How are social-scientific concepts formed? A reconstruction of Max Weber's theory of concept formation
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Sociological Theory 14 (1):71-88 (1996)
Recent interpretations of Weber's theory of concept formation have concluded that it is seriously defective and therefore of questionable use in social science. Oakes and Burger have argued that Weber's ideas depend upon Rickert's epistemology, whose arguments Oakes finds to be invalid; by implication, Weber's theory fails. An attempt is made to reconstruct Weber's theory on the basis of his 1904 essay on objectivity. Pivotal to Weber's theory is his distinction between concept and judgment (hypothesis), where the former is the interpretive means to the formation of explanatory accounts (judgments). His theory includes criteria of abstraction and synthesis in the construction of ideal-type concepts as well as criteria for their evaluation. Weber provides a reasonably coherent, if incomplete, theory of concept formation which does not depend on Rickert's epistemological arguments
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