Philosophical reasoning about science: a quantitative, digital study

Synthese 200 (2) (2022)
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In this paper, we set out to investigate the following question: if science relies heavily on induction, does philosophy of science rely heavily on induction as well? Using data mining and text analysis methods, we study a large corpus of philosophical texts mined from the JSTOR database (n = 14,199) in order to answer this question empirically. If philosophy of science relies heavily on induction, just as science supposedly does, then we would expect to find significantly more inductive arguments than deductive arguments and abductive arguments in the published works of philosophers of science. Using indicator words to classify arguments by type (namely, deductive, inductive, and abductive arguments), we search through our corpus to find patterns of argumentation. Overall, the results of our study suggest that philosophers of science do rely on inductive inference. But induction may not be as foundational to philosophy of science as it is thought to be for science, given that philosophers of science make significantly more deductive arguments than inductive arguments. Interestingly, our results also suggest that philosophers of science do not rely on abductive arguments all that much, even though philosophers of science consider abduction to be a cornerstone of scientific methodology.

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Moti Mizrahi
Florida Institute of Technology


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