Professor Little presents an introduction to the philosophy of social science with an emphasis on the central forms of explanation in social science: rational-intentional, causal, functional, structural, materialist, statistical and interpretive. The book is very strong on recent developments, particularly in its treatment of rational choice theory, microfoundations for social explanation, the idea of supervenience, functionalism, and current discussions of relativism.Of special interest is Professor Little’s insight that, like the philosophy of natural science, the philosophy of social science can profit (...) from examining actual scientific examples. Throughout the book, philosophical theory is integrated with recent empirical work on both agrarian and industrial society drawn from political science, sociology, geography, anthropology, and economics.Clearly written and well structured, this text provides the logical and conceptual tools necessary for dealing with the debates at the cutting edge of contemporary philosophy of social science. It will prove indispensible for philosophers, social scientists and their students. (shrink)
This text focuses on the theory of popular politics constructed within the context of analytical Marxism, and asks if rational choice theory provides an adequate basis for explaining patterns of social, political and economic behaviour in traditional China.
In this interview, Daniel Little provides an overview of his life and work in academia. Among other things, he discusses an actor-centred approach to theory of social ontology. For Little, this approach complements the assumptions of critical realism, in that it accords full ontological importance to social structures, causal mechanisms, and enduring and influential normative systems. The approach casts doubt, however, on the idea of ‘strong emergence' of social structures, the idea that social structures have properties and causal powers that (...) cannot, in principle be explained by their constituents (social actors) and their relationships. Little’s approach to social ontology endorses instead the idea of relative explanatory autonomy. During the interview, many points of convergence become evident between this actor-centred approach to social ontology and the fundamental insights of critical realism. According to Little, analysis of social ontology also turns out to be especially relevant to philosophy of history. (shrink)
The article responds to Richard Lauer’s (2019) “Is Social Ontology Prior to Social Scientific Methodology?” The article concurs that “social ontology matters” for the conduct of research and theory in social science. It argues, however, that neither of the interpretations of the status of social ontology offered by Lauer is satisfactory (either apriori philosophical realism or pragmatist anti-realism). The article argues for a naturalized, fallibilist, and realist interpretation of the claims of social ontology and presents the field of social ontology (...) as the most abstract edge of social-science theorizing, subject to broad empirical constraints. The approach taken is anti-foundationalist in both epistemology and metaphysics. Ontological theorizing is part of the extended scientific enterprise of understanding the social world. Claims about the nature of the social world are not different in kind from more specific sociological claims about social class or individual rationality, to be justified ultimately by the coherence and explanatory success of the theories they help to create. At the same time, it is justified to treat the claims of social ontology as provisionally true, which supports a realist interpretation of the findings of social ontology. (shrink)
Insight has been investigated under the assumption that participants solve insight problems with insight processes and/or experiences. A recent trend has involved presenting participants with the solution and analysing the resultant experience as if insight has taken place. We examined self-reports of the aha experience, a defining aspect of insight, before and after feedback, along with additional affective components of insight (e.g., pleasure, surprise, impasse). Classic insight problems, compound remote associates, and non-insight problems were randomly interleaved and presented to participants. (...) Solution feedback increased ratings of aha experience in both insight and non-insight problems, with this result being driven by responses to solutions that were initially incorrectly generated. Ratings of aha for correctly generated solutions decreased after the correct solution was presented. These findings have implications for insight research paradigms as well as informing teaching methods. (shrink)
This article disputes the common view that social science explanations depend on discovery of lawlike generalizations from which descriptions of social outcomes can be derived. It distinguishes between governing and phenomenal regularities, and argues that social regularities are phenomenal rather than governing. In place of nomological deductive arguments, the article maintains that social explanations depend on the discovery of causal mechanisms underlying various social processes. The metaphysical correlate of this argument is that there are no social kinds: types of social (...) entities that share a common casual constitution giving rise to strong regularities of behavior. The article turns next to a consideration of the character of social causation and argues for a microfoundational interpretation of social causation: social causal powers are embodied in the constraints and opportunities that institutions present to individual agents. Finally, it is noted that these arguments have consequences for the credibility of social predictions: it is argued that predictions in social science are generally unreliable. (shrink)
The paper addresses the question of whether an actor-centered social ontology can admit of relatively autonomous social causal explanations. It endorses the requirement that social structures and causes require “microfoundations.” It argues that the examples of other special sciences demonstrate the relevance of the idea of “relative explanatory autonomy” in the case of social causal reasoning. These considerations provide a basis for affirming the legitimacy of causal statements about meso-level causal relations.
The article addresses the topic of “group agency” with respect to large organizations. It undertakes to analyze some of the concrete micro- and meso-level processes through which large organizations arrive at collective “knowledge” and “action.” The article makes use of the theory of strategic action fields to analyze processes of knowledge and the implementation of organizational intentions. The article describes some of the dysfunctions and disunities that should be expected from these individual-level processes, including principal–agent problems, conflicts of interests and (...) priorities among organizational actors, loose coupling among subunits, and outcomes that are influenced by powerful outsiders. It argues for a limited conception of “ bounded localistic organizational rationality” in which organizations have limited coherence, unity, and consistency over time in their beliefs and actions. (shrink)
The ability to generate diverse ideas is valuable in solving creative problems ; yet, however advantageous, this ability is insufficient to solve the problem alone and requires the ability to logically deduce an assessment of correctness of each solution. Positive schizotypy may help isolate the aspects of divergent thinking prevalent in insight problem solving. Participants were presented with a measure of schizotypy, divergent and convergent thinking tasks, insight problems, and non-insight problems. We found no evidence for a relationship between schizotypy (...) and insight problem solving. Relationships between divergent thinking and insight problem solving were also surprisingly weak; however, measures of convergent thinking had a stronger relationship with problem solving. These results suggest that convergent thinking is more important than divergent thinking in problem solving. (shrink)
Causal mechanisms theory has provided an important contribution to the theory of social explanation. This article considers whether CMT also makes a contribution to improvement of social science methodology. Methodology serves as a guide to the construction of research questions and explanatory hypotheses. Research is guided by background assumptions about the ontology of the domain of investigation. CMT provides a valuable ontology for social science research. Furthermore, it provides a valuable research heuristic: “seek out the causal mechanisms that underlie an (...) outcome of interest.” CMT does indeed have valuable implications for social science investigation, hypothesis formation, and research strategy. (shrink)
This article addresses Tuukka Kaidesoja’s critique of the philosophical presuppositions of Roy Bhaskar’s theories of critical realism. The article supports Kaidesoja’s naturalistic approach to the philosophy of the social sciences, including the field of social ontology. The article discusses the specific topics of fallibilism, emergence, and causal powers. I conclude that Kaidesoja’s book is a valuable contribution to current debates over critical realism.
A prominent historiographic theme in the past decade has been a movement away from causal explanation of large-scale processes and outcomes and toward narrative interpretation of singular historical processes. This article argues for the continued vitality of large-scale historical inquiry and surveys the historiographic issues that arise in large-scale historical explanation. The article proceeds through an examination of several important recent examples of large-scale history: comparative history of Europe and China, the history of alternative forms of industrial organization, and the (...) history of technology. These three cases provide the basis for a conception of what may be called "conjunctural contingent meso-level" explanations: explanations that identify intermediate-level structures and processes and highlight both the structural factors that govern change and the multiple pathways that change can take. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: What Is the Philosophy of the Social Sciences? What Are the “Social Sciences”? How Do We Define the Social? What Is a Social Explanation? What Is Social Causation? How Are Social Science Hypotheses and Theories Given Empirical Justification? Positivism, Naturalism, and General Social Laws How Do Social Facts Relate to Facts about Individuals and Facts about Psychology? Conclusion References.
This volume represents a contribution to the philosophy of economics with a distinctive point of view -- the contributors have selected particular areas of economics and have probed these areas for the philosophical and methodological issues that they raise. The primary essays are written by philosophers concentrating on philosophical issues that arise at the level of the everyday theoretical practice of working economists. Commentary essays are provided by working economists responding to the philosophical arguments from the standpoint of their own (...) disciplines. The volume thus represents something of an `experiment' in the philosophy of science, striving as it does to explore methodological issues across two research communities. The purpose of the volume is very specific: to stimulate a discussion of the epistemology and methodology of economics that works at the level of detail of existing `best practice' in economics today. The contributors have designed their contributions to stimulate productive conversation between philosophers and economists on topics in the methodology of economics. (shrink)
A behavioral drive directed solely at minimizing prediction error would cause an agent to seek out states of unchanging, and thus easily predictable, sensory inputs (such as a dark room). The default to an evolutionarily encoded prior to avoid such untenable behaviors is unsatisfying. We suggest an alternate information theoretic interpretation to address this dilemma.
The breadth-first search adopted by Bayesian researchers to map out the conceptual space and identify what the framework can do is beneficial for science and reflective of its collaborative and incremental nature. Theoretical pluralism among researchers facilitates refinement of models within various levels of analysis, which ultimately enables effective cross-talk between different levels of analysis.
We live in a time of human paradoxes. Scientific knowledge has reached a level of sophistication that permits understanding of the most arcane phenomena and yet religious fundamentalism dominates in many parts of the world. We witness the emergence of a civil, liberal constitutionalism in many regions of the world and yet ethnic violence threatens.
Rawls's theory of justice has played a prominent role in a number of academic fields beyond philosophy, and one of these is the field of economics. This chapter explains whether Rawls's corpus allows one to derive some conclusions about his own considered judgments of the justice and humanity of the institutions of democratic capitalism. It examines both aspects of this relationship between moral theory and economics. The chapter discovers the intellectual and theoretical relationships that existed between economic theory and the (...) formation and development of Rawls's thought. It looks at Rawls's major papers between 1955 and 1971 as a reasonable sample of the intellectual influences that affected the development of his thought and highlights that the most visible economic influences on Rawls fall in the field of modern economics. Other topics discussed include the decision theory, Rawls's critique of capitalism, and his relationship with Karl Marx. (shrink)
This article considers the dispute between moral economy and rational peasant theories of agrarian societies in application to problems of collective action. The moral-economy theory holds that traditional peasant society is organized cooperatively through shared moral values and communal institutions; while the rational-peasant theory maintains that peasant society shows the mark of rational individual calculation, leading to free-rider problems that undermine successful collective action. This article offers an abstract model of a traditional village and assesses the applicability of recent qualifications (...) of the collective action argument to this model. It will emerge that the social characteristics of the traditional village embody features that facilitate collective action by rational peasants. (shrink)
The paper addresses the question of whether an actor-centered social ontology can admit of relatively autonomous social causal explanations. It offers an alternative to the theory of social causation represented by Coleman’s Boat, according to which all macro-explanations must proceed through micro-level processes. The paper argues instead that the examples of other special sciences demonstrate the validity of the idea of “relative explanatory autonomy” in the case of social causal reasoning. These considerations provide a basis for affirming the legitimacy of (...) causal statements about meso-level causal relations.El artículo aborda el problema de si una ontología social centrada en el agente puede admitir explicaciones causales a nivel social relativamente autónomas. Se ofrece una alternativa a la teoría de la causación social representada por el barco de Coleman, según la cual toda macro-explicación debe articularse sobre micro-procesos. Defendemos que los ejemplos de otras ciencias particulares demuestran la validez de la idea de una “relativa autonomía explicativa” en el caso del razonamiento causal sobre procesos sociales. Estos principios justifican la afirmación de la legitimidad de los enunciados causales sobre meso-relaciones causales. (shrink)