Social Life and Social Science: The Significance of the Naturalist/Intentionalist Dispute

Historicist understandings of social scientific theories encounter problems of relativism. They also fail to take account of the process by which theories emerge and the social conditions which make some ideas plausible and others implausible. The utility of adopting a more radically histoicist approach, one which both situates theories in social life and lays the basis for moving beyond relativism, is demonstrated by reexamining the debate about whether the social sciences and natural sciences share a unity of method or are deeply incommensurable. By means of the critique of political economy, the fundamental inadequacies of both "naturalist" and "intentionalist" approaches to the philosophy of social science are shown to share common roots in social life. The paper then explores some alternative social bases on which to ground a more adequate philosophy of social science.
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