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The traditional views of science as the possessor of a special method, and as the epitome or apex of rationality, have come under severe challenges for a variety of historical, psychological, sociological, political, and philosophical reasons. As a result, many philosophers are either denying science its claim to rationality, or else casting about for a new account of its rationality. In this paper a defense of the traditional view is offered. It is argued that contemporary philosophical discussion regarding the rationality of science is plagued by a failure to distinguish among three different questions, all taken to be "the" question of the rationality of science. Once these questions are delineated, it becomes possible to answer one of them in such a way that the traditional link between science's rationality and its method is reestablished--although the scientific method is itself given a non-traditional rendering. In short, it is argued that there is a feature of science which is appropriately characterized as its method; that this method does in fact secure science's rationality; and that science is therefore correctly construed as preeminently rational. It is suggested in addition that the philosophy of science is itself best seen as a primarily epistemological activity, and consequently that a correction from the excessively historicist conception of recent philosophy of science is in order.


The following article appeared in Philosophy of Science 52:4 (Dec 1985) Pages: 517-537. Philosophy of Science © 1985 Philosophy of Science Accociation. Published by The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Philosophy of Science Accociation. The original publication is available at