Methodology and Methods

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Can a method become employed by being the deductive consequence of an already accepted methodology? How would this affect the Methodology Can Shape Methods theorem?

A methodology is a set of explicitly formulated rules of theory assessment, and is a kind of theory, whereas a method is a set of requirements actually employed in theory assessment. Methods are implicit, and need not always correspond to the accepted methodology. The Third Law, the Law of Method Employment, would seem to imply that methods can be deduced from methodologies. However, the Methodology Can Shape Method theorem states that this can only happen if the requirements of the method implement abstract requirements of some other employed method, a seeming problem for the Third Law.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Mirka Loiselle in 2016. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. At the moment, the question has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.


As noted in Barseghyan’s Laws of Scientific Change, the distinction between methodology and method has been largely unrecognized in the course of the philosophy of science, and the confusion has been exacerbated by a general lack of a normative-descriptive distinction in theories of scientific change.1

The distinction between methodology and methods might be traced first to Popper’s views on falsificationism. Popper acknowledged that while falsificationism may be an effective criterion of demarcation, and a methodological goal for scientists, they rarely will actually reject a theory in the face of a falsifying instance.2 Nonetheless, static method theorists like Popper or Lakatos typically suggest that the explicit static methodology they propose is the normative goal for scientists, and that “good” science ought to strive towards such methodologies. Lakatos said that “methodological standards act like teachers: they give marks to theories” and that theories which propose ad hoc modifications ought to be refused,3 demonstrating the belief of static method theorists that methods of appraisal ought to be taken from explicit methodologies. That being said, the distinction between explicit methodology and implicit method is ephemeral at best amongst Popperians.

Laudan perhaps comes the closest to acknowledging the distinction between method and methodology, but ultimately confuses them when explaining their respective roles.1 Laudan’s reticulated model criticizes accepted views of the time by recognizing that the explicit methodologies scientists hold are often in opposition to actually employed methods. However, in explaining how methods are “constrained” (i.e. underdetermined) by theories and “justified” by axiological aims, Laudan seems to conflate methodologies of argumentation and the actual method that theories are evaluated by.4 Barseghyan notes that other authors from Laudan’s period also conflated the terms, including Zahar and Leplin.1.


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  1. a b c  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  2. ^  Thornton, Stephen. (2016) Karl Popper. In Zalta (Ed.) (2016). Retrieved from
  3. ^  Motterlini, Matteo. (Ed.). (1999) For and Against Method. University of Chicago Press.
  4. ^  Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.