Round 1: Does Case Study Knowledge Need a New Epistemology?


  • Barbara S. Held Department of Psychology, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME



inductive generalization, deductive generalization, objectivist epistemology, objectivist ontology, causality, perspectivism, relativism, moral philosophy


In proposing their pragmatic case study method, in which a database of cases is said to provide a basis for inductively deriving general “guidelines’ or “rules of thumb’ for use in future cases, Ronald Miller and Daniel Fishman each claim that a new epistemology is needed if a proper science of clinical/applied psychology is to be developed. In this article I challenge that claim in three ways: First, the inductive and descriptive approaches advocated by Miller and Fishman are included in conventional scientific epistemologies. Second, the causal claims Miller and Fishman hope to avoid in their nondeductive approach would inhere implicitly in the generalities to be derived inductively from their proposed database. Third, despite Miller’s and Fishman’s rejection of epistemic objectivity, their generalities can at least in principle attain objective truth status, but only if a pervasive straw-man understanding of objectivity is relinquished. I conclude that some philosophical sources of suffering in psychology can perhaps be ameliorated, if not eliminated, by revisiting problematic views about causality and objectivity that are held by many.




How to Cite

Held, B. S. (2006). Round 1: Does Case Study Knowledge Need a New Epistemology?. Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 2(4).