Ronald Jude Bombardi, Marquette University


The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the methodological foundations underlying procedures of assessment and treatment in clinical psychology. It is argued that current foundations fail to provide adequate empirical criteria for the acceptance of psychopathological and psychotherapeutic theories. In the effort to formulate new semantic and methodological foundations for clinical psychology--foundations whereby theoretical assertions are subjected to empirical evaluation--it is further argued that methodological models from the natural sciences should be extended to regulate the scientific investigation of psychopathological disorders. In the introductory chapter, various philosophic attempts to establish methodological divergence between natural and social science are considered. It is argued that such attempts generally misconceive the criteria of acceptability by which theoretical assertions in natural science are actually validated; if properly understood, however, these criteria may be incorporated among the foundations of social sciences. The second chapter is devoted to analysis of the methodological problems which plague current theories of psychopathology and psychotherapy. While taking several forms, these problems can be reduced to the absence of systematic procedures for ensuring the trans-theoretic testability of diagnostic and therapeutic clinical formulae. Chapter III is focused on contemporary debates among realist and idealist interpretations of the validation of scientific theories. Since it was held in the previous chapter that theories of clinical psychology cannot avoid verificational paradox unless they are equipped to ensure trans-theoretic evaluation, the arguments offered here are designed to defend realist versions of the commensurability of scientific theories against the subjectivist theses usually associated with Kuhn and Feyerabend. Based partially on the realist theory of reference advocated in Chapter III, the fourth chapter recommends new methodological foundations for clinical psychology. Goodman's theory of predicate projection is adopted as a framework for advancing systematic criteria of both diagnostic and therapeutic adequacy. Specific criteria of explanatory adequacy are also discussed. In the concluding chapter, V, questions of explanatory adequacy are further expanded; it is argued that explanatory hypotheses concerning the nature and origins of psychopathological dysfunction can be rigorously tested in empirical contexts provided by artificial intelligence programs.

Recommended Citation

Bombardi, Ronald Jude, "EMPIRICAL SCIENCE AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY" (1984). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8500545.