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Demarcation problem

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q024-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

The problem of demarcation is to distinguish science from nonscientific disciplines that also purport to make true claims about the world. Various criteria have been proposed by philosophers of science, including that science, unlike ‘non-science’, (1) is empirical, (2) seeks certainty, (3) proceeds by the use of a scientific method, (4) describes the observable world, not an unobservable one, and (5) is cumulative and progressive.

Philosophers of science offer conflicting viewpoints concerning these criteria. Some reject one or more completely. For example, while many accept the idea that science is empirical, rationalists reject it, at least for fundamental principles regarding space, matter and motion. Even among empiricists differences emerge, for example between those who advocate that scientific principles must be verifiable and those who deny that this is possible, claiming that falsifiability is all that is required.

Some version of each of these five criteria – considered as goals to be achieved – may be defensible.

Citing this article:
Achinstein, Peter. Demarcation problem, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q024-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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