Michel Foucault (1926-84) was one of the most renowned of late 20th century social philosophers. He covered an enormous range: from sexuality to prisons; from identity to power; from knowledge to politics. The essays written for this book range over all of Foucault's work, but their main critical focus is upon objectivity, power and knowledge. The very possibility of a critical stance is a recurring theme in all of Foucault's works, and the contributors vary in the ways that they relate (...) to his key views on truth and reason in relation to power and government. (shrink)
Did Adam and Eve act rationally in eating the fruit of the forbidden tree? That can seem to depend solely on whether they had found the best means to their ends, in the spirit of the 'economic' theories of rationality. Martin Hollis respects the elegance and power of these theories but judges their paradoxes endemic. He argues that social action cannot be understood by viewing human beings as abstract individuals with preferences in search of satisfaction, nor by divorcing practical reason (...) from questions of the rationality of norms, principles, practices and ends. These essays, focused on the themes of 'rational choice', 'roles and reasons' and 'other cultures, other minds', make the point and explore alternative approaches. Culled in revised form from twenty-five years' work, the essays range across periods and disciplines with a philosophical imagination and vivid prose, which will engage philosophers and social scientists alike. (shrink)
This textbook by Martin Hollis offers an exceptionally clear and concise introduction to the philosophy of social science. It examines questions which give rise to fundamental philosophical issues. Are social structures better conceived of as systems of laws and forces, or as webs of meanings and practices? Is social action better viewed as rational behaviour, or as self-expression? By exploring such questions, the reader is led to reflect upon the nature of scientific method in social science. Is the aim to (...) explain the social world after a manner worked out for the natural world, or to understand the social world from within? (shrink)
In this book, the author is attempting to make sense, as a philosopher, of the ideas of rationality put forward by economists, sociologists, and political theorists. The book intervenes in intense current debates within and among several disciplines. Its concern is with the true nature of social actors and the proper character of social science. Its arguments are the more challenging for being presented in simple, incisive, and lucid prose.
Stephan Körner is a noble guardian of the grand tradition in philosophy and has given us many reasons to wish him well. But here I take him admiringly to task for doubting that there are eternal verities. The conceptual puzzles of anthropology yield a case for the epistemological unity of mankind. In understanding the thought of other cultures, we cannot fail to find in it some of our own categories, constitutive principles and maximal kinds. Their logic must be, at heart, (...) ours. In upshot, since the bars of our conceptual prison can be seen neither from within nor from without, I conclude that they are not there at all. Yet none of this denies the inspiring quality of his work — the grand tradition is safe with him. (shrink)
All social theorists and philosophers who seek to explain human action have a 'model of man', a metaphysical view of human nature. Some make man a plastic creature of nature and nurture, some present him as the autonomous creator of his social world, some offer a compromise. Each view needs its own theory of scientific knowledge calling for philosophic appraisal and the compromise sets harder puzzles than either. Passive accounts of man, for example, have a robust notion of causal explanation (...) but cannot either find or dispense with a self to apply them to. Active accounts rightly stress an autonomous self, but lack a proper concept of explanation. Martin Hollis takes these tensions and contrasts from the thought of sociologists, economists, and psychologists. He then develops a model of his own - one which seeks to connect personal and social identity through an ambitious theory of rational action and a priori knowledge, proposing a sense in which men can act freely and still be a subject for scientific explanation. (shrink)