chapter  2
9 Pages

Hayek and Hempel on the Nature, Role, and Limitations of Science

WithRichard N. Williams

This chapter focuses on two influential scholarly papers published in the mid-20th century that, although they were influential in their time, have slipped out of contemporary disciplinary awareness in psychology. Nonetheless, the ideas in these two papers continue to have profound influence. The first paper, “Studies in the Logic of Explanation” by Carl Hempel and Paul Oppenheim (1948), laid out the “Deductive-Nomological Model” of science and suggested that the same general principles that defined science as practiced in the physical sciences were applicable in sciences engaged in the study of distinctly human phenomena. The second paper, “Scientism and the Study of Society” by Nobel Prize–winning economist F. A. Hayek (1942), takes up the question of whether the positivist model of science then enjoying so much success in the study of the natural world could legitimately be applied to the study of society and distinctly human phenomena. Of greater interest is Hayek’s use of the term ‘scientism’ to describe the nature of the enterprise he observed and against which he warned his readers. This chapter uses these two papers to examine the issues involved in understanding the limits on the reach of science in our contemporary intellectual discourse.