“Does the empirical method of scientific exploration disagree with the rational method?”

In my opinion the two methods do not disagree with each other at all; in fact I think that you cannot have one without the other. Despite being apparently opposing methods of exploring a scientific question, they actually complement each other very well. By using the rational method we can come up with hypotheses that make logical sense and by using the empirical method we can test these hypotheses scientifically.

The rational method is mainly composed of using logic to posit a possible explanation for a phenomenon, whereas the empirical method is about gathering data to investigate a possible explanation for a phenomenon. It is obvious that the scientific method requires empirical evidence to support or disprove a hypothesis, and so empiricism has become almost synonymous with science. However, rationalism is also required for the scientific method. By thinking rationally about a subject to be investigated, we can conceive logical theories about that subject and from this, design a scientifically testable hypothesis. This is extremely important for science as it allows us to explore logical possibilities and, by this more abstract theorising, come up with new avenues for research. The empirical method allows us to test hypotheses and the rational method allows us to consider of new ones. And thus the cycle of science continues.






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  1. I agree with the title and disagree with your argument. Empiricism and rationalism have always been seen to be polar opposites, so I don’t see how you think they work together to magically get “science” like you state. Science today uses empiricism, and empiricism gets a hypothesis’ by experimentation. This can be from your past experiment which than lead on to another question, or looking at past research to come up with a new experiment. Maybe in an ideal world this would happen using the two, but not within science today.


    • I didn’t mean to imply that you magically get science just by mixing the two. What I was trying to convey was that every time we think about a new research project or build on an old we are examining the evidence, thinking logically about it and coming up with a possible rational explanation, which we then investigate using empirical methods. The research process requires at least some form of rationalism in order to come up with new topics to investigate empirically. Otherwise we would just be making up things to research at random, without any reasoning behind it, which might sound fun but probably wont lead to much scientific progress (and we probably wouldn’t get much funding if our research ideas aren’t well thought out).

  2. psychrsjb

     /  November 25, 2011

    I agree with both the blog and the comment in someways. I feel that it is definitely right to use empirical methods to falsify theories and so lead to a development of ideas and hypotheses. However I feel there is a call for more philosophy to aid in the development of ideas. Surely if science discussed concepts in a logical sense and tested empirically when something sensible came up then the process of theorising would speed up and reach deeper and different concepts more. Overall it would increase our understanding of the world.


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