The Dilemma of Case Studies

Toward a Heraclitian Philosophy of Science
  • Joseph C. Pitt
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 3)


After Kuhn (1962) cast doubt on the usefulness of abstract positivist models by appealing to the history of science, many philosophers have felt compelled to use historical case studies in their analyses. Kuhn however did not tell us how to do this. Further, it is not clear exactly what appeals to case studies accomplish. We can frame this issue as a dilemma. On the one hand, if the case is selected because it exemplifies the philosophical point being articulated, then it is not clear that the philosophical claims have been supported, because it could be argued that the historical data were manipulated to fit the point. On the other hand, if one starts with a case study, it is not clear where to go from there – for it is unreasonable to generalize from one case or even two or three.


Historical Context Explanatory Framework Scientific Observation Historical Explanation Philosophical Point 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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