Do Experiments Depend on Theories or Theories on Experiments?

  • Evandro Agazzi
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 195)


The constitution of every scientific discipline seems to follow a well known pattern, which was first outlined in the speculations of the founders of modern science, such as Bacon and Galilei, and which has undergone many refinements up to the philosophy of science of our century. According to this pattern, scientific inquiry begins with a systematic collection of empirical evidence, which we may call the level of experience, followed by the elaboration of a set of hypotheses, the level of theories, which are then submitted to test by means of experiments. Once these three aspects have reached a stage of mutual logical consistency, we usually say that a satisfactory “scientific theory” is available concerning our domain of investigation. While disagreement still exists regarding the transition from experience to hypotheses (e.g. some maintain that it occurs by induction, while others claim that it depends on bold conjectures), a more general agreement exists regarding the second point: experiments are designed as possible logical consequences of the hypotheses constituting the theory and they are able either to validate or invalidate those hypotheses. Disagreements emerge again regarding the third step, as a variety of positions exists concerning whether the negative outcome of experiments really entails the rejection of the theory. It is this last disagreement in particular that invites us to analyze the mutual dependence of experiments and theories.


Scientific Theory Logical Consequence Semantic Level Logical Conjunction Empirical Theory 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evandro Agazzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Université de FribourgSwitzerland

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