The Value of Science in a Disenchanted Age: Bridging the Fact/Value Dichotomy

  • Basit Bilal Koshul


As noted in chapter 1, Weber posits that the notion of “progress” has put an indelible “imprint of meaninglessness” on modern life because death becomes meaningless in a cosmos that is itself bereft of meaning and in the pursuit of modern cultural goods to which no meaning can be attached. For Weber, progress is closely identified with the continued rationalization of science, both in its technical and theoretical aspects. Consequently, the progress of science contributes to the increasing meaninglessness of modern human existence by progressively disenchanting the world even more and thereby making death that much more meaningless. In short, the progress of science is directly proportional to the intensification of meaninglessness. It is against this background that Weber asks the apparently paradoxical question:

Has “progress” as such a recognizable meaning that goes beyond the technical, so that to serve it is a meaningful vocation? … To raise this question is to ask for the vocation of science within the total life of humanity. What is the value of science? (SV, 140)

Weber the scientist is aware of the fact that his work is contributing to the ongoing progress of science. While contribution to the progress of science has recognizable technical significance, Weber asks the broader question of the relationship of the progress of science to a “meaningful vocation.” In posing the question in these terms, he is interested in exploring the vocation of science as it relates to the “total life of humanity,” not just as it relates to him as an individual. Weber wants to know if pursuing scientific inquiry can go beyond merely technical and practical contributions to human society and make a more meaningful contribution to the total life of humanity.


Scientific Analysis Empirical Science Theoretical Rationalization Total Life Practical Rationalization 
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© Basit Bilal Koshul 2005

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  • Basit Bilal Koshul

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