The Case Study Method in Philosophy of Science: An Empirical Study

Perspectives on Science (forthcoming)
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There is an ongoing methodological debate in Philosophy of Science concerning the use of case studies as evidence for and/or against theories about science. In this paper, I aim to make a contribution to this debate by taking an empirical approach. I present the results of a systematic survey of the PhilSci-Archive, which suggest that a sizeable proportion of papers in Philosophy of Science contain appeals to case studies, as indicated by the occurrence of the indicator words “case study” and/or “case studies.” These results are confirmed by data mined from the JSTOR database on research articles published in leading journals in the field: Philosophy of Science, the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (BJPS), and the Journal for General Philosophy of Science (JGPS), as well as the Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association (PSA). The data also show upward trends in appeals to case studies in articles published in Philosophy of Science, the BJPS, and the JGPS. The empirical work I have done for this paper provides philosophers of science who are wary of the use of case studies as evidence for and/or against theories about science with a way to do Philosophy of Science that is informed by data rather than case studies.
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