Concept note for the first workshop

The first workshop of the Knowledge / Value series was held at the University of Chicago on June 3–4, 2011. The focus was on the nature of the fact / value distinction, and how it comes to be at stake in the contemporary moment. Questions that structured or framed the workshop included:

  • What is fact? What is value?
  • How do these take material, semiotic and abstract form, both historically and in their emergent forms?
  • How is fact embedded in various social worlds? How is it embodied? What kinds of relationships does it constitute and get constituted by?
  • What is the relationship of fact to scientific and other forms of representation, including political representation?
  • How is value activated in particular ways in each of these embeddings and embodiments?
  • How are fact and value co-produced, when the nature of both fact and value are at stake?


Fact / Value had a component that was structured as a conference, open to the public. But it also had a day of meetings that were restricted to paper authors, discussants, and selected graduate students. Papers were pre-circulated to this group, and were discussed in small break-out groups of 7–8 people each. Discussants prepared written commentaries on the papers that were also pre-circulated.

Furthermore, a graduate seminar was run by Kaushik Sunder Rajan around the conference. This involved reading conference papers as well as key texts, by the participants and others, related to Fact / Value.

The components of all of these are reflected in this website. Since many of the papers were draft papers, they will not be available in entirety. For each author in the schedule, you get various sources relating to their paper as available: abstract, brief excerpt or summary, commentaries on the paper, and/or transcript of an interview with the graduate students of the Knowledge/Value spring seminar course.

Conference schedule

The public conference on the closing day of the workshop consisted of the following five 1h15min panels:

Fact / Value conversations

These conversations happened outside of the public conference, mostly during the closed workshop and the graduate seminar on Knowledge / Value.

  • Graduate seminar conversations

  • Reflections on Ludwik Fleck

    • Knowledge / Value seminar student responses to “Reflections on Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact” by Ludwik Fleck.
      K/V students
    • Barbara Herrnstein Smith: “A Fleckian explanation of Fleck”.
      Herrnstein Smith
    • Michael Fischer: “Response to students and Barbara Herrnstein Smith”.
  • Afterwords

    • George Marcus: “Stakes… or a Grammar of Motives”.
    • Sabina Leonelli: “Thoughts on K/V1”.
    • Conversation between Gail Davies, Sabina Leonelli and Kaushik Sunder Rajan (edited and compiled by Kaushik Sunder Rajan).
      Davies, Leonelli & Sunder Rajan