Conditional objectivism: A strategy for connecting the social sciences and practical decision-making

Rolf Reber, Nicolas Bullot

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter introduces a research strategy – which we call conditional objectivism – that offers researchers a heuristic for taking into account a plurality of value systems while pursuing professional scientific research. This strategy aims to make empirical research in the social sciences available to value-based decision-making. Conditional objectivism draws from research in different branches of philosophy and the methodology of the social sciences. It posits that psychologists and other social scientists ought to make explicit the values that orient their practice and are served by their research. In contrast to conditional objectivism, a number of scientists have their research guided by the ideal of value-free objectivity. According to the latter view, good scientists ought not to engage with values when conducting scientific activities and making decisions in relation to science. The regulative assumption of these researchers is the heuristic “value freedom leads to objective research from a neutral viewpoint.” Value-free objectivity is widely adopted in the social sciences. However, as an approach to professional research embedded in political history, value-free objectivity faces several objections. Specifically, persuasive evidence shows that research in psychology is value-based and can be biased by unarticulated judgments about political values. Rarely are scientists able to formulate research questions and discuss experimental findings from a value-neutral standpoint, even if they aspire to abide by essential virtues of research ethics such as value-neutrality, objectivity, and intellectual humility (i.e., the admission that one’s findings and their explanation can be erroneous or practically misleading). To address the problem of biases, we argue that conditional objectivism provides a better method than value-free objectivity for guiding both empirical research and moral decisions informed by scientific research. After introducing the core heuristic of conditional objectivism by way of a flow diagram, we discuss open problems regarding evidence-based practical recommendations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSocial Philosophy of Science for the Social Sciences
    EditorsJ. Valsiner
    Place of PublicationCham
    PublisherSpringer Nature Switzerland AG
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Electronic)9783030330996
    ISBN (Print)9783030330989
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Publication series

    NameTheory and History in the Human and Social Sciences
    ISSN (Print)2523-8663
    ISSN (Electronic)2523-8671


    Dive into the research topics of 'Conditional objectivism: A strategy for connecting the social sciences and practical decision-making'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this