Facts and Values: A Processual View

Andrew Abbott, University of Chicago

Facts and Values: A Processual View Andrew Abbott Proposed SSHA Paper Abstract A variety of forces urge a reexamination of the problem of facts and values in sociology and social science more generally. Most obvious is the increasing politicization of sociology in various countries. But equally challenging is the globalization of sociology and other social science disciplines in a world where the contractarian consensus of Western political theory – foundation of Western liberal and conservative politics alike– is not always the first premise in discussions of politics or justice. A third source is the maturation of the skeptical literature on the possibility of objective social science, which questions the Kantian framework on which that possibility rests. In this talk I shall first briefly sketch the modern position on facts and values that derives from Kant, and its implementation in classical theorists like Durkheim, Marx, and Weber. I shall then develop an alternative position based on a processual ontology – that is, an ontology that avoids the strong assumptions entailed by contractarianism. This position steers between the pure formalism of Kant and the general relativism that is usually opposed to it, attempting at the same time to reproduce the most important justice consequences of the contractarian position. It reinterprets the fact/value distinction by relating it to the distinctions between past and future, and between other and self. It also views the fact/value distinction in terms of measurability and immeasurability, discussing the necessarily different algebras that must govern these two realms. The paper concludes some brief recommendations for future discussions.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 151. Knowledge, Modernity and the Good Life