The Confusion between Science and Technology in the Standard Philosophies of Science

  • Joseph Agassi
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 28)


The distinction between pure and applied science seems too trivial to draw, since applied science, as the name implies, aims at practical ends, whereas pure science does not. There is an overlap, to be sure, which is known as fundamental research and which is pure science in the short run but applied in the long run; that is to say, fundamental research is the search for certain laws of nature with an eye to using these laws. Still, this overlap shows that though the distinction is not exclusive it is clear enough. The distinction between applied science and technology is a different matter altogether. All philosophers of science equate them, whereas it is clear that technology includes, at the very least, applied science, invention, implementation of the results of both applied science and invention, and the maintenance of the existing apparatus, especially in the face of unexpected changes, disasters, and so forth. The distinction between applied science and invention, to my knowledge, was made by only one writer, the most important writer on technology, perhaps; I am referring to H. S. Hatfield and his The Inventor and His World. Hatfield does not draw the distinction explicitly, but he uses it clearly and systematically enough. Applied science, according to his view, is an exercise in deduction, whereas invention is finding a needle in a haystack.


Applied Science Patent Office Material Success Pure Science Good Hypothesis 
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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Agassi

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