Science, Philosophy, and Method

And yet, I am quite ready to admit that there is a method which might be described as ‘the one method of philosophy’. But it is not characteristic of philosophy alone; it is, rather, the one method of all rational discussion, and therefore of the natural sciences as well as of philosophy. The method I have in mind is that of stating one’s problem clearly and of examining its various proposed solutions critically.

I have italicized the words ‘rational discussion’ and ‘critically’ in order to stress that I equate the rational attitude and the critical attitude. The point is that, whenever we propose a solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow our solution, rather than defend it. Few of us, unfortunately, practise this precept; but other people, fortunately, will supply the criticism for us if we fail to supply it ourselves. Yet criticism will be fruitful only if we state our problem as clearly as we can and put our solution in a sufficiently definite form—a form in which it can be critically discussed.

I do not deny that something which may be called ‘logical analysis’ can play a role in this process of clarifying and scrutinizing our problems and our proposed solutions; and I do not assert that the methods of ‘logical analysis’ or ‘language analysis’ are necessarily useless. My thesis is, rather, that these methods are far from being the only ones which a philosopher can use with advantage, and that they are in no way characteristic of philosophy. They are no more characteristic of philosophy than of any other scientific or rational inquiry.

It may perhaps be asked what other ‘methods’ a philosopher might use. My answer is that though there are any number of different ‘methods’, I am really not interested in enumerating them. I do not care what methods a philosopher (or any­body else) may use so long as he has an interesting problem, and so long as he is sincerely trying to solve it. [xix-xx]

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