Skip to main content

Methodology (Philosophy)

METHODOLOGY (PHILOSOPHY)

Method is a "way after" (derived from the Greek μέθοδος from μετά, "after," and δός, "road" or "way"); it is applied both to the process or art of investigation and to the treatise or body of knowledge resulting from investigation. Method is used in three distinct but related applications in philosophy: (1) to logic or parts of logic, as inductive or axiomatic methods; (2) to procedures of the sciences, as mathematical or experimental methods; and (3) to modes of philosophizing, as Cartesian or phenomenological methods. Plato was the first philosopher to use the term; Aristotle gave it a technical meaning. They both refer to mathematical and medical methods to explain philosophical methods, and later interpretations of method based on their theories influence and are influenced by developments of method in the arts and sciences. Plato and Aristotle use earlier terms such as way (δός), reason (λόγος), mode (τρόύος), treatment (ραγμαεία), and art (τόχνη), in connection with or in the place of method, and those terms continue to be used in later theories.

Greek Thought. In the Republic plato uses "method" to relate dialectics to the five kinds of mathematics. It is the only method that proceeds directly to the first principle without hypotheses (Republic 533C). Plato's socrates develops his arguments on the analogy of the arts or even of the "method" of hunting (Soph. 218D). He distinguishes two processes in dialectic, division (διαϿρεσις) and bringing together (συνϑγωγέ), and argues that they are appropriate to rhetoric, and constitute the art of Hippocrates (Phaedrus 266D. 270C).

Aristotle records that Socrates was the first to examine universal definitions and inductive arguments, because he was concerned with the principles of science and with syllogizing (Meta. 1078b 1731). Aristotle raises the question whether there is one method of inquiry for all subject matters, as syllogistic demonstration applies to all proofs. He concludes that there are as many methods as there are subject matters or parts of subject matters, and he frequently divides his scientific treatises into several methods or parts. He wrote a treatise, now lost, called Methodics. Dialectic is a method (Topica 100a 18), comparable to the methods of rhetoric and medicine (Topica 101b 56); one of its functions is to discover the principles of all methods or sciences (Topica 101b 24). Syllogistic demonstration, unlike the method of inquiry, is universal to all proofs; and the demonstrative syllogism is "analyzed," first, into the terms or parts that compose it and into other syllogisms, and second, in what was later called the Posterior Analytics, into the principles of instruction and proof.

During the Hellenistic period the Stoics, Epicureans, and Academics divided philosophy into physics, ethics, and logic. Under logic they considered the criteria of knowledge and the rules of dialectic and rhetoric. Art was conceived as a skill in proceeding by a way or method, or a canon or rules of judgement, or a calculus or probabilities. Pappus in the 4th century a.d. states the position, attributed to Euclid, that mathematical inquiry employs two converse methods, analysis (positing what is sought and proceeding to what must be assumed) and synthesis (positing what is assumed and proceeding to what is sought). Galen in the 2nd century a.d. reviews the methods of all the arts, particularly rhetoric and mathematics, and philosophy, including the theories of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, to clarify the methods of instruction and practice in medicine. He enumerates three methods of instruction: analysis, which begins with the idea of the end; synthesis, which compounds what had been discovered by analysis; and partition (διάλυσις), which breaks definitions into essential parts. The Greek commentators on Aristotle and Plato made use of these distinctions to characterize the methods of philosophers. Ammonius Hermiae found a fourfold method in Plato's dialectic: division, definition, demonstration, and analysis. The four dialectical methods (or threeanalysis, division, and reduction to absurdity) are referred to by john philoponus, john damascene, Alcinous, and proclus. Alexander of Aphrodisias applied the geometric conception of analysis to Aristotle's Analytics, and he distinguishes in Aristotle's method the converse methods of analysis and synthesis. (see analysis and synthesis.)

Roman and Medieval Development. For the Romans, methodological distinctions were distinctions applied to via or ratio or ars ; the term methodus came into use during the late Middle Ages. cicero applied two basic distinctions of rhetoric, invention and judgment, to all discursive art (ratio disserendi ) and attributed their origin to Aristotle. The art of invention is expounded in the Topics. The translation of Arabic medical works, including Galen, in the 11th century, and of the last four books of Aristotle's Organon, in the 12th century, focused the discussion of the liberal arts on problems of method. In the treatment of methodus during the late 13th century, analysis and synthesis took the place of resolutio and compositio. (see scholastic method.)

thomas aquinas seldom uses methodus, but he does distinguish invention and judgment and also resolution and composition. He applies composition and division to the act of the intellect forming propositions, true and false, and invention and judgment to the discursive processes of reason from known to unknown. The process of reason by which the certitude of science is acquired is treated in the judicative part of logic, which Aristotle called Analytics, or from the form of the syllogism, in the Prior Analytics, or from the matter of the demonstrative syllogism, in the Posterior Analytics. The processes of reason that fall short of certitude are treated in the inventive part: (1) invention leading, not to judgment, but to conviction or opinion based on probability in the Topics ; (2) invention leading to suspicion leaning to one side of an opposition in the Rhetoric ; and (3) invention producing only estimation because of a pleasing representation in the Poetics (In 1 anal. post. 1.46). St. Thomas also distinguishes two ways (viae ) of proceeding to knowledge of the truth (that is, two parts of judicative logic), the mode (modus ) of resolution, by which one proceeds from composites to simples and from wholes to parts, that is, from the confused experience known first in nature, and the way of composition, by which one proceeds from simples to composites (In 2 meta. 1.278).

Renaissance Transition. The method of the Aristotelian logic was transformed by the development of terminist logics, Lullian combinatory arts, and dialectical and rhetorical arts of invention. The transformed methods were used in the renewed study of medicine, mathematics, and literature. As a result the differences between discovery and proof and the relation of both to analysis and synthesis and to induction and deduction became subjects of interest and controversy. The new arts and encyclopedias and the new logics of the Renaissance were methods. The importance of method in the reform of the arts, sciences, and education is seen in the proliferation of titles such as the Ratio seu methodus compendio perveniendi ad veram theologiam of D. erasmus and the Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem of J. Bodin.

Giacomo Aconcio, in De methodo (1558), treats method as the right way (recta ratio ) of investigating and transmitting arts and sciences. Three methods are required in inquiry and teaching: the method of definition to demonstrate what a thing is, the method of resolution and composition to treat causes and effects, the method of division to order parts and wholes. The De inventione dialectica (1480) of R. Agricola transfers the Ciceronian division of discourse into invention and judgment, and the priority of invention or topics from rhetoric to dialectic.

Peter ramus identifies dialectic with logic, and both with the art of discoursing well (ars bene diserendi ). He divides logic into two parts, invention and judgment. (1) Invention is achieved by the topics or commonplaces, beginning with causes since cause is "the first place of invention, the foundation of all science and knowing," and ending with distribution, definition, and description. (2) Judgment is the disposition of the arguments discovered by invention. Ramus argued, therefore, that there is a single method of all the arts and sciences, since method is disposition of arguments proceeding from the more general and prior in nature. Jacob Schegk (1511 to 1587), a physician and logician, maintained against Ramus that method is a way of knowing, rather than a discoursing, and undertook to show in his De demonstratione (1564), using Aristotle and Galen, that analysis or method is the way both of discovery and judgment in science. J. zabarella included four books De methodis in his Logica (1587), in which, after examining theories of kinds of method, he argues that two, the demonstrative and resolutive, suffice for the investigation of all things.

17th Century. The distinctions of methods and the oppositions about methods recur with few changes in philosophic statements of scientific method and its application to philosophy. Francis bacon criticizes the various classifications of method, including the single method and dichotomies of Ramus (De aug. sci. 6.2). According to Bacon, the intellectual arts are four: inquiry or invention, examination or judgment, custody or memory, and elocution or transmissionadaptations of four of the traditional five parts of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, expression, memory, and delivery. Bacon makes use of the topics (or places) for invention, and he rejects the syllogism.

Rene descartes turned to the analysis of ancient geometry and of algebra to set forth an art of invention and a universal mathematics, contrasted to the logic of syllogisms and the art of R. lull, which provide rules for discoursing about things that one does not know. Analysis is the true way by which a thing is methodically discovered and derived; synthesis proceeds conversely from effect to cause. Descartes concludes, therefore, that analysis is also the best and truest method of teaching.

The Port Royal Logic, influenced by the Cartesian method, has four parts, the first three on concepts, judgments, and reasoning, and the fourth on method. Method is the art of disposing well a series of many thoughts for either discovery or proof. The method of discovering truth is called analysis, or the method of resolution, or the method of invention. The method of explaining or proving a known truth is called synthesis, or the method of composition, or the method of doctrine.

18th Century. The Treatise of Human Nature by D. hume is presented in its title as an exercise in method, Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects. All reasoning is nothing but a comparison and a discovery of those relations that two or more objects bear to each other. There are two kinds of relations: some depend entirely on ideas, and some are altered without a change in the ideas. Reasoning depends on one alone of the latter relations, causation.

I. Kant adapted Hume's skeptical method in his construction of a critical philosophy, but he differed from Hume concerning both judgments methods. He argued that mathematical judgments are synthetic, not analytic as Hume thought, and that mathematics, physics, and ethics are all based on synthetic judgments a priori. In the Prolegomena he distinguishes rigorously between the use of analytic and synthetic applied to judgments and applied to method. He uses both the analytical and synthetic methods in his philosophy. In The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals he says that his method is to proceed analytically from common knowledge to the determination of its supreme principle and then synthetically from the examination of this principle and its sources back to common knowledge where it finds its application. The structure of the three Critiques is synthetic in method and proceeds in logical sequence through a doctrine of elements, containing an analytic and a dialectic, to a doctrine of method.

19th Century. During the 19th century the methods of transcendental logics and of empirical logics were elaborated; the implications for method of history, psychology, sociology, and of the theory of evolution were examined; and classifications of the sciences, with special attention to the methods of the natural sciences and the humanistic sciences, or Geisteswissenschaften, were constructed.

G. W. F. hegel argued that the Kantian distinction between judgment and method, analytic and synthetic, is unduly abstract. All judgments and all methods are simultaneously analytic and synthetic. The reactions of S. A. Kierkegaard and K. Marx to the Hegelian dialectic laid the foundations of the methods of phenomenology and existentialism and of materialistic dialectic.

A. comte developed the positivistic method in connection with his inauguration of sociology, expounded an interrelated series of classifications of the sciences, and developed a "subjective synthesis: as a universal system of conceptions proper to humanity." W. dilthey devoted himself to a critique of historical reason, which he found lacking in Kant, and to an examination of the principles and methods of the Geisteswissenschaften. F. Brentano's psychology "from an empirical standpoint" and W. Wundt's "physiological" psychology, both published in 1874, revolutionized the methods of both psychology and philosophy.

Sir William hamilton, who endeavored to combine the Kantian and the Scottish common-sense philosophy, divided his logic into two parts: stoicheiology, or the doctrine of elements (in which he treats concepts, judgments, and reasoning), and methodology, or the doctrine of method. For Hamilton, method consists of two processes, analysis and synthesis; and logical methodology has three parts: the doctrine of definition, the doctrine of division, and the doctrine of probation.

John Stuart mill, in his System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation, devotes one chapter to his "four methods of experimental inquiry," another to the deductive method, and the final book to the methods of the social sciences. His defense of Utilitarianism is a method of examining consequences rather than a priori precepts, Herbert spencer applies the conception and method of evolution in the construction of his system of synthetic philosophy.

20th Century. The revolutions of philosophy in the 20th century are characterized by methods used and by subject matters selected in order to avoid errors and absurdities and in order to give philosophy a concrete basis and a scientific or critical function. pragmatism, according to W. james, is a new name for some old ways of thinking derived from Mill. J. Dewey seeks a "method of inquiry" to avoid the errors revealed by experience in past inquiries. He defines inquiry as "the controlled or directed transformation of an indeterminate situation into one that is so determinate in its constituent distinctions and relations as to convert the elements of the original situation into a unified whole."

G. E. Moore refutes idealism and utilitarianism, defends common sense, and analyzes the statements of philosophers. The methods of Moore and B. russell were the starting point of the philosophical analysis that ran through logical atomism and logical positivism to linguistic analysis. The objectives of method applied to language, formal or ordinary, are to determine the conditions of verification or the varieties of use and to expose false inferences, spurious questions, and non-sensical assumptions.

Edmund husserl sought to make philosophy a rigorous science. His Formal and Transcendental Logic, according to its subtitle, is a Critique of Logical Understanding. Taking its beginning from experience of the sciences and logic, the phenomenological method does not consist in deducing, in erklaren (mere "explanation by theories") but rather in aufklaren (seeing things as they are). The functions of logic reflect the meanings of "logos": speaking, thinking, and thing thought. Phenomenological research must cover all three, since formal logic depends on transcendental logic.

Martin Heidegger undertakes to analyze and describe the meanings of individual phenomena. He seeks to free philosophy from dependence on the special sciences and to destroy the misconceptions of traditional philosophies, which have forgotten or distorted and trivialized the insights and truths of earlier thinkers. The question of being must be restated explicitly; and to understand Sein one must begin with Dasein : the approach to ontology must be made by analysis of experiences such as temporality and of emotions such as concern and dread. (see existentialism)

Summation. From the beginning of rational thought men have speculated concerning methods, or ways, or modes, or instruments of thinking. The meanings of method have been as diverse as the kinds of philosophies, sciences, arts, beliefs, and problems. During the Renaissance method became a central problem of philosophy and science, and by the 17th century the numerous divisions of method had been all but amalgamated into the distinction between analytic and synthetic. Some important problems were encountered in that reduction: thus, some philosophers argued that the method of discovery is analytic, others that it is synthetic. During the 19th century the differences between classification of the methods of the sciences and arts were subjects of inquiry and controversy: the a priori method was presented as synthetic, as analytic, or as impossible; the a posteriori method was analytic or synthetic of empirical experience. In the 20th century the methods of philosophies set them in controversial opposition in the detection of errors, the clarification of meanings, and the establishment of truths. Pragmatism tends to be synthetic; logical positivism, analytical philosophy, phenomenology, and existentialism tend to be analytic. A fuller investigation of the different objectives of the different methods and of what they have in common may serve to reduce the misunderstandings and controversies that have developed in contemporary philosophy.

See Also: scholastic method; philosophy and science.

Bibliography: s. caramella, Enciclopedia filosofica, 4 v. (Venice-Rome 1957) 3:56273. r. eisler, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 3 v. (4th ed. Berlin 192730) 2:14045. j. m. le blond, Logique et methode chez Aristote (Paris 1939). r. mckeon, "Aristotle's Conception of the Development and the Nature of Scientific Method," Journal of the History of Ideas 8 (1947) 344. j. h. randall, jr., "The Development of Scientific Method in the School of Padua,:" ibid. 1 (1940) 177206. w. j. ong, Ramus: Method and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge, Masschusetts 1958). n. w. gilbert, Renaissance Concepts of Method (New York 1969). r. mckeon, "Philosophy and the Development of Scientific Methods," Journal of the History of Ideas 27 (1966) 322.

[r. mckeon]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Methodology (Philosophy)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Methodology (Philosophy)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/methodology-philosophy

"Methodology (Philosophy)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/methodology-philosophy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.