Community science, philosophy of science, and the practice of research

Am J Community Psychol. 2005 Jun;35(3-4):213-30. doi: 10.1007/s10464-005-3399-x.


Embedded in community science are implicit theories on the nature of reality (ontology), the justification of knowledge claims (epistemology), and how knowledge is constructed (methodology). These implicit theories influence the conceptualization and practice of research, and open up or constrain its possibilities. The purpose of this paper is to make some of these theories explicit, trace their intellectual history, and propose a shift in the way research in the social and behavioral sciences, and community science in particular, is conceptualized and practiced. After describing the influence and decline of logical empiricism, the underlying philosophical framework for science for the past century, I summarize contemporary views in the philosophy of science that are alternatives to logical empiricism. These include contextualism, normative naturalism, and scientific realism, and propose that a modified version of contextualism, known as perspectivism, affords the philosophical framework for an emerging community science. I then discuss the implications of perspectivism for community science in the form of four propositions to guide the practice of research.

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Research / methods*
  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Community Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Empirical Research
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Logic
  • Philosophy
  • Preventive Health Services / standards
  • Psychology, Social*
  • Science
  • United States