Facts, Values and the Psychology of the Human Person


Abstract
The notion of value neutrality has been a contentious issue within the human and social sciences for some time. In this paper, some of the philosophical and scientific bases for the confusion surrounding the fact-value dichotomy are covered and the discrepancy between how psychology studies values and expresses them is noted. The sense of value neutrality is clarified historically and the clarified meaning of the term applied to some qualitative data demonstrating in what sense values may be expressed in psychology. The position is upheld that psychology as a human science intentionally should not be absolutely value free in the sense that human reality has to be studied in a non-reductionistic manner and thus methods of study must be respectful of the full ethical sense of humanness. This is simply meeting the phenomenological requirement of “fidelity to the phenomenon”. However, psychology can be value free in the historical sense of the term properly understood because it refers to the fact that the personal values of the scientists ought not to be conflated with scientific findings. The discussion of values takes place primarily within the context of science, where the problem of value neutrality emerged, but it is acknowledged that non-scientific approaches to value have merit and can also be compelling.
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DOI 10.1080/20797222.2006.11433931
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