Natural science, social science, and democratic practice: Some political implications of the distinction between the natural and the human sciences

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 22 (3):337-356 (1992)
This article examines some of the contributions to the contemporary debate over the question of whether there is an important distinction to be made between the natural and the human sciences. In particular, the article looks at the arguments that Charles Taylor has put forward for the recognition of a radical discontinuity between these forms of science and then examines Richard Rorty's objections to Taylor's distinction and argues that Rorty misunderstands the reasons for this distinction and thereby misses the political implications of failing to make such a distinction. In this regard, some arguments made by Anthony Giddens and John O'Neill, respectively, around Alfred Schutz's "postulate of adequacy" are used to show how the social sciences must be conceived so as to avoid consequences inimical to the reproduction and maintenance of participatory, democratic institutions. Additionally, the article uses O'Neill's argument that the Schutzian conceptualization of interpretive sciences can be critical in a way that Giddens and Jürgen Habermas require, while including a translation and accountability principle, to demonstrate how we ought to respect participatory, democratic forms
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