The crowbar model of method and its implications



Published 05-12-2019
Thomas Nickles


There is a rough, long-term tradeoff between rate of innovation and degree of strong realism in scientific practice, a point reflected in historically changing conceptions of method as they retreat from epistemological foundationism to a highly fallibilistic, modeling perspective. The successively more liberal, innovation-stimulating methods open up to investigation deep theoretical domains at the cost, in many cases, of moving away from strong realism as a likely outcome of research. The crowbar model of method highlights this tension, expressed as the crowbar compromise and the crowbar fallacy. The tools-to-theories heuristic, described and evaluated by Gigerenzer and colleagues, can be regarded as an attempt by some scientific realists to overcome this compromise. Instead, it is an instance of it. Nonetheless, in successful applications the crowbar model implies a modest, instrumental (nonrepresentational) realism.

How to Cite

Nickles, T. (2019). The crowbar model of method and its implications. THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, 34(3), 357–372.
Abstract 217 | PDF Downloads 226 XML Downloads 196



crowbar, method, scientific innovation, heuristics, models, the tools-to-theories heuristic, scientific realism