Ohio State University
School of Music
David Huron and Field-Appropriate Methodologies
Notes by D'Ette Bollinger
May 5, 2000
Huron, David. (1999).
On Finding Field-Appropriate Methodologies at the
Intersection of the Humanities and Sciences.
Ernest Bloch Lecture,
University of California, Berkeley, 1999.
"Many scholars presume that methodological differences reflect
fundamental philosophical disagreements concerning the
nature of scholarly research.
I think this view is only partly correct.
As I will argue in this lecture, in most cases,
the main methodological differences between disciplines
can be traced to the materials and structures of particular
fields of study.
That is, differences in research methods typically reflect
concrete differences between fields rather than reflecting
a basic difference in philosophical outlook. (2)"
Philosophy of knowledge and methodology inform each other.
Research in the humanities often differs from research
in the sciences in both philosophy (with postmodernism
dominating the former and empiricism dominating the latter)
and in methodology.
Methodology, more than philosophy, should be continually
considered in both the sciences and in the humanities.
II. Philosophy of Knowledge
Problem of Induction
conventionalism - Duhem / instrumentalism
falsificationism - Popper
Feyerabend - methodological "anything goes"
Kuhn - normal science vs. revolutionary science, incommensurability
Radical opposition to induction
No privileged interpretation.
All interpretations are equally valid.
(#2 above does not necessarily follow from #1;
methodology does not necessarily establish truth)
III. Philosophy of Methodology
Methodological differences that characterize different fields
False-positive, theory-discarding skepticism
("There is insufficient evidence to support that.")
false-negative, theory-preserving skepticism
("There is insufficient evidence to reject that.")
Theory-conserving: tend to "open outwards," working
with smaller amounts of data, include theories that either
usurp other theories or coexist with them.
Theory-discarding: tend to distinguish between competing
hypotheses, working with larger amounts of data.
High-risk vs. low-risk hypotheses
Retrospective vs. prospective data
Retrospective data susceptible to post-hoc theorizing
Prospective data includes experimental data (with data manipulated;
causality can be established) and correlational data
(with data unable to be manipulated; causality cannot be
Data-rich vs. data-poor fields
Parsimony vs. pluralism
Reductionism/holism (often corresponding to humanism and mechanism)
Methodologies should be chosen with their characteristics in mind.
"There is no methodological algorithm that ensures the advance
Methodology consists primarily of a set of pointers that warn
scholars of previously encountered pitfalls.
Methodologies are extended and refined in the same manner
as other theories. (32)"
"The principal impediment to careful selection of field-appropriate
methods is the methodological inertia of a given discipline. (26)"