This paper is an attempt to redress the imbalance in social work literature, caused by the scant attention given to the nature and implications of the increasing push for empirically grounded practice. In particular, the discussion focuses on the dilemma posed for social work by ‘empiricism’ which eschews people as reflexive agents. This dilemma arises because, on the one hand social work ethics endorse people as responsible agents, while on the other ‘empiricism’ excludes self-reflection and valuing activity. A framework, which classifies social work epistemologies, is presented for grappling with the relation between social science and social work practice. Steps towards a resolution of the dilemma of personalism and social science are indicated.