methodology
The general study of method in particular fields of enquiry: science, history, mathematics, psychology, philosophy, ethics. Obviously any field can be approached more or less successfully and more or less intelligently. It is tempting, then, to suppose that there is one right mode of enquiry logically guaranteed to find the truth if any method can. The task of the philosopher of a discipline would then be to reveal the correct method and to unmask counterfeits. Although this belief lay behind much positivist philosophy of science, few philosophers now subscribe to it. It places too great a confidence in the possibility of a purely a priori ‘first philosophy’, or standpoint beyond that of the working practitioners, from which their best efforts can be measured as good or bad. This standpoint now seems to many philosophers to be a fantasy. The more modest task of methodology is to investigate the methods that are actually adopted at various historical stages of investigation into different areas, with the aim not so much of criticizing but more of systematizing the presuppositions of a particular field at a particular time (see also naturalized epistemology ). There is still a role for local methodological disputes within the community of investigators of some phenomenon, with one approach charging that another is unsound or unscientific, but logic and philosophy will not, on the modern view, provide an independent arsenal of weapons for such battles, which indeed often come to seem more like political bids for ascendancy within a discipline.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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