The term "social science" promises more than its practitioners can deliver: it promises knowledge. This knowledge is to consist of statements of empirical regularities of such quality as will enhance predictive power and inform public and private policy. Boundaries of Competence illuminates obstacles to this aspiration. Chapter 1 grounds knowledge in perception. Chapter 2 challenges the assumption that ordinary language necessarily describes reality and reveals the mischief words can do. Chapter 3 proposes a continuum of perceiving-conceiving involved in different ways (...) of "knowing" worlds. Chapter 4 lays out requirements of measurement, arguing that assigning numbers to dubious observations gives false assurance that mathematical manipulations necessarily rep- resent events. Chapter 5 shows how choice of unit affects the correlations we find in our search for causes. Chapter 6 holds that, given deficiencies in knowledge and perhaps because of the way Nature works, we assess probabilities rather than seek certainties. Chapter 7 notes difficulties in counting events that consist of "social facts," which "depend on us," and those that refer to "brute facts," that exist independently of us. Chapter 8 criticizes the practice of employing proxies for observations of what we're talking about. In particular, it demonstrates the error produced by relying on what people say as measure of what they do. Chapter 9 criticizes ways of explaining conduct by characterizing actors and their acts, and by "understanding" them through empathy. Chapter 10 discusses the important and never-ending quarrel about causation. Chapters 11 and 12 argue that in social affairs, decision is regularly torn between doing what is effective (rational) and doing what is right (moral). Nettler's writing is crisp, and his argument balanced. He employs research from several disciplines to challenge ideologically driven descriptions of our condition and explanations of our conduct. Gwynne Nettler is professor emeritus at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, where he taught psychology, sociology, and criminology. His previous books include Explanations, Social Concerns, and Explaining Crime. (shrink)
Muslims have always used verses from the Qur'an to support opinions on law, theology, or life in general, but almost no attention has been paid to how the Qur'an presents its own precepts as conclusions proceeding from reasoned arguments. Whether it is a question of God's powers of creation, the rationale for his acts, or how people are to think clearly about their lives and fates, Muslims have so internalized Qur'anic patterns of reasoning that many will assert that the Qur'an (...) appeals first of all to the human powers of intellect. This book provides a new key to both the Qur'an and Islamic intellectual history. Examining Qur'anic argument by form and not content helps readers to discover the significance of passages often ignored by the scholar who compares texts and the believer who focuses upon commandments, as it allows scholars of Qur'anic exegesis, Islamic theology, philosophy, and law to tie their findings in yet another way to the text that Muslims consider the speech of God. (shrink)
This book brings together the ideas of a number of contemporary modernist and liberal Muslim thinkers, exposing an important intellectual current in Islamic thought which will be new to many Western readers. Responding to the challenges brought by colonialism and modernization, the contributors propose new conceptions and interpretations of Islam consonant with the age. Although their specific concerns and emphases vary, they all reconsider the relation between religion and politics and the incorporation of modern Western ideas.
Traditional justifications for state-to-state development assistance include charity, basic rights and self-interest. Except in unusual cases such as war-reparations agreements, development assistance has typically been justified for reasons such as the above, without reference to any history of injury that holds between the states. We argue that climate change entails relationships of harm that can be cited to supplement and strengthen the traditional claims for development assistance. Finally, to demonstrate the utility of this analysis, we offer a brief application of (...) our reasoning to the emerging conflict in the United Nations over the future post-2015 development agenda. (shrink)
The number of transnational corporations - including parent companies and subsidiaries - has exploded over the last forty years, which has led to a correlating rise of corporate violations of international human rights and environmental laws, either directly or in conjunction with government security forces, local police, state-run businesses, or other businesses. In this work, Gwynne Skinner details the harms of business-related human rights violations on local communities and describes the barriers, both functional and institutional, that victims face in seeking (...) remedies. She concludes by offering solutions to these barriers, with a focus on measures designed to improve judicial remedies, which are the heart of international human rights law but often fail to deliver justice to victims. This work should be read by anyone concerned with the role of corporations in our increasingly globalized society. (shrink)