility by focusing on the societal life of scientific communities.

Without giving a definition of what I consider science, I would like to emphasize a few traits that seem important for future claims.

- It is a discursive form of getting knowledge.4 Intuition may have its role in the formation of the new knowledge, but to validate and assess it, even the intuitively grabbed (e.g. by analogy) connection needs translating into discursive rationality's structures.

- In general, science functions as if it recognize the existence of a reality outside human minds (an “objective world»). Definitions of the object that avoid philosophical disputes shift the stress from existence vs. non-existence on the problem of co-existence (compossibility). Namely, science does not postulate existence but the possibility of simultaneous occurrences.

- In parallel with putting in parentheses the objective reality, the notion of true science is replaced by objective science, wanting to express that among all human enterprises, it's science that sees the world from a God's eye perspective. Practically, the struggle against the distorting effects of subjectivity intruded between object and knowledge becomes a duty and a defining note of science's self-consciousness.

Actually even the allegedly value-free positivism and scientism are opposed by Frankfurtians because of their distortion in favor of the capitalist establishment. But they extended their criticism onto every epistemology requiring objectivity. Maybe a distinction between value-free and objective could approach the standpoints. Value-free (social) science's ideal was formulated to safeguard science from the distorting effects of particular ideologies (or value systems) and the claim wasn't supported by reasons heavier than l'art pour l'art. Speaking about the objectivity of science, we embed the problem in the context of vital social practice. There is evidence that taking into consideration a few general human values, far from reducing the objectivity of social sciences, has beneficial effect on scholars' clear sight.5

Similarly it is worth nuancing the Husserlian claim that science, instead of rationally transcending the Lebenswelt , has grabbed, expressed and expanded the Lebenswelt 's specific rationality, the more and more efficient domination of the environment, including domination of humans. In fact humans' (the “ Lebenswelt 's») rationality has generally aimed at making life easier, more secure and enjoyable, and it has always wanted science to help to this. As human history unfolds through social struggle and domination, no human thought could have remained untouched by domination-related views, but – compared to religion, ethics and politics - science seems the less handicapped in revising and changing its biased presuppositions.

- Its social task is to provide the information needed by practice to assure social subsistence and progress. In this respect, the most valuable types of knowledge are predictions and the explanations that found them. With regard to science's proper subsistence and progress, curiosity is not a negligible factor. But it is only a parameter characterizing the individual scholars' psychic, so as to gather the funds necessary to finance research, information flux, peer evaluation and experiments, etc. it is necessary to show the practical advantages of the project.

- Science is a social enterprise, and society is present in sciences' life mainly via their institutional set up. Further, socie ty exerts important impact on individual consciousness during their socialization as citizens and as scholars.

According to the above, science is legitimized by practical successes and successful practice is a warrant of its objectivity. But in social sciences 1. Experiment is not allowed; 2. The system is too complex that a result could be attributed to a certain intervention; 3. Only a dominant group is favorably positioned to realize any kind of scientific recommendation and they are likely to select in a biased way and carry out all measures arbitrarily. Thus even those who would not contest either the possibility or the necessity of objective social disciplines, have been looking for other guarantees of objectivity than mere practice.

1. In Hegel's system the society is not simply developing but it develops in a necessary manner and the (necessarily attainable) aim of the development is absolute knowledge about both nature and society. There are two components to underline in this highly optimistic conception: (i) the self-displaying (even exhibitionist) world and (ii) historicism (the latter knowledge is more adequate than the former).

Neohegelianism maintains both principles, but it confines his promises to a constant approximation of the absolute knowledge. Other kinds of idealistic historicism, like history of ideas, approve of them too, but within these systems there isn't such an essence of the world whose knowledge could be considered absolute knowledge: the object disintegrates into its crumbs, the society falls apart not only in individuals, but in parts of rationality too. Dilthey models the new social science method, the hermeneutics on this new ontology.

2. Neokantians considered two chances of an objective historiography: (i) a complete hermeneutic description of the society and (ii) belief in universal values. As the first condition requires a developed intuition of the researcher, the two claims meet each other at the ontological level of moral intuition 's intersubjectivity (which is the basis for universal values as well).

3. Marx's conception is also marked by the historicist principle, but here the development of knowledge is propelled by the needs of the social practice. We won't reach absolute knowledge, although the relative truths may unlimitedly accumulate in a future classless society. In class societies the reflection about society is dominated by ideologies, not by science. Ideologies may contain the elements of relative truth, and those belonging to progressive classes in ascension are more objective.

Among Marx's followers, George Lukács put all emphasis on this latter thought. He considered the proletarian ideology a more valuable image of society than the social sciences were. Science in his opinion is a product of alienation or at least heavily determined by it, while the proletarian ideology gives answer and solution to the most important questions of humanity. In this system of thought the most highly ranked knowledge is that based on the most progressive values. In a sense Lukács attempted to realize the (ii) Rickertian variant. But his trial did not meet much agreement either with those who shared his conception about this relationship between ideology and science or with those who did not. During the 60' philosophers and sociologists in Hungary were generally fighting for the des-ideologization of social disciplines while political leaders required that their proper interpretation of proletarian ideology be accepted as social science.

The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School shows the same ratio to Lukács's thoughts than the history of ideas to Hegelianism: it lets us feel the glittering pot-sherds of a bygone entireness. Here we find fallen into pieces the will and the conception that could oppose the given social establishment continuously conceived as a complete, organic whole, a totality.

4. Since its birth till its decline into post-neopositivism, positivism had been characterized by an apologetic relationship to science, besides, or contrary to the fact that its epistemology was quite skeptical, at times even agnostic. A long list of questions in which humans have been interested since archaic times were classified meaningless or faulty formulated, whose answers would belong to the domain of subjective taste or irrational abilities for ever. “Essence» and “causality» were absent as soon as Comte's system, with empiriocriticists the whole “objective» world was closed into parentheses, then the Vienna Circle tried to re-built sciences' world view starting from only sensorial data. According to this theory, scientific knowledge is legitimately labeled with a “true» attribute of conventionalist type, but the problem of adequation is a meaningless metaphysical problem. More concretely, e.g. the verificationist principle formulated by them6 does not fit either the analytical, or the synthetical group of judgements.

In this system of thought the objectivity of science is guaranteed by the method. From the protocol observations till the theory, every inference may be subjected to a strict logical control. Criticism's task is not only to detect non-sequiturs, but to expel all value-containing premise or latent assumption from the construction. However plausible this conception about science's development seems, in fact it is discussed in every detail and aspect.

5. In the Mertonian paradigm the process of getting knowledge and its results are strongly dependent on society, but this is exactly the factor that guarantees science's continuous progress, so that it may meet more perfectly its function to guide the practice. Like Marxism, this system of thought expects social development to produce more objective knowledge, but here the optimal frame of the social development is the modern democratic, liberal (and capitalist) state.

6. The current called sociology of knowledge, generally concretized with the name of Scheler and Mannheim, actually deals only with the sociology of social disciplines, and primarily with the sociological study of the ideological forms of consciousness. The social impact on knowledge is so stressed here that the possibility of objectivity is solely warrantable by an ontological condition. The social groups segmented by social division of labor and institutional network have different specific perspectives with regard to existence and society, but the intellectuals freely floating above society may be able to synthesize all these perspectives and to create a new world view of higher quality. With Mannheim the world views – ideologies or utopias – are systems of thought that contain values and evaluations, but most of them (and mainly the newer forms) aim at a discursive rational self-presentation. It was Scheler who dealt more thoroughly with values and rejected the formal solutions in ethics. But the universalizability of values solved rather in the spirit of the intersubjective moral intuition than by synthesizing perspectives.

The sociology of knowledge is very creative and valuable in grabbing the points of articulation between the descriptive and evaluative attitudes. In the same way as Kuhn expressed the convertibility of method and theory with the term “paradigm», here the notions of ideology and utopia make evident the strong interconnection between values and world views' basic principles. The representatives of the sociology of knowledge – loyally to their phenomenological starting point – presented this phenomenon with a typifying description of the existing systems and neither did others go beyond description to offer an explanation of it.

7. Contemporaneous philosophers are inclined to apply meta-theoretical argumentation to this topic. Presenting general principles abstracted from the multi-secular philosophical tradition, they assume the attitude of the specialist providing information to the decision-maker. This does not mean that there aren't salient epistemological standpoints endorsed by different currents and schools today. Each of the above has its contemporaneous variants, and even those not highlighted so far, as the Enlightenment tradition or Dewey's pragmatism, have supporters and accumulated new arguments in favor. But my aim here is only to see the basic direction of arguments substantiating anti-agnosticism.

From the objectivity conditions presented above, two basic configurations may be abstracted. Alan Cribb has formulated them for a particular case, as principles founding the objectivity pretension of moral or political theories:7

“There are two ways in which objectivity can be claimed for a moral or political theory: (1) It can be claimed that a whole conception of the nature of human good and human society has been established, or (2) It can be claimed that a particular account of morality transcends, and is neutral between conflicting conceptions of the good.»

(Cribb's examples for the first variant are Marxism and religions, while for the second, utilitarianism, Rawls' theory of justice etc.)

In general, knowledge's pretension of objectivity is substantiated by:

1. Ontological arguments, like:

(According to the above, Rawls' theory of justice, for instance, would be a particular combination of the second and forth sub-case.)


In pondering science's objectivity there are two divergent modes of arguing: the studies about the value-laden character of the science are significantly different from those speaking about its ideological character. The former consider science's subjective distortions more external and contingent, and easier to surmount, respectively. As for values, these are considered of free choice or negotiable. The second way – otherwise peculiar to social sciences – stresses on the social embeddedness or social determination of the systems of thought. Within this perspective values express deep social interests, which cannot be abandoned by those concerned without serious sacrifice. Mainstream Marxism and sociology of knowledge preserve their anti-agnosticism in virtue of their ontological assumptions, while the Frankfurt School rather denies the necessity and value of objectivity. Obviously, if people cannot be rationally expected to renounce or commit to certain ideas, the possibilities of objectivity are quite limited – but so are those of negotiation as well.

But why to reject ideological knowledge? Shall we reject it because it is biased (not-objective) or because it breaches the methodological rules? And a few correlates are emerging:

C1 : Is it possible that a piece of knowledge that does not satisfy methodological criteria is objective?

C2 : Is it possible to reach objective knowledge by obeying the currently valid methodological rules?

C3 : Is it possible that the valid methodological rules are unbiased?

The 4 more important (and historically relevant) answers are:

C1 C2 C3


+ + + Hegel, mainstream Marxism, sociology of knowledge,

most Western religions


- + + Positivism, Merton


+ - - Lukács, Frankfurt School, kinds of irrationalism


- - - Skepticism, agnosticism, kinds of irrationalism

Thus despite its usual pejorative epistemological connotation, ideology is less the false consciousness' synonym than that of currently undecided or undecidable (and, further, of practice-oriented) consciousness. The most important difference between the conceptions of value-laden science and ideological knowledge is not their degree of skepticism, but the way they found the chances of objectivity of knowledge.

The conception of value-laden science is basically of positivist-scientist origin, more exactly this is the conception of science against which they elaborated their own paradigm, say, this is their (shadow-)boxed paradigm. But, on the one hand, its philosophical antecedents predate 19. century, and, on the other hand, some of its elements are present even at thinkers who are expressly opposed to positivism. We may consider the efforts of Aristotle and Stoicism for logical correctness, of Bacon for mapping idola , of Machiavelli to segregate social analysis from morals. Their belief in the victory of reason over subjectivity marks a peculiar, realist (not idealizing), pragmatic and evolutionist anti-agnostic tradition of epistemology, still live today. It seems that there are several ways toward this attitude. As two extremes, I would quote H.E. Longino11 , who approaches the problem by analyzing and comparing the properly said epistemological theories (positivist, Kuhnian, of Feuerabend) and states the presence of constitutive (internal) and contextual (external) values in science. The constitutive values are discussible and negotiable, the contextual ones are to and can be eliminated. In a radically different perspective, the practicing economist Myrdal suggests that social sciences should be built on the most relevant and significant values existing in society12 . This practical advice assumes that the values internal to science are subject to free and conscientious choice, further, that those unwanted may be successfully eliminated. At the same time we must notice that Myrdal did not regard values themselves as objects of free(will's) choice, moreover, he took position on behalf of their social determination: “Valuations may be rendered comprehensible only by an analysis that includes – among other things – all possible causal knowledge./…./ If we understand causal relationships correctly in all their details, we can correctly judge the instrumental character of values.»13

The theories assuming and studying science's ideological character generally obey the spirit of the above claim. They look for direct liaisons between social set up and scientific paradigms. They do not deny that these relations are realized by individual or group choices, but their basic methodological option is the Durkhemian standpoint: we can explain a social fact only with an other social fact. Again, it is worth noting that the creed of historic-social determination does not necessarily imply epistemological defeatism, that is, considering all knowledge mistaken. There are logical and historical arguments against it, I will quote a few mentioned by Steve Fuller14 :

(i) Only a theory that “really works» can be made to serve any social interest.

(ii) How it is possible that the social group which first proposes a knowledge claim is not necessarily the one that benefits once the claim is certified?

(iii) A knowledge claim may be considered real knowledge long after its original interests have been served.

The relationship between the two currents – value-laden vs. ideological character – is mainly characterized by the fact that those embracing the value-chargedness' conception do not take into consideration the arguments of the other party. They may hold a strong belief in the ability of human creativity to transcend the social life, or a phenomenological methodology that implies indifference towards analyses beyond individual (or group) choices.

But they both may opt for a value-ontological or ethical standpoint that strengthens epistemological optimism. This spiritual platform (“realist» or “objective») may be best characterized by its negativities: it does not postulate an in principle caesura between “is» and “ought», does not introduce transcendent legitimizing in ethics, does not count on innate moral instinct and does not subject rational factors to those emotive-volitional in the explanation of moral phenomena. In general it aims at explaining “ought» from “is» or from “wanted to be», on the basis of the continuity of the two spheres. We may distinguish three basic types of it:

(i) Boundary-case variant . Its paradigm is Russell's emotivism (preferences are irrational, realization of aims is rational). Moral valuations occur at the boundary between irrational and rational. “Murder is wicked» is halfway between the imperative “Thou shalt not kill» expressing hopes and fears and an empirical statement reflecting objectivity in a rational way. The ultimate aim of morals is to create a society guaranteeing realization of compossible purposes and it is emphatically historical.

(ii) Value as quality variant. The basic and most important values are attributes congenital to humanity and belong to individuals as their rights (freedom, equality, dignity etc.). The man-made laws are legitimate only to the extent they explicit and are consistent with them. In the philosophy of law, this standpoint was given the name “natural law». The basic epistemological attitudes toward values are discovery or detection, and confronting actual practice with them, respectively.

(iii) Value as knowledge variant . Values emerge in the self-regulating processes of society and express a historical experience. The formulation of values (abstracting them from practice or norms), their ideating, stating hierarchical or antagonistic relationships, studying their social functions etc. all are properly said secondary reflection or knowledge. This conception is a boundary case from the point of view of value ontology: in the constitution of values both phenomena's objective attributes and human preferences are implied. The human preference, of course, may be interpreted in different ways. In atomistic perspectives it is individual preference and beyond emotivism it regularly results in postulating the free will. In holist perspectives it is conceived as collective/social preference, that induces deterministic approaches.

The opponents of the above platform stress the devaluation of values in realist perspectives. The conception fails to buttress the respect around moral phenomena, which heretofore seemed to be a seminal component of values' normal social functioning, necessary to their impact on human behavior. But a number of contemporaneous sociological studies emphasize that our societies prefer pragmatic (instrumental) values to those absolute (terminal) in the political discourse. This can be detected both in the vocabulary of the political messages and the actual political programs: the practical measures taken by different parties are converging. We may think of several plausible explanations of the phenomena:

(i) Humans' way of thinking about values has become more practical and/or more rational, e.g. the moral thinking needed to concert immediate and farther purposes has become more articulated;15

(ii) The practical convergence signals the presence and influence of an almighty global ideology (identified regularly as liberalism);16

(iii) Politics becomes more pragmatic as a result of the general(izing) experience that it is advised to leave within the power's reach only the problems that are likely to become settled by compromises while the disputes unlikely to be solved in the near future (as those concerned with values or life-styles) are referred to civil society, religion, philosophy etc.

However, sometimes there are occurring processes opposed to that of des-ideologization of politics. The historically new topics and problems, as the environment protection, may become ideologized and segmented along the old political platforms (as it happened in Germany, for instance).


As we have seen above, the watchword of rationality in general and of science in particular is distantiating. This means that the total field including both individual and his environment organizes in distinct structures with the object in focus isolated from subject and making sensible its relationships with other things. After some Antique prelude, it was only in the last century that the moral and political phenomena became so distantiated that it could be subjected to positive scientific observation, not only to philosophical/ theological/ ethic discussion. There are two great groups of studies about values:

1. Behavior-centered paradigms

2. Sociological narratives

1. The disciplines studying behavior are inclined to take into account moral phenomena as pushing rather than pulling force, that is, they describe it rather as norm-obeying than a special case of purposeful behavior. Still, we may count on a revision of the well trained behaviorist and pragmatist methods because of three important recent scientific achievements:

The social psychology has been dealing with mapping, rank ordering and hierarchizing of values for many decades. Their dynamic has mainly been come to fore with regard to elections and possibilities to predict the constituents' behavior. The problem implies the detection of determinants and/or mechanisms of impact. There is an increasing interest in the role of the mass media in this respect.22

2. Sociology is generally studying values in the context of the whole society and regularly in their systemic way of existence. The cognitive frames that are chosen in this purpose signal important differences of perspective.

The Marxist tradition has a predilection for the notion of ideology. This notion refers immediately and directly to the historical-social, moreover, to the class determination of the systems of thought and value. In this perspective the symbolic structures do not only tie the members of the society, but they are the means of efficient domination and/or revolt.

Other sociological narratives place values in the context of religions or beliefs and emphasize their character of social cement. But the social determination and historical character of the systems of thought is valid in these traditions as well. Weber's analysis of Protestantism focuses on a moment of historical discontinuity (conceived as social transition), Durkeim applies the social causation's principle even in the study of religions. K. Thompson, who deals with these currents in his book “Beliefs and Ideology», classifies the opinions about ideology's social determination in 4 stages and only the two strongest of these (that postulate also the class character of them) are considered specifically Marxists.23

There are 3 observation arising with regard to the above diagnosis:

(i) We may properly speak of ideology only from the Modern Age (17. century) but a re-projection of it on the previous societies is possible. In the modern and contemporaneous societies the importance of politics-centered systems of thoughts has been greatly increased, thus we may predict an escalation of the term in the specialized texts, but not necessarily with the preservation of its radical content implying class struggle. (The alternative terms: political theory/ political beliefs seem more restrictive and clumsy.)

(ii) An alloying or synthesizing of the Marxist and non-Marxist (mainly conservative) traditions is not impossible (e.g. K. Thompson tries to do it in the mentioned book), but generally the concrete studies on social problems are still one-paradigm-based. Eclecticism is likely to be surpassed only when the theme is suitable to valorize the common features of two or more paradigms (e.g. holist vision common to Marxism and – European – conservatism, the capital return's centrality common to liberalism and conservatism.)

(iii) Today's social science has increasing possibilities to study values' and value systems' formation, development and social functions. Partly, because of an increase in the raw material offered by behavioral sciences and opinion polls, partly because of a convergence in the world-view elements underlying the value systems. This later may be attributed to the omnipresence of mass education and mass media, but we may take into account the advancing globalization as well.


The millennial world is a value- and value-order plural world. Several traditional value orders protected by national frontiers and collective autonomies are still alive and the democracy makes possible a multitude of modern life-styles. Pluralism and tolerance have advanced to central values. But stating the fact does not exempt us from thinking over whether we should regard a value the very existence of value orders' plurality or only the tolerance toward other kind of values.

We may not contest that the social set up inducing plurality (let's call it simply democracy) has no real alternative and that the pluralism may multiply the human sensitivity with regard to the observation, handling and solution of some social problems. However, it is not advised to regard pluralism only through the pink glasses of the Hegelian (or Panglossian) “everything that exists is rational», partly, because this perspective is questionable in principle, partly, because it is dangerous even for the democracy itself. Think about examples of self-restraining that the democracies have to practice toward manifestations of the extreme right, or about the disappointing social experiences one goes through before leaving the flock and developing an eccentric or deviant life-style.

There are no many people yet, who would authorize science to choose between values and value-orders, but there is an increasing number of people who demand rational guiding for their choices. We have to take into account the presence among them of those who are to make decisions concerning a larger segment of society and are to motivate their choices to others (e.g. constituents, hierarchy boss or party mates). At the level of the personal expectations, this need may be sciences' great chance to secularize the moral sphere.


1 Mérõ, László: Mindenki másképp egyforma – A játékelmélet és a racionalitás pszichológiája ( Psychology of games theory and rationality ), Tericum, Budapest 1996.

2 A sharp formulation we may find at Iordanis Kavathazopoulos «Morality is then social knowledge, i.e. knowledge about social relations and ways of action within these relations» (Instruction and Development of Moral Judgement, Acta Universitatis Upsalensis, Uppsala 1988.)

3 E.g. Alain Eraly considers that the principle of reifying is disguising an affirmation performative in affirmation constatative («déguiser une affirmation performative en affirmation constatative»), Sociologie de la connaissance, Presses Universitaires Bruxelles, 1988.

4 Discursive is more than conceptual, for instance, technical drawings, blueprints may be included.

5 This is what the obligatory professional oath of some scholars (e.g. the futurologists) expresses and substantiates.

6 Variants: (i) The scientific value of the statements is identical with their empirical verification's mode; (ii) (One of) the meaning(s) of the atomic sentence is the mode of its verification.

7 Cribb, Alan: Values and Comparative Politics – An introduction to the philosophy of political science, Avebury, Aldershot 1991.

8 Hoppál, Mihály: Hiedelemrendszer és identitás ( System of belief and identity ), in Az identitás - kettõs tükörben, TIT Nyomda, Budapest, 1989.

9 Illiez, Pierre: Reflets ou apparences: causalité et incertitude dans la pensée occidentale, Lausanne, 1990.

10 E.g. a formulation of J. B. Thompson: “rather than focusing on the secular belief systems formulated and espoused by organized political groups, the analysis of ideology should be orientated primarily towards the multiple and complex ways in which symbolic phenomena circulate in the social world and intersect with relations of power», Thompson, John B.: Ideology and Modern Culture – Critical Social Theory in the Era of Mass Communication, 1990.

11 Longino, Helen E.: Science as Social Knowledge – Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry, Princeton University Press, 1990.

12 Myrdal, Gunnar: Érték a társadalomtudományban, Válogatott tanulmányok (Value in social sciences, Collected papers), Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, Budapest 1972.

13 Myrdal, Gunnar: idem

14 Fuller, Steve: Social Epistemology, Indiana University Press, First published 1988.

15 See for instance the study of R.M. Hare about the types of moral decisions, the now-for-now-, now-for-then- and then-for then preferences, respectively.

16 The pragmaticisation of the political field, namely, expelling the discussion over values from there, does effectively contribute to the maintenance of the capitalist state.

17 Streeten, Paul's introductory study to G. Myrdal's book (see notes 12,13)

18 Sayer, Andrew: Method in Social Science. A Realist Approach, 1984.

19 As sharply put by J. N. Hattiangadi “In fact rationality is defined within traditions»

20 E.g. Bergling, Kurt: Moral Development – The Validity of Kohlberg's Theory, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 1981. A converging opinion is formulated by William M. Kurtines: “These results thus provide support for the view that, with the attainment of the prerequisite competencies, critical-discursive interactional communicative processes play an increasingly more significant role in the evolution of sociomoral understanding», Sociomoral Behavior and Development from a Rule-Governed Perspective: Psychosocial Theory as a Nomotic Science, in Moral development through Social Interaction, 1987.

21 Csányi, Vilmos: Viselkedés, gondolkodás, társadalom: etológiai megközelítés (Behavior, thinking, society – ethological approach), Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 1994.

22 Thompson, John B.: Ideology and Modern Culture – Critical Social Theory in the Era of Mass Communication, 1990.

23 Thompson, Kenneth: Beliefs and Ideology (first published 1986) gives the below rank order of determination strength:

“Proposition One: All ideologies exist only in historical forms in historical degrees of salience and modes of articulation with other ideologies.

Proposition Two: All ideologies operate in a material matrix of affirmations and sanctions, and this matrix determines their interrelationships.

Proposition Three: All ideologies (in class societies) exist in historical forms of articulation with different classes and class ideologies.

Proposition Four: The patterning of a given set of ideologies is (within class societies) overdetermined by class relations of strength and class struggle.»

NB: This rank order is unlikely to be correlated (either positively or negatively) with the strength of the belief in science's objectivity. The idea of a very distorted noologic field may emerge both within a conception of a very weak social determination (e.g. Kuhn) and within a conception claiming overdetermination.