Science, Freedom, Democracy

July 8, 2019 - July 9, 2019
Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Philosophy, MTA-BTK Lendület Morals and Science Research Group

7th floor, B. 7.16
4. Tóth Kálmán st., Budapest, 1097
Budapest 1097

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California State University, Sacramento
University of Waterloo
University of Warwick
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Swarthmore College
Missouri Western State University
VU University Amsterdam
University of Lyon
Ghent University


Hungarian Academy of Sciences

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The conference focuses on the complex questions of how the values of liberal democracy and the values associated with scientific research could be either mutually reinforcing or in conflict. Free science has been long considered as a necessary condition for a well-functioning democracy, and academic freedom is typically considered as a guarantee of scientific objectivity. By contrast, it has been also argued that, to some extent, public control of science is inevitable. Related to these questions, the classic (and, apparently, still popular) idea of autonomous, neutral scientific research will be also scrutinized.

The radical view that scientific truth is merely a by-product of certain political, economic and ideological interests has remained highly controversial in the philosophy of science. However, to systematically investigate how scientists could and should shape public policies is more timely than ever. While the slogan “the truth is not a matter of popular vote” sounds appealing, the actual scientific public policies should be influenced or, arguably, even determined, by the demands and interests of the majority.

Associated with these issues, we examine how citizens and elected democratic leaders can rely on scientific expert knowledge. The scientific community has been regarded by many as an exemplar of deliberative decision-making which should be prevalent in a democracy. However, given the fact that dominant liberal theories about democracy are egalitarian ones, it is questionable how egalitarian, and, so, democratic principles could be applied in meritocratic scientific communities. And, vice versa, if deliberative decision-making and expertise are required in a democracy, then, perhaps, the very idea of equality should be critically examined also.

We are expecting philosophical investigations informed by empirical case studies.

Papers concerning the following topics would be welcome:

- what remained defensible of the idea of scientific autonomy and neutrality?

- academic freedom vs public control of science

- lay-expert relations in a democracy: is everyone free to judge science?

- scientists vs politicians on science policy-making

- scientific practice and the ideal of the deliberative democracy

- equality among citizens vs meritocracy in science

Please send an abstract (500-1000 words) with a title by the 1st of December to Peter Hartl ([email protected])

Contact: Peter Hartl ([email protected] ; [email protected])

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