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Trust in NumbersThe Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life$
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Theodore M. Porter

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691208411

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691208411.001.0001

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The Political Philosophy of Quantification

The Political Philosophy of Quantification

(p.73) Chapter Four The Political Philosophy of Quantification
Trust in Numbers

Theodore M. Porter

Princeton University Press

This chapter investigates the political philosophy of quantification. The intellectualist defense of quantification bears on the ethical issues. A system of demonstrably false or untestable dogmas, the product of state power and not of free persuasion, has obvious moral implications to anyone concerned about individual freedom. This point, indeed, has been at the heart of some of the most influential philosophical defenses of science in this century. John Dewey considered science an ally of democracy, and argued that scientific method means nothing more than the subjection of beliefs to skeptical inquiry. Karl Popper held it up as antidote to the century's totalitarianisms. While Popper did not stress quantification in his political philosophy of science, his terms could easily be applied to it. Although it is of course possible to use numbers casually and informally, quantification for public as well as scientific purposes has generally been allied to a spirit of rigor. The chapter then explores objectivity and objectification, as well as French statistics.

Keywords:   political philosophy, quantification, science, individual freedom, democracy, objectivity, objectification, French statistics, scientific method

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