I propose a novel model of the human ego (which I define as the tendency to measure one’s value based on extrinsic success rather than intrinsic aptitude or ability). I further propose the conjecture that ego so defined both is a non-adaptive by-product of evolutionary pressures, and has some evolutionary value as an adaptation (protecting self-interest). I explore ramifications of this model, including how it mediates individuals’ reactions to perceived and actual limits of their power, their ability to cope with (...) risk and uncertainty, and how this model may interpolate between rational choice models and cognitive psychology. I develop numerous examples and applications, including poverty traps, to demonstrate the model’s predictive power to elucidate a broad range of social phenomena. -/- [December 2018: Updated version to submit for publication. Expanded Sections 4 and 5.1, revised Section 5.7] -/- . (shrink)
Today, when reading about multicollinearity – one of the most dreaded problems in regression analysis, I came across the statement of Blanchard : “Multicollinearity is God’s will, not a problem with OLS or statistical techniques in general.” Immediately, I thought: “If it is really God’s will, we should keep the problem within our grasp, but not rely on God.”.
على مدى سنواتٍ طويلة، شغلتني إشكالية العلاقة بين العلم والسياسة، قراءةً وبحثًا وإشرافًا على أطروحات تُعالج هذه العلاقة وتأثيراتها على الكوكب المُثقل بنا وبما كسبت أيدينا. قد تبدو هذه العلاقة للوهلة الأولى علاقة اعتماد متبادل؛ فالبحوث والكشوف العلمية في حاجةٍ إلى تمويل، والتمويل يأتي من قبل الحكومات، أو من قبل أرباب رؤوس الأموال الذين يُهيمنون على سياسات الدول والحكومات؛ كما أن الدول والحكومات في حاجة إلى البحوث والكشوف العلمية لتنفيذ برامجها التنموية والانتصار لأيديولوجياتها. يُمكننا تمثيل هذه العلاقة بين العلم والسياسة (...) بعلاقة الأعرج والأعمى؛ فالأول مُقيد في تنقلاته بكرسي مُتحرك، فهو في حاجةٍ إلى من يدفعه، والثاني فَقد بصره، فهو في حاجةٍ إلى من يُوجهه، ومن ثم فقد ارتبطا معًا بمصيرٍ واحد، وباتا يعتمدان على بعضهما البعض وإن اختلفت أهدافهما! لكن الأعمى في الحقيقة هو الذي يقود، وقد يصُم أذنيه عن نداءات الأعرج فيهوي به في الظلمات سبعين خريفًا! وهل يُمكن للسياسي حين تغلب عليه أيديولوجيته، وتطغى عليه طموحات التفوق والهيمنة، أن يُدرك تعقيدات القوة التي يمكن للعلم أن يُطلقها من عنانها؟ وهل بإمكانه أن يُوازن دومًا بين هذه القوة وما تتسم به النفس البشرية من ضعف وتناقضٍ وتحول وفقًا لشروط الزمان والمكان؟! تلك هي القضية الكبرى التي تواجه الإنسان منذ منتصف القرن الماضي، وبصفة خاصة منذ أن ألقيت أول قنبلة ذرية على هيروشيما؛ يومها أعلن الفيزيائي الأمريكي «جاكوب روبرت أوبنهايمر» أن العلم قد فقد عذريته، ولم يعد لنا أن نتخيله تلك العذراء الطاهرة الحنون! لكن عالــــم الكيمياء الحيوي النمســــوي «إروين شارجــــــاف» ذهب إلى أبعد من ذلك؛ رأى أن العلم قد فقد عذريته مع بدء مشروع مانهاتن، أول معسكر اعتقال علمي جُمع فيه أكثر العلماء عبقرية من كيميائيين وفيزيائيين تحت حراسة مشددة، وقيل لهم: هيا العبوا واقتلوا. كانوا يعرفون جميعـًا أنهم سيقومون بأكبر عملٍ شيطاني: تفجير الذرة، وأن هذا الاكتشاف سيسُتخدم في أكبر مذبحة في تاريخ البشرية! ومنذ ذلك الحين، بات جليًا أن الحياد العلمي أمرًا يوتوبيًا مُفارقًا للواقع، وأن القدرة على تطهير العقل العلمي من أدرانه الأيديولوجية مسألة عصية على العلماء في عالمٍ تنهشه السياسة وتبتلعه بطون السادة على موائد الأموال، وهو ما تعكسه بوضوح أزمة جائحة كورونا. (shrink)
The goal of this essay is to put forward an original theory of artifact function, which takes on board the results of the debate on the notion of biological function and also accommodates the distinctive aspects of artifacts. More precisely, the paper develops and defends the Dual-Aspect Theory, which is a monist account according to which an artifact’s function depends on intentional and reproductive aspects. It is argued that this approach meets a set of theoretical and meta-theoretical desiderata and is (...) superior to alternative views. (shrink)
Human-sciences research often focuses on social problems to create tools for solving them. Yet, in using common prejudices in gathering and sorting data on their subjects, they risk propagating those same prejudices. This article proposes that a major subject matter of human sciences is human concepts themselves. Concepts about “what we are,” individually and as a species, are deeply embedded, if not essential. It concludes that for greater precision, practitioners in human sciences must take maximum advantage of this characteristic of (...) the subject, making individuals’ concepts about what they consider themselves to be integral criteria of data gathering and sorting. (shrink)
On Jaeggi’s reading, the immanent and progressive features of ideology critique are rooted in the connection between its explanatory and its normative tasks. I argue that this claim can be cashed out in terms of the mechanisms involved in a functional explanation of ideology and that stability plays a crucial role in this connection. On this reading, beliefs can be said to be ideological if (a) they have the function of supporting existing social practices, (b) they are the output of (...) systematically distorted processes of belief formation, (c) the conditions in which distorting mechanisms trigger can be traced back to structural causal factors shaped by the social practice their outputs are designed to support. Functional problems thus turn out to be interlocked with normative problems because ideology fails to provide principles to regulate cooperation that would be accepted under conditions of non-domination, hence failing to anchor a stable cooperative scheme. By explaining ideology as parasitic on domination, ideology critique points to the conditions under which cooperation stabilizes as those of a practice whose principles are accepted without coercion. Thus, it seems to entail a conception of justice whose principles are articulated as part of a theory of social cooperation. (shrink)
This study assessed the professional variables of academic staff in African varsities and their readiness to Utilise Internet-Based Channels for Research Communication in an era of Covid-19. Drawing from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, the study was guided by four null hypotheses. The quantitative research method based on the virtual cross-sectional survey design was adopted. A total of 8,591 academics in African universities were the targeted demographic of this study. However, data were collected from a virtual snowball sample of 1,977 (...) respondents (males, N = 1347; females, N = 630) from 24 African countries. A validated electronic survey, with three major aspects, was employed for data collection. The e-survey was released on the Association of African Universities' Telegram forum, which includes 1,622 participants from diverse African nations and regions. Members of the forum, who are all academics, were invited to complete the survey and publish it on their universities' internet-based forums. Coded data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics such as the Kruskal Wallis Non-parametric test. The non-parametric test was used because the data failed to meet the normality assumptions required to perform a parametric test. Results indicated, amongst others, that there are considerable variances in staff preparedness to use internet-based channels for research communication based on their educational credentials, educational qualification, rank and areas of research interest. According to the survey, academics with a doctoral degree; grade II lecturers; staff with 3 to 6 years of service; and staff in the medical sciences demonstrated a higher propensity of readiness to use internet-based channels for research communication. Based on these findings key theoretical, practical and research implications are discussed. (shrink)
In this article, we discuss the issue of context-dependence of mechanism-based explanation in the social sciences. The different ways in which the context-dependence and context-independence of mechanism-based explanation have been understood in the social sciences are often motivated by different and apparently incompatible understandings of what explanatory mechanisms are. Instead, we suggest that the different varieties of context-dependence are best seen as corresponding to different research goals. Rather than conflicting with one another, these goals are complementary to each other and (...) therefore pave the way to a methodologically more cooperative approach to mechanism-based explanation in the social sciences. (shrink)
The central claim of the volume in which this chapter appears (*Fermented Landscapes*, ed. Colleen C. Myles, Univ. of Nebraska Press 2020) is that the chemical process of fermentation supplies an apt metaphor for understanding certain kinds of landscape change. The kinds of landscape change in question are, fortuitously, those often occasioned by commercial processes centered around fermentation itself: the commercial production of beer, wine, spirits, cider, cheese, and related fermented products. But what makes this metaphor apt? Which kinds of (...) landscape change are most fruitfully conceptualized as exhibiting “fermentation,” and how do they differ from other sorts of landscape change? What is it about fermentation-centered industries that effects fermentation-modeled landscape change, and when (if ever) do these industries contribute to other, different forms of landscape change? Is there any essential reason why fermentation-centered industries should create in their environs processes of transformation usefully characterized in terms of ferment? Or is this little more than a happy linguistic coincidence? In short: how much mileage do we get from this metaphor? This chapter offers a number of considerations germane to an evaluation of the “fermented landscapes” research paradigm—considerations to which readers may wish to remain alert as they study the contributions in this volume. (shrink)
Ideology is commonly defined along functional, epistemic, and genetic dimensions. This article advances a reasonably unified account that specifies how they connect and locates the mechanisms at work. I frame the account along a recent distinction between anchoring and grounding, endorse an etiological reading of functional explanations, and draw on current work about the epistemology of delusion, looping effects, and structuring causes to explain how ideologies originate, reproduce, and possibly collapse. This eventually allows articulating how the legitimating function of ideologies (...) relates to the constitutive and causal role they play when embedded into the facts they are originally designed to anchor. (shrink)
Discussions on the alleged methodological specificity of social knowledge are fueled to not the least extent by a kind of retarded position of the latter against technological advancements of natural and information science based on exact methods and formal or quantitative languages. It is more or less obvious that applicability of exact scientific methods to social disciplines is highly dependent on a chosen conception of social reality, i. e., on social ontology. In the article, the author critically approaches the ontological (...) views of Tony Lawson and proposes a computational view on social ontology that is supposed to eliminate some internal contradictions of Lawson's realist conception. (shrink)
This chapter discusses various attempts at deriving metaethical conclusions from claims about the function of morality. In doing so, it will, for the most part, grant the truth of such function claims and focus on what metaethical theses they do and do not support. After briefly surveying various recent proposals that rely on functions claims in an attempt to debunk the possibility of robust moral truth and knowledge, the chapter focusses on the contrary, vindicatory project. The proponents of this project (...) argue that a proper understanding of morality’s function not only supports the idea that there are moral truths that we can gain knowledge of, but also provides us with a better understanding of the grounds of those truths, an understanding, moreover, that reconciles the existence of such truths with a naturalistic worldview. A critical assessment of their proposals reveals that while a promising vindicatory role for a function claim can be found in elaborating a non-representationalist conception of the truth of moral judgments, grounding moral truth in morality’s function in that way allows for naturalizing ethics in a modest sense at the most. (shrink)
There is an under-appreciated tradition of genealogical explanation that is centrally concerned with social functions. I shall refer to it as the tradition of pragmatic genealogy. It runs from David Hume (T, 3.2.2) and the early Friedrich Nietzsche (TL) through E. J. Craig (1990, 1993) to Bernard Williams (2002) and Miranda Fricker (2007). These pragmatic genealogists start out with a description of an avowedly fictional “state of nature” and end up ascribing social functions to particular building blocks of our practices (...) – such as the fact that we use a certain concept, or live by a certain virtue – which we did not necessarily expect to have such a function at all. That the seemingly archaic device of a fictional state-of-nature story should be a helpful way to get at the functions of our actual practices must seem a mystifying proposal, however; I shall therefore endeavor to demystify it in what follows. My aim in this chapter is twofold. First, by delineating the framework of pragmatic genealogy and contrasting it with superficially similar methods, I argue that pragmatic genealogies are best interpreted as dynamic models whose point is to reveal the function – and non-coincidentally often the social function – of certain practices. Second, by buttressing this framework with something it notably lacks, namely an account of the type of functionality it operates with, I argue that both the type of functional commitment and the depth of factual obligation incurred by a pragmatic genealogy depend on what we use the method for: the dynamic models of pragmatic genealogy can be used merely as heuristic devices helping us spot functional patterns, or more ambitiously as arguments grounding our ascriptions of functionality to actual practices, or even more ambitiously as bases for functional explanations of the resilience or the persistence of practices. By bringing these distinctions into view, we gain the ability to distinguish strengths and weaknesses of the method’s application from strengths and weaknesses of the method itself. (shrink)
Retractions play an important role in research communication by highlighting and explaining how research projects have failed and thereby preventing these mistakes from being repeated. However, the process of retraction and the data it produces is often sparse or incomplete. Drawing on evidence from 2046 retraction records, Quan-Hoang Vuong discusses the emerging trends this data highlights and argues for the need to enforce reporting standards for retractions, as a means of de-stigmatising retraction and rewarding practising integrity in the scholarly record.
Should the norms of honor cultures be classified as a variety of morality? In this paper, we address this question by considering various empirical bases on which norms can be taxonomically organised. This question is of interest both as an exercise in philosophy of social science, and for its potential implications in meta-ethical debates. Using recent data from anthropology and evolutionary game theory, we argue that the most productive classification emphasizes the strategic role that moral norms play in generating assurance (...) and stabilizing cooperation. Because honor norms have a similar functional role, this account entails honor norms are indeed a variety of moral norm. We also propose an explanation of why honor norms occur in a relatively unified, phenotypically distinctive cluster, thereby explaining why it is tempting to regard them as taxonomically distinct. (shrink)
This paper examines Miranda Fricker’s method of paradigm-based explanation and in particular its promise of yielding an ordered pluralism. Fricker’s starting point is a schism between two conceptions of forgiveness, Moral Justice Forgiveness and Gifted Forgiveness. In the light of a hypothesis about the basic point of forgiveness, she reveals the unity underlying the initially baffling plurality and brings order into it, presenting a paradigmatic form of forgiveness as explanatorily basic and other forms as derivative. The resulting picture, she claims, (...) is an ‘explanatorily satisfying ordered pluralism.’ But what is this ordered pluralism and how does Fricker’s method deliver it? And to what extent can this strategy be generalised to other conceptual practices? By making explicit and critically examining the conception of ordered pluralism implicit in Fricker’s procedure, I assess the promise that her approach holds as a way of resolving stand-offs between warring conceptions of ideas or practices more widely. I argue that it holds great promise in this respect, but that if we are to avoid reproducing just the schismatic debates that the pluralism of paradigm-based explanation is supposed to overcome at the level of what is to be regarded as a paradigm case, we need to take seriously the thought that what counts as a paradigm is partly determined by our purposes in giving a paradigm-based explanation. (shrink)
To investigate cultural lifestyle preferences in different cultural contexts, a forced-choice questionnaire was constructed, based on Thurstone's Law of Comparative Judgement, an almost forgotten statistical method of 1927, which is a useful tool for assessing groups. This study's questionnaire items targeted job and living conditions in the spectrum from traditional to globalised lifestyles. Subjects were indigenous representatives at the UNO in Geneva, and students in Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Germany. The preferences ascertained reflect attitudes on a scale ranging from (...) very traditional to very globalised lifestyles. Although being an uncommon assessment tool, Thurstone's Comparative Judgement indicates to yield highly valid outcomes, as the results of the African university students, though from three different countries, resembled each other, but were complementary to the results of the indigenous representatives, which, in turn, mirrored the Berlin controls' profiles, according to expectations. Findings are discussed in light of the Symbolic Self-Completion Theory. (shrink)
Power is often taken to be a central concept in social and political thought that can contribute to the explanation of many different social phenomena. This article argues that in order to play this role, a general theory of power is required to identify a stable causal capacity, one that does not depend on idiosyncratic social conditions and can thus exert its characteristic influence in a wide range of cases. It considers three promising strategies for such a theory, which ground (...) power in (1) the ability to use force, (2) access to resources, or (3) collective acceptance. It shows that these strategies fail to identify a stable causal capacity. The lack of an adequate general theory of power suggests that the concept lacks the necessary unity to play the broad explanatory role it is often accorded. (shrink)
Despite their success in describing and predicting cognitive behavior, the plausibility of so-called ‘rational explanations’ is often contested on the grounds of computational intractability. Several cognitive scientists have argued that such intractability is an orthogonal pseudoproblem, however, since rational explanations account for the ‘why’ of cognition but are agnostic about the ‘how’. Their central premise is that humans do not actually perform the rational calculations posited by their models, but only act as if they do. Whether or not the problem (...) of intractability is solved by recourse to ‘as if’ explanations critically depends, inter alia, on the semantics of the ‘as if’ connective. We examine the five most sensible explications in the literature, and conclude that none of them circumvents the problem. As a result, rational ‘as if’ explanations must obey the minimal computational constraint of tractability. (shrink)
Die Einleitung unseres Kapitels bietet eine grundsäzliche Charakterisierung der Soziologie und zeichnet einige wichtige historische Entwicklungslinien der Philosophie der Soziologie (PdS) nach. Im Hauptteil werden zentrale ontologische sowie ausgewählte explanatorische Themen der PdS vorgestellt. Im Schlussteil sollen einige aktuelle Diskussionen umrissen werden.
What is the function of morality? On this question, something approaching a consensus has recently emerged. Impressed by developments in evolutionary theory, many philosophers now tell us that the function of morality is to reduce social tensions, and to thereby enable a society to efficiently promote the well-being of its members. In this paper, I subject this consensus to rigorous scrutiny, arguing that the functional hypothesis in question is not well supported. In particular, I attack the supposed evidential relation between (...) an evolutionary genealogy of morals and the functional hypothesis itself. I show that there are a great many functionally relevant discontinuities between our own culture and the culture within which morality allegedly emerged, and I argue that this seriously weakens the inference from morality’s evolutionary history to its present-day function. (shrink)
Nowadays, protecting trust in social sciences also means engaging in open community dialogue, which helps to safeguard robustness and improve efficiency of research methods. The combination of open data, open review and open dialogue may sound simple but implementation in the real world will not be straightforward. However, in view of Begley and Ellis’s (2012) statement that, “the scientific process demands the highest standards of quality, ethics and rigour,” they are worth implementing. More importantly, they are feasible to work on (...) and likely will help to restore plausibility to social sciences research. Therefore, I feel it likely that the triplet of open data, open review and open dialogue will gradually emerge to become policy requirements regardless of the research funding source. (shrink)
A philosophically useful account of social structure must accommodate the fact that social structures play an important role in structural explanation. But what is a structural explanation? How do structural explanations function in the social sciences? This paper offers a way of thinking about structural explanation and sketches an account of social structure that connects social structures with structural explanation.
In Book I of Plato’s Republic, Thrasymachus famously maintains that ideas of morality and justice are nothing more than an ideology indoctrinated in “the weaker” to benefit “the stronger.” This is Thrasymachus’s challenge to morality: the thesis that some social arrangements, including some moral norms, are products of ‘false consciousness.’ False consciousness occurs when a dominant social group shapes the beliefs and desires of a subordinate group in such a way that the subordinates act for the benefit of the dominants, (...) but against their own interests. In this paper, I grant that some moral norms emerge or persist because of false consciousness. However, I shall argue that these norms actually have the function of impartially promoting the interests of all persons in their range of application. Even if the actual effect of false consciousness norms is to benefit a powerful class while being harmful and discriminatory toward others, the true function of false consciousness norms is the intended effect that they were designed to have. And the crucial feature of false consciousness norms is that their designers—particularly subordinates—teach, preach, follow, and enforce them with the intention of promoting the mutual interests of everyone to whom the norms apply. (shrink)
The paper reviews the philosophical literature on the epistemology of modelling in contemporary economics. In particular, it focuses on open questions concerning the epistemic role of models, the validity of inferences from the models to the world, and the legitimacy of their use for purposes of explanation, prediction and intervention.
The term “rationality” is applied to many different things, from beliefs and preferences to decisions and choices, actions and behaviors, people, collectivities, andinstitutions. Therefore this paper will limit its considerations only to social preferences and choices in order to clarify the role of rationality in social explanation. The paper will focus on degrees of rationality, calling upon the concept of transitivity for help.
The attempt to construct an applied science of social change raises certain concerns, both theoretical and ethical. The theoretical concerns relate to the feasibility of predicting human behavior with sufficient reliability to ground a science that aspires to the management of social processes. The ethical concerns relate to the moral hazards involved in the modification of human social arrangements, given the unreliability of predicting human action.
Dorothy Emmet, in two books, one of which was based on extensive personal contact with Robert Merton and Columbia sociology, provides the closest thing we have to an authorized philosophical defense of Merton. It features a deflationary account of functionalism which dispenses with the idea of general teleological ends. What it replaces it with is an account of “structures” that have various consequences and that are maintained because, on Emmet’s account, of the mutual reinforcement of motives produced by the structure.
One way social scientists explain phenomena is by building structural models. These models are explanatory insofar as they manage to perform a recursive decomposition on an initial multivariate probability distribution, which can be interpreted as a mechanism. Explanations in social sciences share important aspects that have been highlighted in the mechanisms literature. Notably, spelling out the functioning the mechanism gives it explanatory power. Thus social scientists should choose the variables to include in the model on the basis of their function (...) in the mechanism. This paper examines the notion of ‘function’ within structural modelling. We argue that ‘functions’ ought to be understood as the theoretical underpinnings of the causes, namely as the role that causes play in the functioning of the mechanism. (shrink)
Norms are a pervasive yet mysterious feature of social life. In Explaining Norms, four philosophers and social scientists team up to grapple with some of the many mysteries, offering a comprehensive account of norms: what they are; how and why they emerge, persist and change; and how they work.
When can macroscopic data about a system be used to set parameters in a microfoundational simulation? We examine the epistemic viability of tweaking parameter values to generate a better fit between the outcome of a simulation and the available observational data. We restrict our focus to microfoundational simulations—those simulations that attempt to replicate the macrobehavior of a target system by modeling interactions between microentities. We argue that tweaking can be effective but that there are two central risks. First, tweaking risks (...) overfitting the simulation to the data and thus compromising predictive accuracy; and second, it risks compromising the microfoundationality of the simulation. We evaluate standard responses to tweaking and propose strategies to guard against these risks. (shrink)
Traditional debate on the metaphysics of gender has been a contrast of essentialist and social-constructionist positions. The standard reaction to this opposition is that neither position alone has the theoretical resources required to satisfy an equitable politics. This has caused a number of theorists to suggest ways in which gender is unified on the basis of social rather than biological characteristics but is “real” or “objective” nonetheless – a position I term social objectivism. This essay begins by making explicit the (...) motivations for, and central assumptions of, social objectivism. I then propose that gender is better understood as a real kind with a historical essence, analogous to the biologist’s claim that species are historical entities. I argue that this proposal achieves a better solution to the problems that motivate social objectivism. Moreover, the account is consistent with a post-positivist understanding of the classificatory practices employed within the natural and social sciences. (shrink)
We often face a bewildering array of different explanations for the same social facts (e.g. biological, psychological, economic, and historical accounts). But we have few guidelines for whether and when we should think of different accounts as competing or compatible. In this paper, I offer some guidelines for understanding when custom or norm accounts do and don’t compete with other types of accounts. I describe two families of non-competing accounts: (1) explanations of different (but similarly described) facts, and (2) accounts (...) which seem to differ but are really different parts or versions of the same underlying explanation. I argue that, while many types of apparent competitors don’t really compete with customs, there are some that do. I also describe some of the central problems, which suggest that custom accounts will compete poorly with their rivals. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss the relevance of considering context for critical thinking. We argue that critical thinking is best viewed in terms of ‘critical inquiry’ in which argumentation is seen as a way of arriving at reasoned judgments on complex issues. This is a dialectical process involving the comparative weighing of a variety of contending positions and arguments. Using the model which we have developed for teaching critical thinking as critical inquiry, we demonstrate the role played by the following (...) aspects of context: (1) knowledge of the dialectical context (the debate around an issue, both current and historical); (2) an understanding of the current state of practice and belief surrounding an issue; (3) an understanding of the intellectual, political, historical and social contexts in which an issue is embedded; (4) knowledge of the relevant disciplinary context; (5) information about the sources of an argument; (6) awareness of one’s own beliefs and biases. (shrink)
I argue that there is a flaw in the way that response-dependence has been formulated in the literature, and this flawed formulation has been correctly attacked by Mark Johnston’s Missing Explanation Argument (1993, 1998). Moving to a better formulation, which is analogous to the move from behaviourism to functionalism, avoids the Missing Explanation Argument.
Cet ouvrage très pédagogique informe les étudiants sur les méthodes quantitatives les plus classiques comme les plus récentes en sciences sociales, et notamment sur les différentes pratiques de modélisation et de simulation informatique des systèmes sociaux (sciences sociales computationnelles ou modèles informatiques).
In this article, I argue that norms and customs, despite frequently being described as being causes of behavior in the social sciences and ordinary conversation, cannot really cause behavior. Terms like "norms" and the like seem to refer to philosophically disreputable disjunctive properties. More problematically, even if they do not, or even if there can be disjunctive properties after all, I argue that norms and customs still cannot cause behavior. The social sciences would be better off without referring to properties (...) like norms and customs as if they could be causal. (shrink)
Stephen Turner complains about weaknesses of Robert K. Merton's teachings without noticing that these are common. He puts down Merton's ideas despite his innovations, on the ground that they are not successful and not sufficiently revolutionary. The criteria by which he condemns Merton are too vague and too high. Merton's merit is in his having put the sociology of science on the map and drawn attention to the egalitarianism that was prominent in classical science and that is now diminished. Key (...) Words: American sociology • intellectual frameworks • Merton • middle axioms • time lag. (shrink)
This article argues against Catton and Dunlap’s claims that the natural environment has been ignored or downplayed in American sociology before the emergence of environmental sociology in the 1970s. By reviewing a collection of 86 sociology textbooks between 1894 and 1980, the article provides quantitative evidence regarding the scope and types of references to the natural environment in mainstream sociology. The bulk of the article is based on an interpretive-historical analysis of the different representations of the environment in the textbook (...) literature. This analysis is carried out from the perspective of the sociology of knowledge, whereby sociological ideas about nature are interpreted in terms of their intellectual milieu and social context. The main finding is that the ‘natural environment’ has been interpreted in different ways and has been put to a variety of epistemological and ideological uses — particularly positivism and functionalism — throughout the history of the discipline. (shrink)
Particularly during the 1940s, Robert Merton developed a loosely knit methodological program including such key concepts as "structure and functional analysis" and "middle range theories" which provided guidance for sociological work over several decades and which retains some considerable relevance today. However, there are inconsistencies and incompletions in this program which have become more problematic over time. The paper questions the depth of these difficulties and also points out that in the historical circumstances of a limited stimulus provided by the (...) paucity of critique written at the time and Robert Merton's operational style, it is not surprising that difficulties were not attended to. Key Words: Merton • methodological program • classics in sociology • functional analysis • middle-range theory. (shrink)
It is often claimed that artificial society simulations contribute to the explanation of social phenomena. At the hand of a particular example, this paper argues that artificial societies often cannot provide full explanations, because their models are not or cannot be validated. Despite that, many feel that such simulations somehow contribute to our understanding. This paper tries to clarify this intuition by investigating whether artificial societies provide potential explanations. It is shown that these potential explanations, if they contribute to our (...) understanding, considerably differ from potential causal explanations. Instead of possible causal histories, simulations offer possible functional analyses of the explanandum . The paper discusses how these two kinds explanatory strategies differ, and how potential functional explanations can be appraised. (shrink)
Organizational ecology applies Darwinian principles of natural selection to understand the evolution of new forms of organizations over time. The idea here is that there are different forms of human organizations, such as different business organizations, religious organizations, political organizations, etc. The growth of new forms of organizations within each of these fields is to be understood in terms of a struggle for existence among organizations with different traits. In a recent article, Reydon and Scholz (2009) argue that this Darwinian (...) view of the evolution of new organizational forms is highly problematic because organizational populations do not exhibit the levels of internal cohesion, isolation, and closure that are necessary for something like Darwinian evolution to occur. In this article, I defend organizational ecology by rebutting the arguments of Reydon and Scholz. (shrink)
Organizational ecology is commonly seen as a Darwinian research program that seeks to explain the diversity of organizational structures, properties and behaviors as the product of selection in past social environments in a similar manner as evolutionary biology seeks to explain the forms, properties and behaviors of organisms as consequences of selection in past natural environments. We argue that this explanatory strategy does not succeed because organizational ecology theory lacks an evolutionary mechanism that could be identified as the principal cause (...) of organizational diversity. The “evolution” of organizational populations by means of selection, which organizational ecologists put forward as the mechanism responsible for the extant diversity of organizational forms, is not evolution in any proper sense, because organizational populations do not have what it takes to participate in evolutionary processes. This implies that organizational ecology is not a Darwinian research program and that it cannot explain organizational diversity. (shrink)
Philosophers of the social sciences are increasingly convinced that macro-and micro-explanations are complementary. Whereas macro-explanations are broad, micro-explanations are deep. I distinguish between weak and strong complementarity: Strongly complementary explanations improve one another when integrated, weakly complementary explanations do not. To demonstrate the explanatory autonomy of different levels of explanation, explanatory pluralists mostly presuppose the weak form of complementarity. By scrutinizing the notions of explanatory depth and breadth, I argue that macro- and micro-accounts of the same phenomenon are more often (...) strongly complementary. This invites a revision of the pluralist position in which integration promotes explanatory progress. (shrink)
I argue that there is methodological space for a functional explanation of the nature of law that does not commit the theorist to a view about the value of that function for society, nor whether law is the best means of accomplishing it. A functional explanation will nonetheless provide a conceptual framework for a better understanding of the nature of law. First I examine the proper role for function in a theory of law and then argue for the possibility of (...) a neutral functional theory, addressing issues raised by Leslie Green, Stephen Perry, Michael Moore and John Finnis. (shrink)
Abstract: Situations that social scientists and others explain by using concepts like "custom" and "norm" often tend to be situations in which many other kinds of explanations (for example, biological, psychological, economic, historical) seem plausible as well. Do these other explanations compete with the custom or norm explanations, or do they complement them? We need to consider this question carefully and not just assume that various accounts are all permissible at different levels of analysis. In this article I describe two (...) families of noncompeting accounts: (1) explanations of different (but similarly described) facts, and (2) accounts that seem to differ but are really different parts or versions of the same underlying explanation. I argue that while many types of apparent competitors don't really compete with norms, there are usually some that do. These competing accounts will usually undermine the norm account. (shrink)
Philosophers of the social sciences are increasingly convinced that macro-and micro-explanations are complementary. Whereas macro-explanations are broad, micro-explanations are deep. I distinguish between weak and strong complementarity: Strongly complementary explanations improve one another when integrated, weakly complementary explanations do not. To demonstrate the explanatory autonomy of different levels of explanation, explanatory pluralists mostly presuppose the weak form of complementarity. By scrutinizing the notions of explanatory depth and breadth, I argue that macro- and micro-accounts of the same phenomenon are more often (...) strongly complementary. This invites a revision of the pluralist position in which integration promotes explanatory progress. Key Words: explanatory pluralism social science explanatory depth explanatory breadth mechanism. (shrink)