The Logic of Theory and the Logic of Practice


  • Ronald B. Miller



case-study, phronesis, clinical knowledge


Stiles (2009) has articulated a powerful argument for the surprising logical parallels between the way a case study and experimental data test a scientific theory in the field of psychotherapy. Though this contradicts the orthodox account of research methods in psychology, Stiles shows that careful attention to the tenets of  logical positivist and neo-positivist philosophy of science requires such a conclusion. While this is no doubt a sound argument, it rests on Stiles assumption that theories of psychotherapy are essentially scientific theories. It is clear that Stiles thinks of theories of psychotherapy as different from theories in the physical sciences, but exactly how these theories are different is not clearly articulated. I would argue that psychotherapy theories are fundamentally moral theories, a form of what Aristotle referred to as phronesis, and as such are radically different than scientific theories. Nevertheless, Stiles’ conclusion is a sound one: case studies are the best way to test phronesis in psychotherapy because as Aristotle observed, practical wisdom is highly context dependent and action oriented.

Author Biography

Ronald B. Miller

Dan Fishman, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief, Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy Professor of Clinical and Organizational Psychology Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology Rutgers University Mailing address: 57 Jaffray Court Irvington, NY 10533 914-693-8549 fax: 603-917-2567 email:




How to Cite

Miller, R. B. (2009). The Logic of Theory and the Logic of Practice. Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 5(3), 101–107.