Theories, practices, and pluralism: A pragmatic interpretation of critical social science

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 29 (4):459-480 (1999)


A hallmark of recent critical social science has been the commitment to methodological and theoretical pluralism. Habermas and others have argued that diverse theoretical and empirical approaches are needed to support informed social criticism. However, an unresolved tension remains in the epistemology of critical social science: the tension between the epistemic advantages of a single comprehensive theoretical framework and those of methodological and theoretical pluralism. By shifting the grounds of the debate in a way suggested by Dewey's pragmatism, the author argues that a thoroughgoing pluralism strengthens, rather than weakens, both the social scientific and political aims of critical social science. Not only does pragmatism offer a plausible interpretation of the epistemic pluralism of the social sciences, but it also provides a way of thinking about their fundamentally practical and political character. With a better normative vocabulary with which to discuss the epistemological issues of such a pluralistic mode of inquiry, the democratic role of critical inquiry and its specifically practical form of verification can be clarified.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,694

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

104 (#115,548)

6 months
1 (#388,319)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

James Bohman
PhD: Boston University; Last affiliation: Saint Louis University

Citations of this work

Jürgen Habermas.James Bohman - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Critical Theory.James Bohman - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Dialectical Vs. Experimental Method: Marcuse's Review of Dewey's Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. Deen - 2010 - Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 46 (2):242.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations