Empiricism and Scientific Methodology

Bas C. van Fraassen

in The Scientific Image

Published in print December 1980 | ISBN: 9780198244271
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597473 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy

 Empiricism and Scientific Methodology

Show Summary Details


Scientific theories do much more than answer empirical questions. This can be understood along empiricist lines only if those other aspects are instrumental for the pursuit of empirical strength and adequacy, or serving other aims subordinate to these. This chapter accordingly addresses four main questions: (1) Does the rejection of realism lead to a self‐defeating scepticism? (2) Are scientific methodology and experimental design intelligible on any but a realist interpretation of science? (3) Is the ideal of the unity of science, or even the practice of using distinct theories in conjunction, intelligent on an empiricist view? (4) What sense can an empiricist position accord to those theoretical virtues––such as simplicity, coherence, explanatory power––that are not reducible to empirical strength or adequacy? The answers to these questions rely strongly on the pragmatics of scientific inquiry, and advocate a ‘Clausewitz doctrine’ of experimentation as a continuation of theorizing by other means.

Keywords: Clausewitz doctrine of experimentation; coherence; empirical strength; experimental design; explanatory power; methodology; realism; scientific methodology; simplicity; skepticism; theoretical virtues; unity of science

Chapter.  10883 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.