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Marxist philosophy of science

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q063-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Marx’s approach to science is an intriguing combination of respect for the natural sciences and empirical inquiry, determination to go beyond the description of regularities among observable phenomena, and insistence on the inevitable impact of social circumstances on scientific inquiry. Marx thought that the human sciences and the natural sciences are governed by essentially the same methods, that natural-scientific theories give us enhanced insight into mind-independent reality, and that our most fundamental views are subject to revision through scientific inquiry. Yet Marx rejected the ideal of scientific method according to which rational scientific belief is tied to observational data through a canon of rules as general, timeless and complete as the rules of logical deduction. While traditional empiricists emphasize the economical description of empirical regularities which could, in principle, be used to predict the occurrence of observable phenomena, Marx emphasizes the description of underlying causal structures, employing concepts that are typically irreducible to the vocabulary of mere observation, and causal hypotheses that sometimes do not even sketch means of prediction. Similarly, though Marx shared the optimistic view that science gives rise to long-term improvement in our insight into underlying causes, he disagreed with many epistemic optimists in his insistence that scientific inquiry is inevitably and deeply affected by social interests and relations of social power.

Since Marx’s general comments on scientific method are few and scattered, a ‘Marxist philosophy of science’ consists of the further development of this intriguing mixture.

Citing this article:
Miller, Richard W.. Marxist philosophy of science, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q063-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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