Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 5, 2014

in Economics, Hubris and humility, Science

… is from page 30 of the Princeton economist Frank Graham‘s 1942 essay “On the Role of Values in the Work of Economists,” as reprinted as Chapter 2 of Daniel B. Klein, ed., What Do Economists Contribute? (1999):

The person who believes himself entirely free of value judgments is a victim of self-delusion and, under the influence of unconscious bias, is perhaps more prone to error than the person who, conscious of his preference, is watchful that he does not indulge in wishful thinking.

The assertion that the scientist should be completely free of value judgments, even if it were realizable, is in itself, of course, a value judgment.  There seems, moreover, no a priori reason for the contention that it is better to be cold than warm.  On the contrary, a convincing case could be made for warm feelings and a cool choice of methods for their satisfaction.  Science involves both analysis and synthesis and the synthesis must be purposive to some ulterior end.  Science, and particularly social science, must be not only analytical but imaginative.

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