Which Scientific Knowledge is a Common Good?

Hans Radder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this article, I address the question of whether science can and should be seen as a common good. For this purpose, the first section focuses on the notion of (scientific) knowledge and examines its main characteristics. I discuss and assess the core view of analytic epistemology, that knowledge is, basically, justified true belief. On the basis of this analysis, I then develop an alternative, multi-dimensional theory of the nature of (scientific) knowledge. Section 2 reviews and evaluates several answers to the question of what to understand by the notion of a common (or public) good. It discusses both economic and socio-political interpretations of this notion. In Section 3, I develop an alternative account of the common good of scientific knowledge. This knowledge constitutes a common good if it is both non-exhaustible and in the public interest. The two notions are equally important, but in this article, the focus is on the former. For reasons of space, a detailed discussion of the latter is impossible; it will be provided in a forthcoming book. My answer to the question posed in the title of this article builds on the critical discussion of extant views in Sections 1 and 2: some aspects of these views are included in this alternative account, while others are shown to be unhelpful or untenable. The final section discusses some practical implications of this account for the politics of science. The main conclusion is that scientific research should not be privatized through patenting its products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-450
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Epistemology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2017


  • commodification
  • common goods
  • patents
  • public interests
  • Scientific knowledge


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