Max Weber’s ‘Inconvenient Facts’ and Contemporary Studies of Public Science Communication

Research output


In his text ‘Wissenschaft als Beruf’, Max Weber associates the understanding of science as a vocation with the scientist’s ability to present the audience with ‘inconvenient facts’. He argues that this presentation provides a ‘full understanding of the facts’ and overcomes any personal value judgment. This overcoming refers to Weber’s understanding of scientific objectivity. I propose to interpret this understanding in the context of contemporary studies of public science communication. I pose the question, ‘Should scientists objectively present inconvenient facts to the public or should they neglect objectivity in science-society communication?’ I will start by legitimizing this question in the context of contemporary discussions on public science communication. To answer this question I will then use Heather Douglas’s observations addressing irreducible complexity of objectivity as a conceptual framework. I will briefly describe, with some modifications, this idea in relation to Weber’s representation of ‘inconvenient facts’. I then will continue by referencing discussions concerning scientist’s norms in public science communication and relate them to the formulations of objectivity above. In conclusion, I will offer an explanation of why the objectivity in Weber’s interpretation remains relevant to regulate contemporary public science communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-141
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Epistemology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2020

Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)

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