Two Modes of Reasoning with Case Studies

  • Wolfgang PietschEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 319)


I distinguish a predictive and a conceptual mode of reasoning with case studies. These broadly correspond with two different kinds of analogical inference, one relying on common and differing properties, the other on structural similarity. The problem of generalizing from case studies is discussed for both. Regarding the predictive mode, eliminative induction provides a natural framework. In the conceptual mode, general rules are largely lacking not least due to a number of epistemological challenges like Raphael Scholl’s underdetermination problem for HPS. In agreement with ideas of Richard Burian and Peter Galison, I argue that conceptual reasoning on the basis of case studies should not aim at grand universal schemes but rather at mesoscopic or middle-range theory. In the essay, I will repeatedly draw on insights from the social sciences, in which a much more extensive reflection on case study methodology exists compared with HPS.


Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome Conceptual Scheme Analogical Reasoning Scientific Revolution Conceptual Mode 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am much grateful to the editors of this volume, Tilman Sauer and Raphael Scholl, for helpful comments on the manuscript and also for organizing the inspiring workshop in Bern and contributing so many interesting ideas to the subject themselves. I also thank Christian Joas, Désirée Schauz, and Elsbeth Bösl for helpful discussions as well as Karin Zachmann for pointing me to the insightful discussion by Peter Galison.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Munich Center for Technology in SocietyTechnical University MunichMunichGermany

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