Transcript Social Science
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What are social sciences?
dealing with the
study of the
social life of
Why a Philosophy of Social Science?
•It may be safe to assume that we know what the social and
behavioral sciences are—psychology, sociology, political
science, economics, anthropology, and you might include
also disciplines that intersect and overlap these fields, such
as geography, demography, social psychology, history, and
•But it may not be safe to assume we know what philosophy
is, even if you have studied a good deal of it already
•The reason is that there is nothing like consensus among
philosophers about exactly what their subject is. But in order
to understand what the philosophy of social science is, and
to see why it is important, it is crucial to have some
agreement on the nature of philosophy.
The discipline of philosophy attempts to address two
sorts of questions.
1. Questions that the sciences—physical, biological,
social, and behavioral—cannot answer
2. Questions about why the sciences cannot answer the
For example, most biologists now believe they can
answer questions about human nature, the origins of
man, and the nature of life that have perplexed science
and philosophy since their beginnings. And there are
other questions that are equally old and still remain
unanswered. For example, questions about
consciousness, thought, sensation, and emotion
Logic examines the nature of sound and valid reasoning, as
it figures in mathematics, in the sciences as well as in other
areas of intellectual life that proceed by argument and
inference. Is there just one body of valid principles of
inference or do different sciences and subject matters
require different logics?
Epistemology considers the nature, extent, and justification
of knowledge: Are all claims to knowledge justified in the
same way, by appeal to broadly the same kind of evidence,
or are some theories—say, those of mathematics, the social
sciences, or the humanities—warranted by considerations
different from those natural scientists demand?
Metaphysics pursues questions about the nature of things:
• Are there just the material things with which natural science
•Is the mind a distinct sort of nonphysical substance?
•Is human action free from physical constraints that
determine the behavior of purely mechanical systems?
•Are there numbers, as opposed to the numerals we employ
to express them?
Ethics and political philosophy address those questions that
scientific progress raises but cannot answer
What is the study of philosophy of social sciences
the study of the logic and methods of the social sciences.
Central topics include:
1. What are the criteria of a good social explanation?
2. How (if at all) are the social sciences distinct from the natural
3. Is there a distinctive method for social research?
4. Through what sorts of empirical procedures are social science
assertions to be evaluated?
5. Are there irreducible social laws?
6. Are there causal relations among social phenomena?
7. Do social facts and regularities require some form of reduction
to facts and regularities involving only the properties
and actions of individuals?
The philosophy of social science aims to provide an interpretation
of the social sciences that permits answers to these questions.
•The philosophy of social science has both a descriptive and
a prescriptive side. On the one hand, the field is about the
social sciences--the explanations, methods, empirical
arguments, theories, hypotheses, and so forth, that actually
occur in the social science literature, past and present.
•This means that the philosopher needs to have extensive
knowledge of several areas of social science research, in
order to be able to formulate an analysis of the social
sciences that corresponds appropriately to scientists'
•On the other hand, the field is epistemic: it is concerned with
the idea that scientific theories and hypotheses are put
forward as true or probable, and are justified on rational
grounds (empirical and theoretical).
Although philosophy and science spring
from experience, from the inherent desire
of the human person to know reality, they
differ in their approach and intent.
Philosophy seeks to understand reality in
its totality and ultimate value, while
science attempts to control and
Philosophical approach integrative of
experience; while science isolates a
certain aspect of reality.
Social Philosophy and Social
Social philosophy penetrates into the social
dimension of human existence with the
immediacy of intuition, searching its meaning
and value(s), conceptualizing them for the
sake of integrative meaningful living.
Structures that social philosophy seeks to
understand are not taken in isolation from
one another but placed in a figure-horizon
sort of way.
Attempts to understand being-with-others-in
society in total integrative way.
Social sciences try to examine a segment of
social reality (a group of people, their
culture, their economics or politics) as a fact
and to explain it.
Social scientist tries to find inter-objective
connections between facts and formulates
theories and laws, sometimes with
measurements and statistics.
Uses induction and deduction.
Method limited to observable phenomena, to
social reality as an object.
Social philosophy and social sciences help
Philosopher’s insight substantiated by facts
provided by scientist, and scientist is
impelled to probe into a social fact by the
insight of a philosopher.
Scientist’s methodology contains certain
philosophical presuppositions for the
philosopher to unearth and criticize.
Philosopher’s understanding of social reality
would remain abstract and unfounded
without findings of the social sciences.
Our life is social in everything. By
“everything” we mean everything that is
subject to human responsibility.
The person’s activities are social not only
because he/she performs them with
others but also because he/she learns
them from others, executes them
according to accepted patterns and does
them for his/her fellow human beings.
Even wanting to be alone is social.
Human Existence is Social
Every genuinely human activity is interwoven
with an orderly field of meaning, but this
orderly field of meaning is at our disposal
through others, through society. This is true
in the areas of work, play, sense perception,
thinking, and feeling.
Orderly field of meaning in human activity
depends upon our fellow human beings and
is in turn dependent upon the human person.
Human existence is fundamentally social in that
1) human existence has a historical character,
2) we need others to enter into the human world
of meaning and to make it our own, and
3) being-together is a fundamental value which
gives authentic fulfillment in our life.
The authentic being-for-others is being at the
service of others that promotes the existence of
the other for his own sake. Here, the being-forothers and the being-through-others merge.
“education” as seen from Global
The reach and genius of Muslim Civilisation 1,000 years ago belies
the Western description of this era as the "Dark Ages". Instead it
was a vibrant, sophisticated time, when ancestors created
maps of the stars, flying machines, algebra, water raising
machines and everyday items like soap and the fountain pen.
How do we know when something is true?
Natural Sciences Scientific Method
Social Sciences 3 Research Orientations
Positivism (often quantitative research)
Interpretivism (often qualitative research)
Support or Refute
The Scientific Method
Key Epistemological Question for the Social
Can the social world be studied with the same methods
used in the natural sciences?
YES Positivism (Emile Durkheim)
Typically Deductive Research
NO Interpretivism or Verstehen (Max Weber)
Typically Inductive Research
YES Realism (Karl Mark, Sigmund Freud)
No methodological preference
Social Science Tradition (1):
Knowledge derived from observations (empiricism)
◦ Theory alone is not scientific knowledge philosophy
◦ Scientific knowledge: theories supported by data
Research is deductive
Theory Hypothesis Collect Data Findings
Findings confirm or reject hypothesis Revise theory
Social science should be value free
◦ Social scientist’s personal opinions shouldn’t matter
Building Blocks of Positivism:
Theories, Hypotheses, and Variables
Theory: Plausible explanation for a particular social
–Theory explains the ‘causal relationship’ between
–The data determine the ‘correlation between
Founding Theories of Sociology
–Karl Marx (Capitalism and Society)
–Max Weber (Religion and Capitalism)
Variables: An important “object” within a theory that
can take on two or more different values or
Examples of Sociological Variables:
–Economic systems: capitalism, socialism, mixed
–Social Class: upper class, middle class, working
class, lower class.
–Gender: male, female (perhaps transgendered)
Proxies: A variable that represents (albeit imperfectly) a more
complicated sociological concept. Proxies enable researchers to
measure abstract social phenomena.
Gender Equality -Political participation --National Prosperity ---
Gender pay gap
Voter participation rates
Income per capita
Hypothesis: A short and empirically testable statement, derived
from theory, which predicts a certain outcome.
Possible hypotheses for classical theories in sociology:
–Marx: The more the economy is privately owned, the more
economic inequality will grow in that society.
–Weber: Protestant-dominated countries have stronger
economies than Catholic-dominated countries.
–Durkheim: The more advanced a society’s division of labor,
the more people in that society will suffer from anomie.
Important note: All of these hypotheses can be tested; thus they are
said to be ‘falsifiable’.
The Epistemological Problem
The way we construct knowledge about the natural and physical world
is very different
to how we construct knowledge about ourselves
“Structure and Function”
“Structure and Action”
Hollow bone structure
Natural Science tends to be
and has a concrete ontology
Social Science tends to be
and has an abstract ontology
Can we put natural and social science on the same page?
is difficult, and the subjective/objective dichotomy is an oversimplification)
ICT allows us to suspend
E&O issues while we
1) Write out a one sentence hypothesis that offers a
plausible explanation for the following social problems:
–gender inequality in the workplace
–anti-social behavior among teenagers
2) Identify the variables in your hypotheses
3) How you would measure these variables?