This 1996 book defends the prospects for a science of society. It argues that behind the diverse methods of the natural sciences lies a common core of scientific rationality that the socialsciences can and sometimes do achieve. It also argues that good social science must be in part about large-scale social structures and processes and thus that methodological individualism is misguided. These theses are supported by a detailed discussion of actual social research, including (...) theories of agrarian revolution, organizational ecology, social theories of depression, and supply-demand explanations in economics. Professor Kincaid provides a general picture of explanation and confirmation in the socialsciences and discusses the nature of scientific rationality, functional explanation, optimality arguments, meaning and interpretation, the place of microfoundations in social explanation, the status of neo-classical economics, the role of idealizations and non-experimental evidence, and other specific controversies. (shrink)
Now that complex Agent-Based Models and computer simulations spread over economics and socialsciences - as in most sciences of complex systems -, epistemological puzzles (re)emerge. We introduce new epistemological concepts so as to show to what extent authors are right when they focus on some empirical, instrumental or conceptual significance of their model or simulation. By distinguishing between models and simulations, between types of models, between types of computer simulations and between types of empiricity obtained through (...) a simulation, section 2 gives the possibility to understand more precisely - and then to justify - the diversity of the epistemological positions presented in section 1. Our final claim is that careful attention to the multiplicity of the denotational powers of symbols at stake in complex models and computer simulations is necessary to determine, in each case, their proper epistemic status and credibility. (shrink)
An historical review of authorship definitions and publication practices that are embedded in directions to authors and in the codes of ethics in the fields of psychology, sociology, and education illuminates reasonable agreement and consistency across the fields with regard to (a) originality of the work submitted, (b) data sharing, (c) human participants’ protection, and (d) conflict of interest disclosure. However, the role of the professional association in addressing violations of research or publication practices varies among these fields. Psychology and (...) sociology provide active oversight with sanction authority. In education, the association assumes a more limited role: to develop and communicate standards to evoke voluntary compliance. With respect to authorship credit, each association’s standards focus on criteria for inclusion as an author, other than on the author’s ability to defend and willingness to take responsibility for the entire work. Discussions across a broad range of research disciplines beyond the socialsciences would likely be beneficial. Whether improved standards will reduce either misattribution or perceptions of inappropriate attribution of credit within social science disciplines will likely depend on how well authorship issues are addressed in responsible conduct of research education (RCR), in research practice, and in each association’s ongoing efforts to influence normative practice by specifying and clarifying best practices. (shrink)
This volume focuses on key conceptual issues in the socialsciences, such as Winch's idea of a social science, structuralism, Malinowski and Evans-Pritchard, and the concept of kinship. In particular it deals with such problems as the relationship of nature and culture, the relevance of concepts drawn from within a given society to its understanding, and the relation of theory to time.
The experience with genetically modified foods has been prominent in motivating science, industry and regulatory bodies to address the social and ethical dimensions of nanotechnology. The overall objective is to gain the general public’s acceptance of nanotechnology in order not to provoke a consumer boycott as it happened with genetically modified foods. It is stated implicitly in reports on nanotechnology research and development that this acceptance depends on the public’s confidence in the technology and that the confidence is created (...) on the basis of information, education, openness and debate about scientific and technological developments. Hence, it is assumed that informing and educating the public will create trust, which will consequently lead to an acceptance of nanotechnology. Thus, the humanities and socialsciences are seen as tools to achieve public acceptance. In this paper, the author argues that this is a narrow apprehension of the role of the humanities and socialsciences. The humanities and socialsciences have a critical function asking fundamental questions and informing the public about these reflections. This may lead to scepticism, however, the motivation for addressing the social and ethical dimensions of nanotechnology should not be public acceptance but informed judgement. The author illustrates this critical function by discussing the role, motivation and contribution of ethics as an example. Lastly, the author shows that a possible strategy for incorporating the humanities and the socialsciences into nanotechnology research and development is Real-Time Technology Assessment, where the purpose is to integrate natural science and engineering investigations with ethical, legal and social science from the outset. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the “Framework for M&S with Agents” (FMSA) proposed by Zeigler et al. [2000, 2009] in regard to the diverse epistemological aims of agent simulations in socialsciences. We first show that there surely are great similitudes, hence that the aim to emulate a universal “automated modeler agent” opens new ways of interactions between these two domains of M&S with agents. E.g., it can be shown that the multi-level conception at the (...) core of the FMSA is similar in both contexts: notions of “levels of system specifi cation”, “behavior of models”, “simulator”and “endomorphic agents” can be partially translated in the terms linked to the “denotational hierarchy” (DH) and recently introduced in a multi-level centered epistemology of M&S. Second, we suggest considering the question of “credibility” of agent M&S in socialsciences when we do not try to emulate but only to simulate target systems. Whereas a stringent and standardized treatment of the heterogeneous internal relations (in the DH) between systems of formalisms is the key problem and the essential challenge in the scope of Agent M&S driven engineering, it is urgent too to address the problem of the external relations (and of the external validity, hence of the epistemic power and credibility) of such levels of formalisms in the specific domains of agent M&S in socialsciences, especially when we intend to introduce the concepts of activity tracking. (shrink)
Divided into two parts this book examines the train of social theory from the 19th century, through to the `organization of modernity', in relation to ideas of social planning, and as contributors to the `rationalistic revolution' of the `golden age' of capitalism in the 1950s and 60s. Part two examines key concepts in the socialsciences. It begins with some of the broadest concepts used by social scientists: choice, decision, action and institution and moves on (...) to examine the `collectivist alternative': the concepts of society, culture and polity, which are often dismissed as untenable by postmodernists today. This is a major contribution to contemporary social theory and provides a host of essential insights into the task of social science today. (shrink)
Originally published in 1986. All students of social science must confront a number of important philosophical issues. This introduction to the philosophy of the socialsciences provides coherent answers to questions about empiricism, explanation and rationality. It evaluates contemporary writings on the subject which can be as difficult as they are important to understand. Each chapter has an annotated bibliography to enable students to pursue the issues raised and to assess for themselves the arguments of the authors.
This paper is a response to Henk ten Have's Genetics and Culture: The Geneticization thesis . In it, I refute Ten Have's suggestion that geneticization is not the sort of process that can be measured and commented on in terms of empirical evidence,even if he is correct in suggesting that it should be seen as part of âphilosophical discourseâ. At the end, I relate this discussion to broader debates within bioethics between the social science and philosophy, and suggest the (...) need for philosophical approaches to take the socialsciences seriously. (shrink)
This is a contribution to thesociology and social epistemology of knowledgeproduction in Russian socialsciences today. Inthe initial section, the epistemic status andsocial function of Soviet social scientificdiscourse are characterized in terms of textualforms and their modes of (re-)production. Theremaining sections detail the course of therestructuration of social scientific discoursesince the fall of the Soviet Union and draw onextant empirical sources, in particular studiesof bibliographical rubrics, thematicrepertoires, and current textual formsthroughout the public sphere and the (...) academicestablishment in Russia. An underlying concernis the shifting status of the intellectual inthe wider socio-cultural context as reflectedin language usage and its textualembodiments. (shrink)
This article defends methodological and theoretical pluralism in the socialsciences. While pluralistic, such a philosophy of social science is both pragmatic and normative. Only by facing the problems of such pluralism, including how to resolve the potential conflicts between various methods and theories, is it possible to discover appropriate criteria of adequacy for social scientific explanations and interpretations. So conceived, the socialsciences do not give us fixed and universal features of the (...) class='Hi'>social world, but rather contribute to the task of improving upon our practical knowledge of on-going social life. After arguing for such a thorough-going pluralism based on the indeterminacy of social action, I defend it from the post-modern and hermeneutic objections by suggesting the possibility of an epistemology of interpretive social science as a form of practical knowledge. (shrink)
The Claims of Common Sense investigates the importance of ideas developed by Cambridge philosophers between the World Wars for the socialsciences concerning common sense, vague concepts and ordinary language. John Coates examines the thought of Moore, Ramsey, Wittgenstein and Keynes, and traces their common drift away from early beliefs about the need for precise concepts and a canonical notation in analysis. He argues that Keynes borrowed from Wittgenstein and Ramsey their reappraisal of vague concepts, and developed the (...) novel argument that when analysing something as complex as social reality, theory might be simplified by using concepts which lack sharp boundaries. Coates then contrasts this conclusion with the view shared by two contemporary philosophical paradigms - formal semantics and Continental post-structuralism - that the vagueness of ordinary language inevitably leads to interpretive indeterminacy. Developing a link between Cambridge philosophy and work on complexity, vague predicates and fuzzy logic, he argues that Wittgenstein's and Keynes's ideas on the economy of ordinary language present a mediating route for the socialsciences between these philosophical paradigms. (shrink)
The concepts of adaptation and fitness have such an appeal that they have been used in other scientific domains, including the socialsciences. One particular aspect of this theory transfer concerns the so-called fitness landscape models. At first sight, fitness landscapes visualize how an agent, of any kind, relates to its environment, how its position is conditional because of the mutual interaction with other agents, and the potential routes towards improved fitness. The allure of fitness landscapes is first (...) and foremost that it represents a complex story about adaptation and fitness in one coherent image. Different accounts of fitness landscapes in different domains in the socialsciences suggest that the properties and functions of fitness landscapes are attributed rather freely. These differences are testimony of the model’s versatility. At the same time, one will notice that the different approaches can also create ambiguity about the exact meaning and role of fitness landscapes in the socialsciences. This article presents an extensive literature survey of the diverging interpretations and uses of fitness landscapes in the socialsciences and discusses the implications in terms of how these models inform scientific inquiry. (shrink)
For the last three decades, the discussion on Hilary Putnam’s provocative suggestions around the issue of realism has raged widely. Putnam’s various formulations of, and arguments for, what he called internal realism in contrast to what he called metaphysical realism have been scrutinised from a variety of perspectives. One angle of attack has been missing, though: the view from the socialsciences and the ontology of society. This perspective, I believe, will provide further confirmation to the observation that (...) Putnam’s two concepts of realism are all too aggregative in that they conflate elements that had better be kept distinct, at least for many important purposes (e.g. Niiniluoto 1996). The present essay can be read as an argument for a topic-specific examination of realism. This means that it challenges the overall validity of Richard Boyd’s arguments against what he calls “realism about”, that is, against “a certain fragmented conception of scientific realism, one according to which realism is deeply topic specific” (Boyd 1990, p. 175). Boyd takes the ‘x’ in realism about x” to designate two kinds of things: entities postulated in scientific theories (“realism about the ether” and “realism about higher taxa”) and scientific disciplines (“realism about physics” and “realism about biology”) (ibid., pp. 175, 190). He also suggests that “it seems possible cogently to accept realism about the natural sciences while denying it about at least some of the socialsciences” (ibid., p. 191). In Boyd’s view, the possibility of realism about socialsciences is undermined by their weak instrumental success; it is the instrumental reliability of method that he takes as the basis for a realist account of science. I do not underwrite this connection between realism and instrumental success, thus I am not compelled to reject realism about socialsciences on these grounds; and, as we shall see, socialsciences have other peculiarities as well (see Mäki 1996). I think we should, at least to some degree, disaggregate and relativize the issue of realism. I do have sympathy with Boyd’s strategic arguments against “realisms about”, but yet I believe realists will be better off by adopting a more concrete and localized approach to the issue (Mäki 2005). Social objects and socialsciences deserve a separate treatment. There are two strategies that can be followed in examining a realism about x (type of entity, theory, discipline). One is to first fix the meaning of realism’ and then specify the extension of ‘x’. This is Boyd’s strategy. The other is to fix some part of the extension of ‘x’ and then adjust the meaning of ‘realism’ so as to accommodate whatever peculiarities the x in question may have (and finally to check whether the adjusted meaning of ‘realism’ meets the criteria of a minimal notion of realism; it would be here that we encounter a relatively fixed idea of some minimal realism, or a set of realist intuitions). The latter is my approach here. I begin with the interconnected ideas of “realism about social objects” andrealism about socialsciences”. I am not only interested in what comes after ‘about’; I am also interested in what goes before it, namely ‘realism’ itself. Here is one premise of the discussion: the issue of proper forms of realism for dealing with specific problems is an issue to be settled at least partly a posteriori. Here is the problem for which a solution will be sought: what constraints, if any, does what we know about the socialsciences and society (as depicted by the socialsciences and our commonsense views) impose upon the forms of realism that can justifiably be adopted about them? This paper suggests to offer only some partial insight into this issue. It seeks to do so indirectly by discussing Putnam’s characterizations of internal and metaphysical realism. The focus will be on two aspects of Putnam’s realisms:  the role and kinds of independence and dependence (in relation to the human mind and related things); and  the possibility of error. It is shown that the nature of social objects has implications concerning the appropriate constraints on  and , and thereby on the kinds of realism that are available to social scientists. (shrink)
This important volume provides an overview of the history of social, economic, and political thought prior to the development of disciplinary categories in socialsciences. It contextualizes the thought movements in the matrix of pre-modern intellectual traditions as well as the long-range history of society, polity, and economy in modern India. Thematically organized into five sections, the first part examines the evolution of economic thinking in modern India. The next section deals with the discourse of social (...) reform, critical studies of society, and the emergence of academic sociology. The third part highlights the perspectives of the hegemonized and oppressed social groups--the view "from below". The two concluding segments respectively discuss gender and reform movements and the role of political thought in the national movement. Thematically organized into five sections, the first part examines the evolution of economic thinking in modern India. The next section deals with the discourse of social reform, critical studies of society, and the emergence of academic sociology. The third part highlights the perspectives of the hegemonized and oppressed social groups--the view "from below". The two concluding segments respectively discuss gender and reform movements and the role of political thought in the national movement. In spite of its primary historical character, this Project, both in its conceptualization and execution, has been shaped by many scholars drawn from different disciplines. It is for the first time that an endeavor of such a unique and comprehensive character has been undertaken to study critically a major world civilization like India. (shrink)
This book provides a clear introduction to key philosophical and epistemological issues in the socialsciences, to both positivist and interpretative methodologies through comparing contemporary debates surrounding social change.
Many influential stances within the socialsciences regard nature in one of two ways: either as none of their concern (which is with the social and cultural aspects of human existence), or as wholly a social and cultural fabrication. But there is also another strand of social scientific thinking that seeks to understand the interplay between social and cultural factors on one side and natural factors on the other. These volumes contain the main contributions (...) that have been made within each of these streams of thought. The selections illustrate to the reader the complexity of the various positions within these streams, and the strengths and limitations of each perspective. A new introduction places these articles in their historical and intellectual context and the volumes are completed with an extensive index and chronological table of contents. (shrink)
This volume is a unique contribution to the philosophy of the socialsciences, presenting the results of cutting-edge philosophers' research alongside critical discussions by practicing social scientists. The book is motivated by the view that the philosophy of the socialsciences cannot ignore the specific scientific practices according to which social scientific work is being conducted, and that it will be valuable only if it evolves in constant interaction with theoretical developments in the (...) class='Hi'>socialsciences. With its unique format guaranteeing a genuine discussion between philosophers and social scientists, this thought-provoking volume extends the frontiers of the field. It will appeal to all scholars and students interested in the interplay between philosophy and the socialsciences. (shrink)
Realism in Action is a selection of essays written by leading representatives in the fields of action theory and philosophy of mind, philosophy of the socialsciences and especially the nature of social action, and of epistemology and philosophy of science. Practical reason, reasons and causes in action theory, intending and trying, and folk-psychological explanation are some of the topics discussed by these leading participants. A particular emphasis is laid on trust, commitments and social institutions, on (...) the possibility of grounding social notions in individual social attitudes, on the nature of social groups, institutions and collective intentionality, and on common belief and common knowledge. Applications to the socialsciences include, e.g., a look at the Erklären-Verstehen controversy in economics, and at constructivist and realist views on archeological reconstructions of the past. (shrink)
This is a comprehensive and authoritative reference collection in the philosophy and methodology of the socialsciences. The source materials selected are drawn from debates within the natural sciences as well as social scientific practice. This four volume set covers the traditional literature on the philosophy of the socialsciences, and the contemporary philosophical and methodological debates developing at the heart of the disciplinary and interdisciplinary groups in the socialsciences. It addresses (...) the needs of researchers and academics who are grappling with the relationship between questions of knowledge construction and the problems of social scientific method. (shrink)
The dispute between the empiricist and interpretivist conceptions of the socialsciences is properly conceived not as a matter of reduction or covering laws. Features specific to the socialsciences include the following. Explanations of human behavior make reference to intentional causation; social phenomena are permeated with mental components and are self-referential; social science explanations have not been as successful as those in natural science because of their concern with intentional causation, because their explanations (...) must be identical with the propositional content of the mind of the actor, and because a social phenomenon exists only if people believe it exists. Elements of an apparatus necessary to analyze this problematic social ontology are given and include selfreferentiality, constitutive rules, collective intentionality, linguistic permeation of the facts, systematic interrelationships among social facts, and primacy of acts over objects. (shrink)
Possibilities haunt history. The force of our explanations of events turns on the alternative possibilities those explanations suggest. It is these possible worlds that give us our understanding ; and in human affairs, we decide them by practical rather than theoretical judgment. In this widely acclaimed account of the role of counterfactuals in explanation, Geoffrey Hawthorn deploys extended examples to defend his argument. His conclusions cast doubt on existing assumptions about the nature and place of theory, and indeed of the (...) possibility of knowledge itself, in the human sciences. (shrink)
All three of the books under review Science and Social Science by Malcolm Williams, Rethinking Science by Jan Faye, and Open the SocialSciences by the members of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the SocialSciences (Immanuel Wallerstein, chair)argue for a broadly naturalist approach in which the socialsciences are seen as of a piece with the natural sciences. Fortunately, all three do so in a discriminating way that avoids simple (...) options and that appreciates the important ways the social-scientific disciplines require their own approach. Open the SocialSciences in particular also contains detailed and wise advice as to how the contemporary socialsciences should proceed if they want to fulfill their ambition to explain human social behavior in a scientific way. Key Words: science social science scientific method unity of the sciences reductionism explanation interpretation complexity theory. (shrink)
Several recent publications attest to a renewed interest, at the dawn of the 21st century, in the philosophy of Charles S. Peirce. While agreeing with the relevance of Peirce philosophy for the 21st century, we disagree with some interpretations of Peirce as a utilitarian-based pragmatist, or with attempts to extract from Peirce a theory of social justice for 21st century societies. A critical exploration of Peirce’s philosophy of science, particularly his idea of scientific inquiry as “the study of useless (...) things”, serves to illuminate the un-pragmatic and anti-utilitarian dimension of Peirce’s thought, as well as to reveal his true ethical relevance for the 21st century. (shrink)
The term ‘phenomenology’ has become almost as over-used and emptied of meaning as that other word from Continental Philosophy, namely ‘existentialism’. Yet Husserl, who first put forward the phenomenological method, considered it a rigorous alternative to positivism, and in the hands of Merleau-Ponty, a disciple of Husserl in France, phenomenology became a way of gaining a disciplined and coherent perspective on the world in which we live. When this study originally published in 1977 there were only a few books in (...) English on Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy. It introduced the reader and suggested how his thought might throw light on some of the assumptions and presuppositions of certain contemporary forms of Anglo-Saxon philosophy and social science. It also demonstrates how phenomenology seeks to unite philosophy and social science, rather than define them as mutually exclusive domains of knowledge. (shrink)
In this lucid and engaging introductory volume on the nature of society, Roger Trigg examines the scientific basis of social science and shows that philosophical presuppositions are a necessary starting point for the study of society.
Zaner, R. M. Eidos and science.--Tiryakian, E. A. Durkheim and Husserl.--Ricoeur, P. Can there be a scientific concept of ideology?--Natanson, M. The problem of anonymity in the thought of Alfred Schutz. -- Dallmayr, F. R. Genesis and validation of social knowledge.
Simulation techniques, especially those implemented on a computer, are frequently employed in natural as well as in socialsciences with considerable success. There is mounting evidence that the "model-building era" (J. Niehans) that dominated the theoretical activities of the sciences for a long time is about to be succeeded or at least lastingly supplemented by the "simulation era". But what exactly are models? What is a simulation and what is the difference and the relation between a model (...) and a simulation? These are some of the questions addressed in this article. I maintain that the most significant feature of a simulation is that it allows scientists to imitate one process by another process. "Process" here refers solely to a temporal sequence of states of a system. Given the observation that processes are dealt with by all sorts of scientists, it is apparent that simulations prove to be a powerful interdisciplinarily acknowledged tool. Accordingly, simulations are best suited to investigate the various research strategies in different sciences more carefully. To this end, I focus on the function of simulations in the research process. Finally, a somewhat detailed case-study from nuclear physics is presented which, in my view, illustrates elements of a typical simulation in physics. (shrink)
This article explores the characteristics of research sites that scientists have called “natural experiments” to understand and develop usable distinctions for the socialsciences between “Nature’s or Society’s experiments” and “natural experiments.” In this analysis, natural experiments emerge as the retro-fitting by social scientists of events that have happened in the social world into the traditional forms of field or randomized trial experiments. By contrast, “Society’s experiments” figure as events in the world that happen in circumstances (...) that are already sufficiently “controlled” to be open for direct analysis without reconstruction work. (shrink)
This book is an expanded and revised edition of the author's critically acclaimed volume Nuts and Bolts for the SocialSciences. In twenty-six succinct chapters, Jon Elster provides an account of the nature of explanation in the socialsciences. He offers an overview of key explanatory mechanisms in the socialsciences, relying on hundreds of examples and drawing on a large variety of sources - psychology, behavioral economics, biology, political science, historical writings, philosophy and (...) fiction. Written in accessible and jargon-free language, Elster aims at accuracy and clarity while eschewing formal models. In a provocative conclusion, Elster defends the centrality of qualitative socialsciences in a two-front war against soft and hard forms of obscurantism. (shrink)
All univocal analyses of causation face counterexamples. An attractive response to this situation is to become a pluralist about causal relationships. "Causal pluralism" is itself, however, a pluralistic notion. In this article, I argue in favor of pluralism about concepts of cause in the socialsciences. The article will show that evidence for, inference from, and the purpose of causal claims are very closely linked. Key Words: causation • pluralism • evidence • methodology.
A recent movement in the socialsciences and philosophy of the socialsciences focuses on mechanisms as a central analytical unit. Starting from a pluralist perspective on the aims of the socialsciences, I argue that there are a number of important aims to which knowledge about mechanismswhatever their virtues relative to other aimscontributes very little at best and that investigating mechanisms is therefore a methodological strategy with fairly limited applicability. Key Words: social (...) science mechanisms explanation critical realism methodology. (shrink)
This article defends laws in the socialsciences. Arguments against social laws are considered and rejected based on the "open" nature of social theory, the multiple realizability of social predicates, the macro and/or teleological nature of social laws, and the inadequacies of belief-desire psychology. The more serious problem that social laws are usually qualified ceteris paribus is then considered. How the natural sciences handle ceteris paribus laws is discussed and it is argued (...) that such procedures are possible in the socialsciences. The article ends by arguing that at least some social research is roughly as well as confirmed as good work in evolutionary biology and ecology. (shrink)
When stripped to the bare bone,there are only 11 foundational paradigms in socialsciences. These foundational paradigms are like flashlights that can be utilized to shed light on different aspects of human society, but each of them can only shed light on a limited area of human society. Different schools in social science result from different but often incomplete combinations of these foundational paradigms. To adequately understand human society and its history, we need to deploy all 11 (...) foundational paradigms, although more limited combinations of them may be adequate for understanding more specific social facts. (shrink)