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Indeed, Dahrendorf leaves unclear exactly what Weber's view of objectivity was. More specifically, Dahrendorf does not venture to lay out a detailed explanation of whether Weber believed that the social scientist could eliminate the influence of values from the analysis of facts.
Did Essay social believe that, even though facts are one thing and values another, social and economic facts could be evaluated without the analysis being influenced by values?
And what is the relation of objectivity to values?
Could objectivity, for instance, be used to show that one value is superior to another? Or does objectivity apply only to the analysis of facts? Do one's values or perspective stem from human nature, metaphysical views, personal identity, or is it just as likely that they are a mere construct of culture?
These questions, and others like them, underlie much that has been considered ambiguous in Max Weber's writings: Since his death, sociologists and political scientists have been disputing where Weber stood with regard to questions concerning the relationship of objectivity to facts and values.
This essay has more humble ambitions. Although it takes issue in the final section with part of the exhaustive view laid out by Portis, this essay does not purport to set forth yet another definitive interpretation of Weber's views on objectivity. Rather it seeks to shed light on Weber's view of the applicability of objectivity by attempting to answer the overarching question that sits at the foundation of those posed above: Was Weber an advocate of value-free social science?
The answer, as will be shown, is both yes and no -- because, this essay will argue, Weber maintained a two-tiered approach to value-free social science.
On the one hand, he believed that ultimate values could not be justified "scientifically," that is, through value-free analysis.
Thus, in comparing different religious, political or social systems, one system could not be chosen over another without taking a value or end into consideration; the choice would necessarily be dictated by the analyst's values. On the other hand, Weber believed that once a value, end, purpose, or perspective had been established, then a social scientist could conduct a value-free investigation into the most effective means within a system of bringing about the established end.
Similarly, Weber believed that objective comparisons among systems could also be made once a particular end had been established, acknowledged, and agreed upon, a position that allowed Weber to make what he considered objective comparisons among such economic systems as capitalism and socialism.
Thus, even though Weber maintained that ultimate values could not be evaluated objectively, this belief did not keep him from believing that social problems could be scientifically resolved -- once a particular end or value had been established.
It is, no doubt, influenced by one of his key concerns: And in yet other essays, it champions individual liberty. Indeed, Weber's perspective changes, and it is likely to be driven not by one value but by levels of them, ranging from humanism to a concrete objective.
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But the fact that Weber had a perspective lends little support to the two-tiered interpretation, other than to show that he believed it was permissible for a social scientist to possess a value-determined standpoint. His treatment of perspective is another matter, however.
One hint that begins to shed light on Weber's view on the fact-value question is a characteristic that recurs in several of Weber's essays and speeches: Weber announces, often at the beginning of a speech or essay, the standpoint from which he plans to evaluate a given situation or set of facts.
Likewise, if he changes his focus during a presentation, he often declares the new standpoint. In his opening remarks of "The Nation State and Economic Policy," one of Weber's early speeches, he sets a precedent for this pattern while unveiling a justification for his perspective.
Similarly, in one of his later lectures, "The Profession and Vocation of Politics," Weber tells his audience near the beginning of his remarks that he will expose "the political deficiency of this systemGet custom essay on any topic by advanced writers in up to 8 hours!
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An essay on Max Weber's view of objectivity in social science, by Steve Hoenisch.