Science as a Vocation

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Science as a Vocation (Wissenschaft als Beruf) is the text of a lecture given in 1917 at Munich University by German sociologist and political economist Max Weber. The original version was published in German, but various translations to English exist.

In Science as a Vocation Weber discusses the benefits and detriments of choosing a graduate career in the sciences. He probes the question "what is the value of science", noting that ethics themselves are not subject to scientific examination. Science, to Weber, gives methods of explanation and means of justifying a position, but it cannot explain why that position is worth holding in the first place; this is the task of philosophy. No science is free from suppositions, and the value of a science is lost when its suppositions are rejected.

He reasons that science can never answer the fundamental questions of life, such as directing people on how to live their lives and what to value. Value he contends can only be derived from personal beliefs such as religion. He further argues for the separation of reason and faith, noting that each has its place in respective field but if crossed over cannot work.

Weber also separates fact from value in politics. He argues that a teacher should impart knowledge to students and teach them how to clarify issues logically – even political issues – but teachers should never use the classroom to indoctrinate or preach their personal political views.

Weber also makes some practical comments about research. He notes that good scholars can be poor teachers, and that qualities that make one a good scholar, or a good thinker, are not necessarily the same qualities that make for good leaders or role models.

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