According to a perhaps naive, but still dominant positivistic view of science, scientific knowledge is the only reliable knowledge. It is reliable because it is objective. It derives its objectivity from the objectivity of observation made by a detached observer. The way in which empirical scientists look at the world is sometimes described as “scientific attitude.” In order to be objective observers, scientists must be indifferent, disinterested, neutral and impartial.1 Personal opinions or preferences have to be suspended. No subjective elements are allowed to intrude. Science is believed to be reliable if it is based on objective and verifiable observational statements which can be transmitted into laws and theories.

The spectacular achievements of natural science and technology in today’s world appear to support the belief in the objectivity, reliability, and even supremacy of scientific knowledge. But is this view truly justified? Does science offer the best possible route to reliable knowledge, not only of natural but also of social phenomena? Should pre-scientific forms of knowledge, such as ethics, be seen as a matter of individual preferences or subjective emotions, and therefore be disregarded as knowledge? Before I attempt to answer these questions, I shall address the issue of objectivity in science. I believe that the understanding of this issue will help us to evaluate rightly the scientific claim to know and to assess the place of science among other forms of knowledge.


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