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. 2019 Mar 21;41(2):14.
doi: 10.1007/s40656-019-0251-4.

Philosophical Import of Non-Epistemic Values in Clinical Trials and Data Interpretation


Philosophical Import of Non-Epistemic Values in Clinical Trials and Data Interpretation

Joby Varghese. Hist Philos Life Sci. .


In this essay, I argue that at least in two phases of pharmaceutical research, especially while assessing the adequacy of the accumulated data and its interpretation, the influence of non-epistemic values is necessary. I examine a specific case from the domain of pharmaceutical research and demonstrate that there are multiple competing sets of values which may legitimately or illegitimately influence different phases of the inquiry. In such cases, the choice of the appropriate set of values-epistemic as well as non-epistemic-should be made on the basis of the set's viability to promote specific epistemic and social aims of the research, in the case at hand, rather than other competing aims. I put forth an account which addresses two philosophically significant and interrelated questions in the context of values in science debates: (i) which aim should be prioritized when there are different stakeholders who try to achieve competing but, sometimes, conflicting goals; and (ii) what should be the criteria according to which the prioritization of a particular goal(s) over other competing goals can be determined? I argue that both these questions can be addressed by invoking the principle of non-arbitrariness and the mere means principle and self-determination right. The philosophical import of raising and addressing these questions from an ethical perspective is that this approach leads to a better understanding of problems in today's pharmaceutical research and guides us in efforts to alleviate these problems.

Keywords: Categorical imperative; Data interpretation; Pharmaceutical research; Prioritization of aims; Transient underdetermination; Values in science.

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