Thursday, October 31, 2013

Insight and Scientific Method

From a titanic tour-de-force I've just read, 'Insight and Scientific Method' by Willard Waller (1934). Naturally there are multiple contexts to all of this...Still;

"If cause is an elementary datum of experience, then the thing to do is experience it. The essence of scientific method, quite simply, is to see how data arrange themselves into causal configurations. Scientific problems are solved by collecting data and by 'thinking about them all the time' [cogitation]. We need to look at strange things until, by the appearance of known configurations, they seem familiar, and to look at familiar things until we see novel configurations which makes them appear strange. We must look at events until they become luminous. That is scientific method. Quantification is not the touchstone of scientific method. Insight is the touchstone."

"Herbert Blumer seems to be very close to this point of view...[writing]...'What is needed is observation freely reflective and flexible in perspective. Scientific observation...is just this. It places emphasis on exploration, turning over and around, looking intently here and there, now focusing attention on this, now on that. It is flexible scrutiny guided by sensitized imagination. One sees it clearlu in the work of Darwin, who, incidentally, used neither instruments nor mathematics.'"

And on p.290 Waller writes:

"No virtuosity of technique can compensate for want of understanding."

Hoo-ah!

From;

Waller, W. 1934. Insight and Scientific Method. American Journal of Sociology XL(3):285-297.

He quotes:

Blumer, H. 1930. Review of Lundberg's Social Research. American Journal of Sociology XXXV(6):1102.

Waller's article goes on to define scientific insight and methods of attaining it. He also takes to task Pearson's (of 'Pearson's r') statistical approach to experience and what it means for scientific understanding. I agree with about 2/3rd's of Waller's points and love 3/3rd's of his writing.

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