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Warranting Assertions: John Dewey and Values in Science

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Pragmatists have long noted the role that values and valuation play in inquiry. After all, inquiry is a matter of problem-solving, and situations present themselves as problems only against a background of values. However, contemporary conversations on the role that values do and should play in science have not gleaned insights that would clarify persistent debates. I argue that pragmatists can better contribute to these conversations by emphasizing Dewey’s logic of inquiry; rather than merely insisting that inquiry is organism-environment interaction, pragmatists should also illuminate the structure of inquiry by which values inform investigation and judgment. This illumination is owed to a shift in pragmatism’s account of inquiry from doubt-inquiry-belief to indeterminate situation-inquiry-warranted assertion. By grounding this account in the pragmatics of inquiry, Dewey clarifies the sense in which values inform the normative structure of inquiry and dissolves contemporary distinctions between epistemic/non-epistemic values and direct/indirect roles for values.


Zachary Piso    
Michigan State University
United States


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