Intentionalistic explanations in the social sciences

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 21 (3):332-344 (1991)
Abstract
The dispute between the empiricist and interpretivist conceptions of the social sciences is properly conceived not as a matter of reduction or covering laws. Features specific to the social sciences include the following. Explanations of human behavior make reference to intentional causation; social phenomena are permeated with mental components and are self-referential; social science explanations have not been as successful as those in natural science because of their concern with intentional causation, because their explanations must be identical with the propositional content of the mind of the actor, and because a social phenomenon exists only if people believe it exists. Elements of an apparatus necessary to analyze this problematic social ontology are given and include selfreferentiality, constitutive rules, collective intentionality, linguistic permeation of the facts, systematic interrelationships among social facts, and primacy of acts over objects.
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