The status of interpretive hypotheses

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In the natural sciences, the task of the researcher is usually seen as the generation and testing of hypotheses. These hypotheses are taken to be possible answers to questions concerning the description, prediction, and explanation of natural phenomena. But there is also another kind of hypothesis, an interpretive hypothesis. The status of interpretive hypotheses is not as clear as that of descriptive, predictive or explanatory ones. This paper aims to clarify this status, showing the respects in which interpretive hypotheses are like other kinds, and the respects in which they are different. Hermeneutic research methods based on the generation and testing of interpretive hypotheses do not seem fundamentally different from those of traditional empirical sciences. Interpretive hypotheses simply apply to different kinds of data. They can be particularly relevant to the research goal of explanation.


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