Studies in the Methodology of Science

by Igor Hanzel (Author)
©2016 Monographs 300 Pages


The book discusses methodological issues relating to the philosophy of science and the natural and social sciences. It reconstructs the methods of measurement and scientific explanation, the relation of data, phenomena and mechanisms, the problem of theory-ladenness of explanation and the problem of historic explanation. From the sciences chosen for methodological analysis are those of early classical mechanics, early thermodynamics, Bohr’s theory of atom, early quantum mechanics, research into great apes and political economy.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Methodological Issues in Scientific Explanation
  • 1.1 J. Woodward on Scientific Explanation
  • 1.2 Conditions in Laws and Explanations
  • 1.3 Heuristic in Scientific Explanation
  • 1.4 Open Problems
  • Part I: Methodological Issues in Physics
  • Chapter 2: Bohr’s Atom: Data, Phenomena, Laws of Phenomena, and Explanations via Mechanism
  • 2.1 Meta-reflections: Pure Metaphysics, Pure Epistemology, and Epistemology-cum-Metaphysics
  • 2.2 J. Bogen and J. Woodward on Data and Phenomena
  • 2.3 From the Spectra of Gases to the Internal Motion in the Molecules of Gases and “Back”: The “Stoney” Program
  • 2.4 The Spectra and the Stability of the Atom
  • 2.4.1 From data to phenomena: A.-J. Ångström
  • 2.4.2 From Phenomena to Laws of Phenomena: J. J. Balmer, J. R. Rydberg, and W. Ritz
  • 2.4.3 Towards the Atom: Its Stability and Its Electrons
  • 2.5 Bohr’s Stationary States and the Stability of the Atom
  • 2.6 The Spectra Explained and Predicted
  • 2.7 General Epistemological Lessons
  • Chapter 3: Observability and Theory-Ladenness of Observation: Myths and Facts
  • 3.1 Logical Positivism/Empiricism and the Post-positivistic Backlash: The Myths
  • 3.1.1 From Logical Positivism to Logical Empiricism
  • 3.1.2 Post-positivism and the Theory Ladenness of Observation
  • 3.2 Can a Theory-Loaded Theory Be Tested? A Case Study
  • 3.2.1 Balmer’s Formula and Bohr’s Hydrogen Atom
  • 3.2.2 An Attempt at an Epistemological Generalization
  • 3.3 An Epistemological Way Out
  • Chapter 4: Kantian and Post-Kantian Themes in Early Quantum Mechanics
  • 4.1 Kant on Intuition, Appearance, the Thing-in-Itself, and Categories
  • 4.2 The Early Matrix Mechanics and Wave Mechanics
  • 4.3 The Myth of Observability: Kantian Themes in Early Quantum Mechanics
  • 4.4 Clarifications: Some Post-Kantian Themes in Early Quantum Mechanics
  • Chapter 5: Measurement and Conceptual Networks in Early Thermodynamics
  • 5.1 Fire, Heat, Temperature, Thermometer and Weight × Distance
  • 5.1.1 Fire/heat and temperature
  • 5.1.2 Bootstrapping in the measurement of heat by means of the measurement of temperature
  • 5.1.3 Work as weight × distance
  • 5.1.4 Joule’s on the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat
  • 5.2 A Philosophical Explication
  • 5.3 A Test: Thomson’s Concept of Absolute Temperature
  • Part II: Methodological Issues in Primate Research
  • Chapter 6: The Methodological Turn in Ape Research: Sue Savage Rumbaugh
  • 6.1 The Starting Points: The Late Sixties, Early Seventies, and the Lana Project
  • 6.2 The Sherman-Austin Project
  • 6.3 The Kanzi Project
  • 6.4 Metascience and Methodology: From Behaviorism to Narrative Ethnography
  • 6.5 Some Objections
  • Chapter 7: Varieties of Intentionality: Michael Tomasello
  • 7.1 The Scientific and Meta-scientific Dimensions
  • 7.1.1 First order and second order intentionality: the eighties and nineties
  • 7.1.2 From first order and second order intentionality toward shared intentionality: the new millennium
  • 7.1.3 Shared Intentionality: from individual intentionality via joint intentionality to collective intentionality
  • 7.2 The Methodological Dimension: Explanantia and Explananda
  • 7.2.1 Davidson, Krüger, Habermas, and the explanantia/explananda in the developmental and comparative psychology
  • 7.2.2 The structural, the structural-genetical, the structural-historical, and the historical-genetic methods in Tomasello’s explanation of cooperative communication
  • Chapter 8: Tool use by Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes): New Conceptualization and a New Measure for Quantification
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Tool Use in Chimpanzees
  • 8.2.1 Leaf sponging
  • 8.2.2 Honey extracting
  • 8.2.3 Termite fishing
  • 8.3 Chimpanzee Food Sharing
  • 8.4 The Matsuzawa Model
  • 8.5 The Hayashi – Mizuno – Matsuzawa Model
  • 8.6 A New Conceptualization
  • 8.7 A New Measure for Chimpanzee Tool Use
  • Part III: Methods of Theory Construction in Political Economy
  • Chapter 9: Marx’s Method of Theory Construction: Categories, Magnitudes and Laws
  • 9.1 Joan Robinson on Marx’s Concepts of Value and on the Relation of Volume I to Volume III of Capital
  • 9.2 Leszek Nowak on Marx’s Method
  • 9.3 The Methodological Implications of Hegel’s Science of Logic for Marx
  • 9.4 Marx’s Methods in Volume I and in the Manuscripts of Books II and III of Capital
  • 9.4.1 Capital Volume I
  • 9.4.2 Manuscripts of Book II
  • 9.4.3 Manuscripts of Book III
  • 9.5 Methodological Conclusions
  • Chapter 10: Adam Smith’s Method of Theory Construction in Book I of Wealth of Nations
  • 10.1 Exchangeable Value and Its Measure in Chapter V
  • 10.2 Smith’s Measure of Value and Econometrics
  • 10.3 Measure, Standard and Cause: Meta-conceptual Reflections
  • 10.4 Conclusion: Concepts, Categories and Smith’s Natural Price
  • Chapter 11: Open Problems: Categories, Types of Thought Objects and the Historical Method
  • 11.1 A Typology of Thought Objects for Types of Scientific Explanation
  • 11.2 The Limits of the Applicability of the Category Cluster Appearance – Essence (Ground) – Manifestation
  • References

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Several persons were helpful in the writing of this book. My colleagues from the Department of Logic and Methodology of Science at Comenius University read the drafts of several chapters of this book and suggested many improvements. I am especially grateful to Professor Roman Ciapalo from Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa, who over the years read the drafts of the book and made numerous suggestions to improve them. Without his support this book would never appear in print.

The Slovak version of Chapter 1 was published in the supplement of the journal Filosofický Časopis, 2015, Vol. 63. Chapters 2 and 6 were published in the journal Organon F, 2012, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 201–226 and 2013, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 302–322. Chapter 9 was published in the journal International Critical Thought, 2015, Vol. 5, No. 4. I am also grateful to Dr. J. Halas for letting me publish as Chapter 10 a paper on Adam Smith we authored together.

I am grateful to John Wiley & Sons publisher for the permission to reproduce two figures from the article (Savage-Rumbaugh 1981), pages 46 and 47, as well to MIT Press for the permission to publish four figures from the book (Tomasello 2008), pages 98, 105, 235, and 239.

Work on Chapter 1 was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under contract No. APVV-0149-12. Work on Chapters 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 10 and 11 was supported by the VEGA grant, grant number 1/0221/14.

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This book is a study of methods employed in the natural and social sciences. My approach to natural and social sciences is based, drawing partially on (Habermas 1981), on the view that one can discern in them a practico-conceptual dimension, that is, the dimension where they practically encounter nature and/or society and where they try to treat certain problems which they face in nature and society by intervening into nature and/or society based on the conceptualization of these problems. In addition to this dimension, I identify two more features: a metaconceptual dimension, where the choice of certain concepts in the first dimension is subjected to a specific reflective endeavor and a methodological dimension, where methods of derivation of concepts in the conceptual dimension for the purposes of, for example, explanation and prediction, employed are subjected to a special analysis.

This study is therefore accomplished by drawing on the following three resources. The first is the contemporary philosophy of science which deals with the methods of construction of conceptual systems in natural and social sciences. The second source is the epistemology of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as well as the philosophical categories in Hegel’s Science of Logic. I realize that it is highly unusual, to say the least, to draw on Hegel in the field of philosophy of science but as try to show in this book, the employment of these categories enables one to enlarge the conceptual framework of philosophy of science. The third source, functioning here as a “counterbalance” and as a testing ground for the first two, are various natural and social sciences.

As to the natural sciences, I choose pre-quantum spectral analysis, Bohr’s quantum theory of the atom of 1913, the early quantum mechanics of Heisenberg and Schrödinger, and the beginnings of classical thermodynamics. As to the social sciences, I choose modern research into linguistic capabilities, cognition and instrumental action of great apes and human infants, as well as the economic theories of Marx and Adam Smith.

Chapter 1 focuses on the issue of scientific explanation vis-à-vis the work of J. Woodward, and provides a differentiated typology of scientific explanation as well as of heuristics involved therein. In Chapter 2 I focus on the reconstruction of epistemic categories and methods employed in modern spectral analysis as well as in Bohr’s theory of the atom. Chapter 3 deals with the epistemological issue of observability and theory-ladenness of observation from the point of view of theories treated in Chapter 2. Chapter 4 approaches early quantum mechanics ← 11 | 12 → both in its matrix and wave forms from the point of view Kant’s epistemology and shows that the very nature of this physical theory requires to pass over to a post-Kantian understanding which draws on realistico-epistemological interpretation of categories in Hegel’s Science of Logic. Chapter 5 reconstructs the development of early classical thermodynamics, especially, the epistemological basis of the differentiation between the concept of heat and the concept of temperature, as well as the place of measurement procedures in this differentiation.

Chapter 6 deals with the methods of research into the cognitive capabilities of non-human great apes as conducted by S. E. Savage-Rumbaugh. Chapter 7’s focus is on M. Tomasello’s research into the structure of intentionality of both non-human great apes and human infants. Chapter 8 provides a conceptual reconstruction of the tool use by chimpanzees together with a new measure for the quantification of this use. Chapters 9 and 10 deal with the epistemico-categorial dimension of Marx’s economic works and of Adam Smith’s Book I of Wealth of Nations.

Finally, Chapter 11 delineates the questions and problems associated with the methodological investigation into the natural and the social sciences whose resolution lies in the future.

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Chapter 1: Methodological Issues in Scientific Explanation

The aim of this chapter is to offer a concept of scientific explanation which draws on the works of J. Woodward starting from the late 1970s’.1 These works present in many respects an approach to the issue of scientific explanation which should be integrated into any reasonably serious philosophical-cum-methodological reconstruction of scientific explanation.

However, one has to bear in mind that Woodward presented certain aspects of his approach in a rather unspecified manner and, in addition, did not develop certain issues pertaining to scientific explanation with sufficient depth. My aim is to provide a remedy to these deficits.

In order to prevent any possible misunderstanding, I would like to emphasize that this chapter deals neither with Woodward’s view on the counterfactual aspect of explanation, nor with his approach to issues of causation and invariance and their respective places in his reconstruction of scientific laws and explanations.2

I shall start with an overview of Woodward’s approach to scientific explanation, namely, his differentiation between the (f) and (f’) requirements for a valid explanation, his differentiation between the explanation of a law and of a singular phenomenon, and his requirement of a reconstrual of the explanandum in the course of scientific explanation. Then, I shall distinguish between modification conditions stated in scientific laws and singular conditions that are added in the course of scientific explanation to scientific laws from the outside, so to say. This differentiation will, then, enable me to distinguish methodologically between the explanation of a law and that of a singular phenomenon. Finally, I delineate some open problems to be solved in the future. ← 13 | 14 →

1.1 J. Woodward on Scientific Explanation

In order to provide a view of scientific explanation which differs from that given in the D-N model, Woodward uses the following examples. First, he offers the following argument (1979, 41; 2003, 187):


Then, he states cases of explanation encountered in classical mechanics and electrostatics. In the former (1979, 42), based on Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, and the assumption that the Earth with mass M and radius R is a sphere and that the only force acting on a body with mass m falling from height h above the surface of the Earth is due to Earth’s gravity, one obtains for the force acting on this body Illustration, where G is the gravitational constant and a is the acceleration acquired by the body. And, under the additional supposition that the height from which the body falls is much smaller than the radius of the Earth (h << R), one obtains for the acceleration of the falling body:


From (1.2), in turn, it is possible by substituting the actual numerical values for G, M and R to explain the actual acceleration of a body falling freely above the Earth’s surface.

In electrostatics, based on Coulomb’s law, it is possible to derive the law stating the relation between the intensity of the electric field E at a perpendicular distance r from a very long fine wire on which is uniformly distributed a positive charge; this relation is (where λ stands for the charge per unit of length of the wire; ε0 is a constant) (1979, 42; 1997, 27; 2003, 187):


From Coulomb’s law it is also possible to derive a law which states the intensity of electric field outside a uniformly charged hollow sphere of diameter r (where Q stands for the total charge of the sphere) (1997, 27):


← 14 | 15 →

Woodward views the derivation of (1.2), of the actual value of a, as well as of (1.3) and (1.4), in contradistinction to (1.1), as instances of scientific explanation and characterizes the generalization figuring in these explanations as follows (1979, 47):

These generalisations contain variables or parameters (mass, distance, acceleration … charge, electrical intensity and so forth) which are such that a whole range of different states or conditions can be characterised in terms of variations of their values. The laws [involved in the explanations of (1.2), (1.3) and (1.4) …] formulate a systematic relation between these variables. They show us how a range of different changes in certain of these variables will be linked to changes in others of these variables. In consequence, these generalisations are such that when the variables in them assume on set of values (when we make certain assumptions about boundary and initial conditions) the explananda in the above explanations are derivable, and when the variables in them assume other sets of values, a range of other explananda are derivable. For example, the second law of motion and the law of gravitation which occur in explanation [of (1.2) …] are such that when the variables in them assume different values (via combinations of these generalisations with a different set of initial or boundary conditions) quite different explananda are derivable. For example, these generalisations are such that on the assumption that the mass and radius of the earth had different values, a quite different value for acceleration of a falling body could be derived. These generalisations are also such that we could use them to derive an expression for the rate of fall of body from a distance which is no longer negligible in comparison with the earth’s radius. Indeed these generalisations are such that we could us them to derive even more disparate explananda; for example we could use them in conjunction with other information to derive Kepler’s laws and a great many other derivative laws of Newtonian mechanics … And in a similar way the version of Coulomb’s law occurring in [explanation of (1.4) …] can be used, as the parameters in this law assume different values, to explain a range of different explananda—the expression for electric intensity along the axis of a uniformly charged ring, or between two equally an oppositely uniformly charged plates, or inside and outside a uniformly charged hollow sphere, for example.

Based on this characterization, he imposes on explanations of both laws and singular explananda the requirement of functional interdependence, which goes as follows (1979, 46):

At the same time he tries to specify the meaning of the phrase “variations in the value of the variable” by stating a modified requirement of functional interdependence which he does not accept (1979, 47): ← 15 | 16 →

With respect to the aims of this chapter, two additional aspects of Woodward’s approach to scientific explanation are worth mentioning. First, according to him, “a successful scientific explanation … exhibits the explanandum in a new light, allowing one to see the relevance of certain considerations which were not apparent from the original characterization of the explanandum … I shall express this by saying that a scientific explanation typically involves a ‘reconstrual’ of the explanandum” (1979, 61–62).

Second, even if he imposes the (f) requirement on the explanation of both laws and singular facts, still he emphasizes that “scientific explanations typically have as their explananda generalisations rather than singular sentences … the scientific explanation of particular facts is an activity which is derivative or parasitic on the scientific explanation of generalisations” (1979, 63).

From this overview of Woodward’s approach to scientific explanations I draw the following conclusions.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (November)
scientific explanation measurement theory ladenness of observation scientific experimentation theory construction
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 300 pp., 21 tables, 24 graphs

Biographical notes

Igor Hanzel (Author)

Igor Hanzel is a senior researcher at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. His special field of interest is the methodology of natural and social sciences, theory construction, and methods of measurement.


Title: Studies in the Methodology of Science
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