Redescription and Descriptivism in the Social Sciences

Behavior and Philosophy 32 (2):453 - 464 (2004)
In its quest to become more scientific, many have held that social science should more closely emulate the methodology of natural science. This has proven difficult and has led some to assert the impossibility of a science of human behavior. I maintain, however, that many critics of empirical social science have misunderstood the foundation for the success of the natural sciences, which is not that they have discovered the "true vocabulary of nature," but—on the contrary—that they have realized the benefits of flexibility in "redescribing" familiar phenomena in alternative ways, in the pursuit of scientific explanations. In this paper I argue that this same path is open to the social sciences and that its pursuit would facilitate the prospects for the scientific study of human behavior.
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