Value judgments in defining population groups; implications for self- perception and outside-perception of these groups

This subproject provides a conceptual basis for the research in module 2. It analyzes the formation and use of established classifications of population groups in social scientific research that are critical for the measurement and perception of inequality. It has two goals: first, to enable conceptual and methodological reflections about the kinds of concepts that social scientists use when studying inequality, and their interpretation and application; second, and related, initiating a discussion about potential value judgements influencing concept formation in social scientific research and the implications such value judgements would have for data collection, measurement, and scientific results in research on inequality. While the role of value judgements as well as the element of reflexivity of concepts have been studied for the social sciences, their implications with respect to concept application have yet to be explored. Furthermore, raising those issues in the context of research on inequality is fundamentally novel. This subproject will attempt to reach those goals by addressing three questions: First, what are the concepts that social scientists use, and can they be classified as thick concepts, i.e., concepts that have a descriptive and an evaluative component? Second, how exactly should concepts used in academic research relate to the very same concepts used by the population under study? And third, if researchers go beyond "objective" characteristics to include subjective, self-perceived classification schemes of a group, how can group belonging be measured in a value-free way? In particular, we will focus on the concepts of ‘gender,’ ‘ethnicity/race’, as well as ‘social class’ as the key categories of inequality used in Module 2 and the entire URPP.



Prof. Catherine Herfeld, Department of Philosophy

Prof. Catherine Herfeld
Project Leader
Department of Philosophy

Alexandra Quack

Alexandra Quack
PhD Student
Department of Philosophy

Current Projects

Alexandra Quack

Exploring Economists' Research into Equality of Opportunity: The Epistemic Import of Narratives

What do narratives contribute to the epistemic functioning of theoretical models in economics? In this dissertation, I analyse the epistemic functions of narratives in those modelling practices when economists use theoretical models to explain by closely examining contemporary research in the economics of inequality.
Building on innovative research in the philosophy and history of science that has started to inquire when and how narratives are involved in the sciences (Morgan and Wise 2017), this dissertation explores (1) how narratives might contribute to model de-idealisation, (2) how narratives assist in the results-driven reasoning with models, and (3) which criteria these narratives have to answer to.

Data used

Interviews. Data not yet available.

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