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Title: A Method Only: The Evolving Meaning of Science in the United States, 1830-1910
Authors: Cowles, Henry M.
Advisors: Rodgers, Daniel T.
Contributors: History of Science Department
Keywords: Evolution
Human Sciences
Scientific Method
Social Sciences
Subjects: History of science
American history
Philosophy of science
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: On or about March 11, 1910, scientific method changed. John Dewey's publication of a five-step method of inquiry marked the climax of decades of debate over the evolution of the mind and the foundations of science. Between 1830 and 1910, certain thinkers came to see science less as a body of knowledge and more as an adaptive tool based in the brain. In doing so, these figures recast one version of scientific practice--the experimental method--as both natural and fundamentally human. This dissertation traces that process of naturalization through the efforts of British and American psychologists and philosophers in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Chapter one argues that men of science such as William Whewell and Charles Darwin blended ideas about the nature of science and the science of human nature, forging a "vocabulary of method" adapted by subsequent authors. Each of the next three chapters takes up the work of one such figure in turn--Charles Peirce, William James, and Dewey--to show how they wielded Whewell's philosophy of science and Darwin's theory of evolution to fashion new meanings of mind and method to suit their purposes. The final chapter examines the resonance of these debates in a neighboring field: medicine. Scientific method gained new authority in the medical community during this period, thanks in part to the work of Abraham Flexner, whose valorization of the experimental ideal was grounded in his reading of Dewey. Ultimately, this evolutionary view of science was used to justify a range of activities, including animal experiments, child study, and scientific research in medical contexts. Seeing science as a mental tool capable of being used wherever it was needed--seeing it, in other words, as "a method only"--paved the way for an instrumental approach to scientific and everyday thought that is still with us today.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History of Science

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