Defending scientific study of the social: Against Clifford Geertz (and his critics)

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (3):289-314 (2007)
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This paper will defend scientific study of the social by scrutinizing Clifford Geertz's interpretive anthropology, and evolutionary psychologists' criticism of it. I shall critically examine Geertz's identification of anthropology with literary criticism, his assumption that a science of society is possible only on a positivist model, his view of the relation between culture and mind, and his anti anti-relativism. Then I shall discuss evolutionary psychologists' criticism of Geertz's view as an exemplar of the so-called "Standard Social Science Model." Finally, I shall claim that both Geertz and evolutionary psychologists misunderstand the aim of the social sciences, which is to explain the unintended consequences of human actions in institutional contexts. Key Words: Clifford Geertz • evolutionary psychology • interpretive anthropology • positivism • Standard Social Science Model (SSSM).



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