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.
) Section 2 surveys some of the history, pointing to two major themes.
One theme is seeking the right balance between observation and reasoning (and the attendant forms of reasoning which employ them); the other is how certain scientific knowledge is or can be.The choice of scope for the present entry is more optimistic, taking a cue from the recent movement in philosophy of science toward a greater attention to practice: to what scientists actually do.This “turn to practice” can be seen as the latest form of studies of methods in science, insofar as it represents an attempt at understanding scientific activity, but through accounts that are neither meant to be universal and unified, nor singular and narrowly descriptive.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.This entry could have been given the title Scientific Methods and gone on to fill volumes, or it could have been extremely short, consisting of a brief summary rejection of the idea that there is any such thing as a unique Scientific Method at all.Both unhappy prospects are due to the fact that scientific activity varies so much across disciplines, times, places, and scientists that any account which manages to unify it all will either consist of overwhelming descriptive detail, or trivial generalizations.On the other hand, more recent debate has questioned whether there is anything like a fixed toolkit of methods which is common across science and only science.Scientific method should be distinguished from the aims and products of science, such as knowledge, predictions, or control.For some, the success of science was better identified with social or cultural features.Historical and sociological turns in the philosophy of science were made, with a demand that greater attention be paid to the non-epistemic aspects of science, such as sociological, institutional, material, and political factors.