New Essays In Logic And Philosophy Of Science

Science is an enormously successful human enterprise.

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But the details of scientific practice vary with time and place, from institution to institution, across scientists and their subjects of investigation.

How significant are the variations for understanding science and its success? This entry describes some of the attempts to characterize scientific method or methods, as well as arguments for a more context-sensitive approach to methods embedded in actual scientific practices.

Methodological rules are proposed to govern method and it is a meta-methodological question whether methods obeying those rules satisfy given values.

Finally, method is distinct, to some degree, from the detailed and contextual practices through which methods are implemented.

To some extent, different scientists at different times and places can be said to be using the same method even though, in practice, the details are different.

Whether the context in which methods are carried out will be at all relevant, or to what extent it will be so, will depend largely on what one takes the aims of science to be and what one’s own aims are.

Methods are the means by which those goals are achieved.

Scientific method should also be distinguished from meta-methodology, which includes the values and justifications behind a particular characterization of scientific method (i.e., a methodology) — values such as objectivity, reproducibility, simplicity, or past successes.

Among the activities often identified as characteristic of science are systematic observation and experimentation, inductive and deductive reasoning, and the formation and testing of hypotheses and theories.

How these are carried out in detail can vary greatly, but characteristics like these have been looked to as a way of demarcating scientific activity from non-science, where only enterprises which employ some canonical form of scientific method or methods should be considered science (see also the entry on science and pseudo-science).


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