Rethinking objectivity in social science

Social Epistemology 18 (2 & 3):109 – 122 (2004)
Abstract
By presenting a number of concrete examples, this paper aims at soliciting a reflection on how social phenomena become the 'objects of a science' by being classified in specific ways, to answer specific questions, in different social sciences. This is in view of arguing that the objectivity of the procedures by which social scientific objects are identified and classified can only be assessed in relation to the actual questions addressed and formulated about these objects - rather than by referring back to some ideal standard or protocol of objective inquiry. This also goes against the practice, often endorsed by social scientific literature, of fixing a model for what social objects are to be like (scientific or philosophical, under some description or other) and the distortingly 'normative' idea of social scientific objectivity which derives from such practice. The objects of social scientific inquiry are complex in a specific sense, and a plural identification of those objects in the context of the widest array of methods of description, classification and analysis is to be pursued.
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