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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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2.2 The Inductive Method

It is a popular notion that scientists begin by collecting facts through organized observation and then, somehow, derive theories from them. In logic, going from a large set of specific observations to a general, theoretical conclusion in this manner is called induction and the approach is, therefore, often called the inductive method. Logic is a branch of philosophy that dates back to Aristotle. It deals with how arguments are made and how to determine if they are true or false. This brief description of the inductive approach follows closely to Chalmers [3], whose book is one of the most widely read introductory books about the philosophy of science. It is useful to describe his rather extreme form of “naive inductivism” in order to highlight some characteristics of the approach, especially those that are generally considered to be its weaknesses.

The inductivist version of science begins with observations, carefully recorded in the form of observation statements. These are always singular statements, meaning that they refer to something that was observed at a particular place and time and in a particular situation. For example, an astronomer might state that the planet Mars was observed at a certain position in the sky at a certain time. The rental car customer from the beginning of this chapter might state that, on a particular day, the engine started only after walking counter-clockwise around the car. To be able to explain some aspect of the world ...

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