De-Ontologizing the Debate on Social Explanations: A Pragmatic Approach Based on Epistemic Interests

Human Studies 31 (4):423 - 442 (2008)
Abstract
In a recent paper on realism and pragmatism published in this journal, Osmo Kivinen and Tero Piiroinen have been pleading for more methodological work in the philosophy of the social sciences—refining the conceptual tools of social scientists—and less philosophically ontological theories. Following this de-ontologizing approach, we scrutinize the debates on social explanation and contribute to the development of a pragmatic social science methodology. Analyzing four classic debates concerning explanation in the social sciences, we propose to shift the debate away from (a) the ontologizing defenses of forms of social explanation, and (b) a winner-takes-all-approach. Instead, we advocate (c) a pragmatic approach towards social explanation, elaborating a rigorous framework for explanatory pluralism detached from the debates on social ontology.
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