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ETYKA BADAŃ NAUKOWYCH-NOWA DYSCYPLINA FILOZOFICZNA

AGNIESZKA LEKKA-KOWALIK
Roczniki Filozoficzne / Annales de Philosophie / Annals of Philosophy
Vol. 45/46, No. 2, "PHILOSOPHIE DE LA MORALE, PHILOSOPHIE DE LA RELIGION / PHILOSOPHY OF MORALS, PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION / FILOZOFIA MORALNOŚCI, FILOZOFIA RELIGII" (1997 - 1998), pp. 83-118
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43408189
Page Count: 36
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ETYKA BADAŃ NAUKOWYCH-NOWA DYSCYPLINA FILOZOFICZNA
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Abstract

Since 1970s research ethics has been developing as a systematic study of the normative dimension of science. It is now considered as a normative philosophical discipline which is to formulate and justify moral norms which should govern scientific activities. What gave raise to the current development of research ethics is the fact that the ethos of epistemic rationality, as formulated by Merton and his followers, turned out to be insufficient to regulate science in such a way as to guard moral acceptability of actions undertaken within that institution. This was mainly due to the essential changes in the social status of science and scientific knowledge as well as in its relations with other social systems. The crisis of the Mertonian ethos was further exacerbated by social protests against various projects which seemed to be scientifically sound but which were seen as dangerous for socially accepted values. As this indicates, research ethics develops in response to problems outside of philosophy. The first section of the paper analyses in details the ethos of epistemic rationality and main sources of its crisis. The second and third sections are devoted to analyzing the current issues in research ethics. Two intertwined questions determine its scope of considerations: (a) what type of actions are not morally acceptable from the point of view of the reliability of scientific results and the inner integrity of science as a social institution? (b) what type of actions are not morally acceptable from the point of view of non-cognitive values, even if those actions are appropriate from the point of view of scientific methodology? The paper lists main problems considered within these two areas of research ethics. There is an important difference between the two in understanding the task of research ethics. There is a far reaching agreement as to what type of actions are unacceptable if science is to produce reliable knowledge, to develop its institutional integrity and continue to possess its high social status; analyses are to find criteria which would allow the scientific community to discriminate such unacceptable actions. There is no however agreement as to what is morally acceptable when it comes to apparent conflicts between cognitive and non-cognitive values. Here the main effort is to formulate and justify norms which should govern actions in such situations. Thus, in contrast to the ethos of epistemic rationality which had a character of tacit knowledge and was learnt by new adepts of science from "the master", norms formulated by research ethics are results of rational debate and must be consciously accepted. The analysis shows that no attempts at saving the ethos of epistemic rationality by distinguishing the "internal" and "external" moral norms involved in doing science can be successful. Research ethics is not only of theoretical but also, a practical importance, for its results are seen as a potential basis for developing social policies and means of controlling science. As a matter of fact research ethics has already been institutionalized. The fourth section of the paper discusses various forms which that process of institutionalizing has taken. It has been noted a tension between the belief that science is an autonomous system and that freedom of research is necessary for its very existence and the opinion that science should be socially controlled. This poses a theoretical task of rethinking what scientific freedom consists in and what is the source of its limits, if any. However, as considerations in the fifth section of the paper aim to show, research ethics in its current form is unable to fulfil its theoretical and practical tasks. It has been developed as case studies without grounding its analyses in philosophical conceptions of science, of morality, of person, etc. In short, it lacks a philosophical paradigm which would provide it with metaphysical, epistemological and axiological presuppositions. As a result, research ethics does not sufficiently justify its conclusions and relies very much on 'common intuitions' and 'public morality'. This, however, is not sufficient if its conclusions are to be universally accepted as is science. The paper suggests that classical philosophy, as it is understood in the Lublin Philosophical School, might provide research ethics with such a necessary paradigm and strengthen its practical influence.

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