Are there absolute truths that can be gradually approached over time through rational processes? Or are all modes and systems of thought equally valid if viewed from within their own internally consistent frames of reference? Are there universal forms of reasoning and understanding that enable us to distinguish between rational beliefs and those that are demonstrably false, or is everything relative?These central questions are addressed and debated by the distinguished contributors to this lively book. Some of them - Hollis, Lukes, (...) Robin Horton, and Ernest Gellner - discuss new directions in their thinking since their earlier articles appeared in 1970 in the seminal volume Rationality. They are now joined in the debate by Ian Hacking, W. Newton-Smith, Charles Taylor, Jon Elster, Dan Sperber, and, in the jointly authored lead article, by Barry Barnes and David Bloor.Emerging from the debate are a variety of supportable interpretations and conclusions rather than a single, distinct "truth." The contributors represent the complete spectrum of positions between a relativism that challenges the very concept of a single world and the idea that there are ascertainable, objective universals. (shrink)
This textbook by Martin Hollis offers an exceptionally clear and concise introduction to the philosophy of social science. It examines questions which give rise to fundamental philosophical issues. Are social structures better conceived of as systems of laws and forces, or as webs of meanings and practices? Is social action better viewed as rational behaviour, or as self-expression? By exploring such questions, the reader is led to reflect upon the nature of scientific method in social science. Is the aim to (...) explain the social world after a manner worked out for the natural world, or to understand the social world from within? (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that trust grows fragile when people become too rational. They advocate a retreat from reason and a return to local, traditional values. Others hold that truly rational people are both trusting and trustworthy. Everything hinges on what we mean by 'reason' and 'rational'. If these are understood in an egocentric, instrumental fashion, then they are indeed incompatible with trust. With the help of game theory, Martin Hollis argues against that narrow definition and in favour of a richer, (...) deeper notion of reason founded on reciprocity and the pursuit of the common good. Within that framework he reconstructs the Enlightenment idea of citizens of the world, rationally encountering, and at the same time finding their identity in, their multiple commitments to communities both local and universal. (shrink)
Did Adam and Eve act rationally in eating the fruit of the forbidden tree? That can seem to depend solely on whether they had found the best means to their ends, in the spirit of the 'economic' theories of rationality. In this 1995 book, Martin Hollis respects the elegance and power of these theories but judges their paradoxes endemic. He argues that social action cannot be understood by viewing human beings as abstract individuals with preferences in search of satisfaction, nor (...) by divorcing practical reason from questions of the rationality of norms, principles, practices and ends. These essays, focused on the themes of 'rational choice', 'roles and reasons' and 'other cultures, other minds', make the point and explore alternative approaches. Culled in revised form from twenty-five years' work, the essays range across periods and disciplines with a philosophical imagination and vivid prose, which will engage philosophers and social scientists alike. (shrink)
In Explaining and Understanding International Relations philosopher Martin Hollis and international relations scholar Steve Smith join forces to analyse the dominant theories of international relations and to examine the philosophical issues underlying them.
In days gone by, when we had something called Rapid Economic Growth, we used to worry about it. We worried especially about its social costs and its technical limits. If growth meant gearing people to efficient production, we would have to be geographically and socially mobile. That threatened our old ways of community life, with their neighbourhood values and extended families. There were more obvious costs too, like chemicals in the air and highways through the landscape. Furthermore, the cornucopia need (...) not be bottomless. To sustain its effusions, nature might have to be pillaged until we ran out of trees or oil. Technology might hit bottlenecks so severe that costs began to outrun benefits. That would mean thwarting the new expectations which economic growth had aroused and which were its motivating force. But, for all that, our island race faced the horrors of affluence, abundance and goodies for all with a stiff upper lip. (shrink)
In this book, the author is attempting to make sense, as a philosopher, of the ideas of rationality put forward by economists, sociologists, and political theorists. The book intervenes in intense current debates within and among several disciplines. Its concern is with the true nature of social actors and the proper character of social science. Its arguments are the more challenging for being presented in simple, incisive, and lucid prose.
Rilke's remark conjures up an officious array of well-meaning persons bent on completing our orderly passage from cradle to grave. They tidy our files cosily about us, inject us with extreme unction and slide us into the warm embrace of the undertaker. At the forefront of the array stands the doctor, part mechanic and part priest. His main task is to repair the living with resources whose effective and impartial allocation is a chief topic of medical ethics. But his role (...) is not that of an impartial allocator: his patients want his partisan support. This builds a moral tension into a role played out where system meets patient, and one made instructively plain in the care of the dying. The system no doubt prefers death to be cheap and orderly but this thought may not move someone like Rilke wanting a death of his own. The doctor is then caught between his general duty to patients at large and his particular duty to the patient in front of him, a tension tautened for a Hippocratic promoter of health and life by a patient in search of an exit. (shrink)
Certain primitive Yoruba carry about with them boxes covered with cowrie shells, which they treat with special regard. When asked what they are doing, they apparently reply that the boxes are their heads or souls and that they are protecting them against witchcraft. Is that an interesting fact or a bad translation? The question is, I believe, partly philosophical. In what follows, I shall propound and try to solve the philosopher's question, arguing that it has large implications for the theory (...) of Social Anthropology. (shrink)
All social theorists and philosophers who seek to explain human action have a 'model of man'; a metaphysical view of human nature that requires its own theory of scientific knowledge. In this influential book, Martin Hollis examines the tensions that arise from the differing views of sociologists, economists and psychologists. He then develops a rationalist model of his own which connects personal and social identity through a theory of rational action and a priori knowledge, allowing humans to both act freely (...) and still be a subject for scientific explanation. Presented in a fresh series livery and including a specially commissioned preface written by Geoffrey Hawthorn, Hollis's important work is made available to a new generation of readers. (shrink)
This book is a philosophers' attempt to bring together ideas put forward by economists, sociologists and political theorists. The author begins by exploring the economist's assumption that action is rational if it helps to achieve the agent's goals as efficiently as possible. The assumption is explored with the aid of rational-choice theory and game-theory, but it is rejected in the end for failing to account for the elements of trust and morality which rational social life requires. A discussion of 'Rational (...) Expectations' and of 'maximising' and 'satisficing' leads to a portrait of social actors as rational role-players. Rationality is, finally, the expression of the self in a social world. The book intervenes in intense current debates within and among several disciplines. Its concern is with the true nature of social actors and the proper character of social science. Its arguments are the more challenging for being presented in a simple, incisive and lucid prose. It will be of particular interest to philosophers, social theorists and social scientists interested in the philosophical aspects of their discipline. (shrink)
In the revised and updated edition of this classic introductory text, Martin Hollis leads his readers through the age-old philosophical questions of free choice and human nature, appearance and reality, reason and experience.
There is a simple joy in finding that the emperor has positively no clothes and especially when the finger is pointed in ribald good English. Donald McCloskey does this service in “The Rhetoric of Economics”, where he argues with force and wit that “modernism” (meaning, roughly, positivism, as in “Positive Economics”) will do as an account neither of what economists do nor of what it makes philosophical sense for them to attempt. Instead they should recognize that models are always metaphors (...) and should make a virtue of the literary devices, which they in fact rely on. Armed with the craft of rhetoric and a new “poetics of economics,” they will achieve better writing, better teaching, better foreign relations, better science and better dispositions. (shrink)
Michel Foucault (1926-84) was one of the most renowned of late 20th century social philosophers. He covered an enormous range: from sexuality to prisons; from identity to power; from knowledge to politics. The essays written for this book range over all of Foucault's work, but their main critical focus is upon objectivity, power and knowledge. The very possibility of a critical stance is a recurring theme in all of Foucault's works, and the contributors vary in the ways that they relate (...) to his key views on truth and reason in relation to power and government. (shrink)
That freedom involves a power to choose is a natural idea. But it requires a model of man which English philosophers have usually rejected. It requires an agent equipped with a will, who is faced with genuine alternatives and is, in some sense, autonomous. So it is rejected both by those, like Hobbes, who hold a strong version of determinism and by those, like Hume, who deny the existence of an autonomous self. The will, says Hobbes, is simply ‘the last (...) appetite in deliberating’. A mind, says Hume, is ‘nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united together by certain relations’. The way is then apparently open for a denial that men ever act freely at all and so for a thoroughly deterministic basis for the social sciences. But this is not the usual conclusion. Hobbes and Hume both agree that there is no conflict between freedom and determinism, once ‘freeedom’ is properly understood. A man is free when he can get what he wants. As Hobbes puts it, ‘liberty is the absence of all impediments to action which are not contained in the nature and intrinsical quality of the agent’. In other words freedom does not involve choice but consists instead in the power to satisfy desire. (shrink)
Recipes for the Good Society used to run, in caricature, something like this: 1. Take about 2000 hoM, sap. , analyse each into essence and accidents and discard the accidents. 2. Place essences in a large casserole, add socialising syrup and stew until conflict disappears. 3. Serve with a pinch of salt.