It is often claimed that assertions are utterances held to certain norms, called norms of assertion. Some philosophers believe assertions are governed by special factive norms. Other philosophers place weaker epistemic constraints on good assertion—such as justification norms and belief norms. We use such norms as a jumping off place to think about normative standards scientific claims may be held too, and argue that no such norm could apply to a special class of scientific utterances, which we call public avowals. These are the conclusions of scientific papers, or more generally the sort of utterances scientists use to communicate the results of their inquiry to the wider scientific community. Such utterances might look like paradigm instances of descriptive statements purporting to describe some fact, yet the norms of assertion philosophers have surveyed are systematically inapt for these public avowals. After surveying our argument for this negative claim, we end by suggesting a norm of utterance that would be more appropriate to scientific practice. We give arguments for why scientific public avowals must be allowed to be proper even when they are false, unknown and unjustified, and when scientists do not believe them.
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