In this bold work of broad scope and rich erudition, Richard W. Miller sets out to reorient the philosophy of science. By questioning both positivism and its leading critics, he develops new solutions to the most urgent problems about justification, explanation and truth. Using a wealth of examples from the the natural and the social sciences, "Fact and Method" applies the new account of scientific reason to specific questions of method in virtually every field of inquiry including biology, physics, history, sociology, anthropology, economics, psychology and literary theory.
For the past quarter-century, the philosophy of science has been in a crisis brought on by the failure of the positivist project of resolving all basic methodological questions by applying absolutely general rules, valid for all fields at all times. "Fact and Method" presents a new view of science in which what counts as an explanation, a cause, a confirming test or a compelling case for the existence of an unobservable is determined by frameworks of specific substantive principles, rationally adopted in light of the actual history of inquiry. Although the history of science has usually been the material for relativism, Professor Miller uses arguments of Darwin, Newton, Einstein, Galileo and others both to undermine positivist conceptions of rationality and to support the positivists' optimism that important theoretical findings are often justifiable from all reasonable perspectives.
"Fact and Method" includes new accounts of causation, explanatory adequacy, approximate truth and confirmation, together with a defense of scientific realism freed from the positivist assumptions that Professor Miller locates on both sides of the realism controversy. Throughout, the new philosophical ideas are applied to specific topics confronting social scientists or natural scientists, for example: value-freedom, methodological individualism, functional explanation, the nature of evolutionary
"Fact and Methodis written in a distinctive style. Where the positivists aspired to the terseness of scientific prose, Miller is discursive, digressive and generous with long illustrations. He has a wide-ranging knowledge of both the natural and the social sciences ... his arguments always relate to real scientific theories, rather than oversimplified philosophical abstractions."--The Times Literary Supplement