Should it indeed turn out that our beliefs about the world were all, or for the most part, false, then this would not only imply the falsity of most of our beliefs about others, but it would also have the peculiar consequence of making false most of our beliefs about ourselves — including the supposition that we do indeed hold those particular false beliefs. Although this may fall short of demonstrating the falsity of such scepticism, it surely demonstrates it to be deeply problematic.
Such an interpreter would attribute beliefs to others and assign meanings to their utterances, but would nevertheless do so on the basis of his own, true, beliefs. The omniscient interpreter would therefore have to find a large amount of agreement between his own beliefs and the beliefs of those he interprets — and what was agreed would also, by hypothesis, be true.
A feature of both the triangulation argument, and the Davidsonian account of radical interpretation, is that the attribution of attitudes must always proceed in tandem with the interpretation of utterances — identifying content, whether of utterances or of attitudes, is indeed a single project. An inability to interpret utterances that is, an inability to assign meanings to instances of putative linguistic behaviour will thereby imply an inability to attribute attitudes and vice versa.
A creature that we cannot interpret as capable of meaningful speech will thus also be a creature that we cannot interpret as capable of possessing contentful attitudes. This does not mean that such animals have no mental life at all, nor does it mean that we cannot usefully use mental concepts in explaining and predicting the behaviour of such creatures. What it does mean, however, is that the extent to which we can think of such creatures as having attitudes and a mental life like our own is measured by the extent to which we can assign determinate propositional content to the attitudes we would ascribe to those creatures.
A further consequence of this view is that the idea of an untranslatable language — an idea often found in association with the thesis of conceptual relativism — cannot be given any coherent formulation. The first is that of reductionism the idea that, for any meaningful statement, it can be recast in the language of pure sensory experience, or, at least, in terms of a set of confirmatory instances , while the second is the analytic-synthetic distinction the idea that, with respect to all meaningful statements, one can distinguish between statements that are true in virtue of their meaning and those that are true in virtue of both their meanings and some fact or facts about the world.
What the Davidsonian account of knowledge and interpretation demonstrates, however, is that no such distinction can be drawn. Attitudes are already interconnected — causally, semantically and epistemically — with objects and events in the world; while knowledge of self and others already presupposes knowledge of the world. The very idea of a conceptual scheme is thus rejected by Davidson along with the idea of any strong form of conceptual relativism. To possess attitudes and be capable of speech is already to be capable of interpreting others and to be open to interpretation by them.
Davidson emphasizes the holistic character of the mental both in terms of the interdependence that obtains between various forms of knowledge as well as the interconnected character of attitudes and of attitudes and behaviour. Nevertheless, Davidson is not a coherentist, in any standard sense, about either truth or knowledge. Nor, for all that he adopts a Tarskian approach to meaning, does he espouse a correspondence theory of truth in fact, he denies that a Tarskian truth theory is a correspondence theory in any conventional sense. In general, Davidson eschews the attempt to provide an account of the nature of truth, maintaining that truth is an absolutely central concept that cannot be reduced to or replaced by any other notion see [Davidson a] and [Davidson b].
The only way of defining truth, as Davidson sees it, is by means of a Tarskian truth theory and such a theory is not a definition of truth in any unqualified sense, but only a definition of the truth predicate as it applies within a particular language. The strategy that Davidson employs in relation to the concept of truth reflects a more general approach that runs throughout his thinking.
The strategy Davidson adopts in respect of truth is therefore much the same strategy as that which he adopts with respect to meaning which should not surprise us given the role Tarski plays : meaning belongs primarily to sentences, it is not reducible to any other notion, and it is explicated only by reference to a larger linguistic structure.
Moreover, this strategy is also one Davidson applies to the topic that occupies a large part of his last work — his inquiry into the problem of the problem of predication or of the unity of the proposition b. The problem, like the problem that arises when one tries to use the truth predicate reflexively, is that any attempt to explicate the predicative relation seems to give rise to circularity or regress. Instead Davidson takes predication as basic, irreducible, and able to be explicated only through the sort of structure that is revealed by a Tarski-style theory of meaning.
Despite his insistence on the indispensability of an irreducibly basic concept of objective truth, and his rejection of both sceptical and relativist positions, Davidson has been variously assimilated, at different times and by different critics, to both the realist and the anti-realist camps. Yet realism and anti-realism are equally unsatisfactory from a Davidsonian point of view, since neither is compatible with the holistic and externalist character of knowledge and belief. Realism makes truth inaccessible inasmuch as it admits the sceptical possibility that even our best-confirmed theories about the world could all be false , while anti-realism makes truth too epistemic inasmuch as it rejects the idea of truth as objective.
In this respect, and as he himself makes clear see a, b , Davidson does not merely reject the specific premises that underlie the realist and anti-realist positions, but views the very dispute between them as essentially misconceived. An extensive bibliography of primary and secondary material, compiled by Davidson himself, is contained in Hahn ed. Malpas utas. Biographical Sketch 2. Action and Mind 2. Meaning and Truth 3. Knowledge and Belief 4. Bibliography An extensive bibliography of primary and secondary material, compiled by Davidson himself, is contained in Hahn ed.
Hempel , Dordrecht: D. Reidel, reprinted in Davidson a. Swanson eds. Guttenplan ed. French, T. Uehling Jr. Wettstein eds. Margalit ed. Reidel, reprinted in Davidson, b. Wollheim and J. Hopkins eds.
Immanuel Kant, Critical Assessments (Vol. II): Kant's Critique of pure reason
Henrich ed. Phillips Griffiths ed. Baghramian, Maria ed. Dasenbrock, Reed Way ed. Hahn, Lewis Edwin ed. Joseph, Marc A. Lepore, Ernest ed. Lepore, Ernest and Kirk Ludwig eds. Lepore, Ernest and Brian McLaughlin eds. Ludwig, Kirk ed. Malpas, Jeff ed. Myers, Robert H. Preyer, Gerhard ed. Stoecker, Ralf ed. Stoutland, Fred ed. Vermazen, B. This landmark in Western philosophical literature remains an indispensable aid to a complete understanding of Kant's philosophy for students and scholars alike. This "Critique" is the only writing in More pointedly, if I am a machine, can I think?
Beck answers these questions by analyzing two clusters of metaphors -- one of which dramatizes human beings as spontaneous agents actors , and the other sees them as observers attempting to explain causally their own behavior and that of the actor spectators. Using a hypothetical scene with two spectators, each explaining an action, and each representing a different Anchor , Emil L.
Fackenheim , J. It deals with the perennially baffling questions: How do we know? How much can we know? Its answers to these questions are interesting especially now. We live in one of the recurring periods of intellectual and cultural hi In exploring the spirit of German intellectual life and its distinctiveness from that of other countries, the text devotes whole chapters to four of the great philosophers - Nicholas of Cusa, Leibniz, Lessing and Kant - and extensively examines many others, including Albertus Magnus, Meister Eckhart, Paracelsus, Kepler, Mendelssoh This should be obvious when theorists note that a rationale cannot avoid certain far-flung implications, no matter how alien or morally outrageous they seem.
Rationalist by nature, general theory also assumes that the structure or logic of the rationale is the thing, not its psychological function, emotive effect, or motivational power. The fault here is not emphasizing rational components, but failing to integrate additional components into it adequately.
And failing to provide a type of general explanation might not then be a failing. We can start with an ideal explanatory principle, ideally structured to capture the explanatory logic of equal consideration or perspective taking. There is no need to generalize from commonsense, distorting a rule designed only for commonsense purposes, in a restricted locale.
It allows us to strip bare what holds the golden rule together beneath surface content that often matters little to its substance. How we do unto our mother or our child or our co-worker, even when their basic personhood is most at stake, requires a remarkably different form of address to convey equal consideration. Patronizing someone a parent in showing respect, can convey disrespect. These are essential moral matters, golden-rule matters, not just a matter of discretionary style. Unlike Kant, J. Obviously modern democratic constitutions have brought advancing the common good into line with securing individual rights simply by retaining both principles in their own terms and using each to regulate the other.
Even the lush empathy of Utilitarian intent, so key to who sacrifices or willingly serves, was eventually ejected from its general theory. The golden rule spirit may be one explanation. The apparent association between the golden rule and the maximizing super-principle came basically from the central role of compassion in early Utilitarian theorizing. When people become experienced with each other, recognizing common needs, hopes and fears, failures and successes, they are moved to act with mutual understanding.
This increases their like-mindedness and mutual identification in turn. The resulting sense of connection nurtures increasing indifference toward the narrow desires of those concerned, whether in oneself or others. Membership in, and contribution to shared community becomes defining. This is how golden rule other-directedness and equality moves toward full mutuality in the pursuit of overall social good.
Like most key tenets of ethics, the golden rule shows two major sides: one promoting fairness and individual entitlement, conceived as reciprocity; the other promoting helpfulness and generosity to the end of social welfare. Both the Kantian and Utilitarian traditions focus on only one side, furthering the great distinctions in philosophical ethics—the deontology-teleology and justice-benevolence distinctions.
For the general theory project, this one-sidedness is purposeful, a research tool for reductive explanation. The Utilitarian, Charles Dickens, probably draped most golden-rule content and spirit over the utilitarian side in his Christmas Carol. Mankind was my business, the common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were, all, my business. In a small way here, Dickens highlighted the direct and visible hand of Utilitarian economics in contrast to the invisible hand of Utilitarian Adam Smith and his capitalist economics—a hand Dickens found quite lacking in compassion or egalitarian benefit.
The each-is-to-count-for-one equality of the golden rule is portrayed as a proven, socially institutionalized means to social good. What speech more heartily hits the golden tones of the golden rule? What seems needed to philosophize ably about the golden rule, and its relatives are theoretical models fit for rules of thumb. These would be know-how models, defined by the conceptual work it draped around algorithms, operations, and steps in procedures for putting rules into effect.
As noted, these may be psychological rules for taking certain moral points of view, rules of problem solving, negotiation, making contributions to ongoing practices, interactions, and more unilateral actions.
These components would be given a context of use and interrelated in crucially different ways, with suggestions for interrelating them further. Illustrations would be provided of their application and misapplication, at high, medium, and low quality. The resulting combination would be provided overall structure and comprehensibility which would include the rationales needed to explain and justify its components. Rationales for applying the procedures would allow unique and flexible alliances among components fit for particular functions and novel situations.get link
A Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason
These are of greatest importance to its practicality and success. And, of like importance, background frameworks would be provided for how to practice the rule, indicating the difference in orientation of the novice and expert user. Relative to mainstream philosophical theory, this project might seem historically regressive, even anti-philosophical.
Applied ethics already boasts hundreds of decision-making step procedures. For traditional philosophers the small-scale common-sense rationales involved also may seem philosophically uninteresting. Resubmitting the range of ethical concepts to it suggests that the aims and consequences of actions, combined with quality of experience, may be all that ethics comes to, personal integrity and inherent rights aside.
Thus the rules of thumb discussed by Mill in his Utilitarianism were quickly deserted by philosophers for rule-utilitarianism. This built newly generalized principles into the very structure of maximization maximize the regard for rights as inherent and inviolable , turning the pre-existing utilitarian principle regarding rights and all else as means to social good into a super-principle, as some term it.
There was a time when moral theorist simply dismissed intuitionist and applied theory approaches. Hare does above, Rawls did in his hallowed A Theory of Justice , calling them half-theories. These theories cited piecemeal and ungrounded insights where the completing of conceptual structure was required to provide a full explanatory account.
But these forward-looking theorists worked such piecemeal views into pluralist, hybrid, or eclectic theoretical forms. The golden rule can find a place here, a merely somewhat generalized, medium-sized or right-sized place, allowing it to function as a lived ethic, readily applicable to everyday life to several ends. There is a certain satisfaction as well to using the most ancient but enduring epigrams of ethics, such as the golden rule, to create the most cutting-edge theoretical forms.
Serious innovation in ethics is a long time coming. Arguably, the golden rule has not been seriously updated in its own terms—conceptually, procedurally and culturally since B. The golden rule long preceded these. Such notions were formulated and plied in an age of rampant superstition, seasoned by deep misconceptions about the nature of reality, human nature psychology and social organization. Modern empirical research has had difficulty finding the stable psychological traits that we continue to call virtues. If stable traits exist at all, they may not be organized morally.
If they are, their stability and supposed resistance to situational factors of morality appears remarkably weak Kohlberg a, Myers, chs. But philosophers have given hardly a thought to the real prospect that there may be no such things—no real phenomena to cover our grab-bag folk terms. Virtue theorists seem unparsed as they experience a philosophical upswing. Brain research has uncovered forms of mental computation that differ significantly from what we term reasoning or emotion. This should be producing experimental revamping of ethical thinking.
Haidt, primarily have provided grounds for undue skepticism. The golden rule enjoys the reputation of enduring wisdom, even if its lack of conceptual sophistication leaves philosophers cold. But its ancient origin should make us wonder if it is in fact perennial hot air, misleading even regarding the framework in which moral philosophy is done. The model of general theory, based on general laws, still enjoys mainstream status in moral philosophy, despite challenges that have diminished its domination. But consider what has happened to its scientific mentor.
Important new innovations in physics are questioning the use of general theories marked by laws of nature, gravity, and the like, holding that this centerpiece of physics for centuries was a wrong turn from the beginning that led to the dead end of string theory and an inability to understand quarks and quantum mechanics.
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In part, this results from challenging the value of sophistication in views like string theory that consider it explanatory to posit non-existent and unknowable scores of reality dimensions for realities we observe. More, these cutting-edge, potentially revolutionary ideas are being proliferated in high-level physics in such popular outlets as Discover Magazine April p.
Where are the parallels in ethics? There is nothing like a fundamental explanation to decide an issue and take specific action, is there? Before a rule like the golden one is either slighted or acknowledged, moral philosophy should consider innovative approaches to conceiving such rules, their fitness to current practice, and perhaps what we can learn from converting the rule to a programmable algorithm for autonomous agent programming.
A possible step in a new direction, if originated in more than century-old thinking, is attempted below. It routinely violates the basic structure of human embodiment, the laws of human motivation, and the principles of rational choice of behavior based on them, as depicted above.
James may have confused the rule with sibling principles when making this blanket observation. James identifies certain common features and aftereffects in these putatively supernatural experiences, including ecstatic happiness and sense of liberation, expansive sense of self, and a self-diffusion into those nearby--selflessness of a special, merging sort.
He notes, likewise, an overflowing urge to love, give and aid others, nurture and support unlimited others, with unlimited energy, and no sense of sacrifice to oneself. James cites ways in which the lasting sensibilities of this experience suborn the asceticism, spiritual purity, and willing material poverty associated with saintliness Lect. This is not the most morally reassuring depiction of the golden rule as a phenomenon, but so it goes.
Imagine now that there are a third and fourth avenue to these experiences or to the proclivities and golden behaviors that result. One, the third, might involve the secular spiritual transformation that comes from single-mindedness. Certainly in religion this is what is meant by terming someone holy or a living saint. This is also the secular goal of Confucian practice, to make li behavioral ritual yi character. This is the indirect pursuit of the golden rule that focuses on ideally good means to ideally good ends.
The differential diagnosis here identifies devotion that leads to embodiment as the cause of golden rule effect. And this devotion need not include any following or practicing rules of thumb like the golden rule, purposely fulfilling duties, or practicing those conventional activities associated with being morally upright.
Now consider a fourth avenue, much more common to everyday ethics. Here, doing good or being fair is a part-time activity, undertaken alongside hosts of alternatives. It is developed through socialization and reflective practice relative to the normative institutions of society. Social norms are internalized and habituated in action, even to the point of what we call character traits.
When dealing with others, and typical moral issues, we gain a sense of proper reciprocity and the need for a certain egalitarianism in how we show respect. In addition, we hear of various rules and principles advising us on how to do this. Among these are members of the golden rule family, perhaps the golden rule itself.
One flirts with following those rules of thumb within reach, the way one finds oneself tempted to buy a product one sees advertised. And slowly the rule becomes a partial habit of heart and hand, an implicit directive. Still, the rule is sometimes consciously referred to as a reminder. In the first, one experiences satori or enlightened awakening in a sudden flash. It is not known how, even a non-devotee may be blessed by this occurrence.
Those around cannot help but notice the whole new range of behaviors that come out, filled with the compassion of a bodhisattva. The third way is that of gradual enlightenment. One meditates for its own sake, with no special aim in mind—no awaited lightning strike from the blue.
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Compassion grows beside it, imperceptibly, until one is bodhisattva. To the recipient, Zen-mind seems ordinary mind. We learn to act, in some respects, as a master or exemplar would, but without embodying the character being expressed, or being truly self-expressive in our actions. What we call ethics as a whole—the ethics of duties, fulfilling obligations, adhering to responsibilities, and respecting rights can be seen as this sort of partial simulation.
We develop moral habits, of course, some of which link together in patterns and proclivities. But we would not continue to carry around a sense of ethical assembly instructions or recipes needing sometimes to refer to them directly—if we were ethics, if we embodied ethics. Where else in our daily lives do we look to principles, rules of thumb or formula supplied as advice by a colleague or co-worker to proceed at what we already supposedly can do?
When we are a worker, we just work. When we are ethical, we often pause and consult a manual. This is not to deny automaticity or self-reliant reasoning in ethics. The golden rule displays one algorithm for programming exemplary fair behavior, which can be habituated by repetition and even raised to an art by practice. Virtue ethics habits and deliberation ethics normative ethics fall here.
What we are simulating are side-effects of a moral condition. We are trying to be good, by imitating symptoms of being good. A behavioral route can be taken instead to these simulations, side-stepping direct reference to the rule. In some ways it is more revealing of our simulation. Here we engage in repetitive behaviors that conform to a reciprocity convention that conforms to the rule.
We do not act out of adherence to the rule, but only out or imitation of its applications or illustrations. This again was the Aristotelian approach to learning virtues and also the Confucian approach for starting out. In Japan, this sort of approach extended from the Samurai tea ceremony to the Suzuki method of learning the violin See Gardner Such programming is akin to behavioral shaping in behaviorist psychology though it rests primarily on principles of competence motivation, not positive and negative reinforcement.
Social psychology has discovered that the single best way to create or change inner attitudes and motivations is to act as if one already possessed them. Over time, through the psychology of cognitive dissonance reduction, aided by an apparent consistency process in the brain, the mind supplies the motivation needed Festinger , Van Veen, and others, These processes contradict common opinion on how motivations are developed, or at least it does so long as our resolve does.
Unless one keeps the behavior going, by whatever means, our psychology will extinguish the behavior for its lack of a motivational correlate. Here, as elsewhere, the golden rule can act as a conceptual test of whether the group reciprocity conventions of a society are ethically up to snuff. As a means to more morally direct simulation, those interested in the golden rule can try alternative psychological regimens—role-taking is one, empathy might be another.
And these can be combined. Those who assume that exemplars must have taken these routes in their socialization may prefer such practices to conventional repetition. However, each is discretionary and but one practical means to it. Each has pros and cons: some routes serve certain personality types or learning styles, others not so well. In certain cultures, mentoring, mimicking and emulating exemplars will be the way to go.
The philosophy of social science can be described broadly as having two aims. First, it seeks to produce a rational reconstruction of social science. This entails describing the philosophical assumptions that underpin the practice of social inquiry, just as the philosophy of natural science seeks to lay bare the methodological and ontological assumptions that guide scientific investigation of natural phenomena. Second, the philosophy of social science seeks to critique the social sciences with the aim of enhancing their ability to explain the social world or otherwise improve our understanding of it.
Thus philosophy of social science is both descriptive and prescriptive. As such, it concerns a number of interrelated questions. These include: What is the method or methods of social science? Does social science use the same methods as natural science? If not, should it aspire to? Or are the methods appropriate to social inquiry fundamentally different from those of natural science? Is scientific investigation of the social world even possible — or desirable?
What type of knowledge does social inquiry produce? Can the social sciences be objective and value neutral? Should they strive to be? Does the social world represent a unique realm of inquiry with its own properties and laws? Or can the regularities and other properties of the social world be reduced to facts about individuals? The following article will survey how philosophers of social science have addressed and debated these questions.
It will begin by examining the question of whether social inquiry can — or should — have the same aims and use the same methods as the natural sciences. This is perhaps the most central and enduring issue in the philosophy of social science. Addressing it inevitably leads to discussion of other key controversies in the field, such as the nature of explanation of social phenomena and the possibility of value-free social science. Following examination of the views of proponents and critics of social inquiry modeled on the natural sciences will be a discussion of the debate between methodological individualists and methodological holists.
This issue concerns whether social phenomena can be reduced to facts about individuals. The penultimate section of the article asks the question: How does social science as currently practiced enhance our understanding of the social world? Even if social science falls short of the goals of natural science, such as uncovering lawlike regularities and predicting phenomena, it nonetheless may still produce valuable knowledge.
The article closes with a brief discussion of methodological pluralism. No single approach to social inquiry seems capable of capturing all aspects of social reality. But a kind of unification of the social sciences can be posited by envisioning the various methods as participating in an on-going dialogue with each other.
The achievements of the natural sciences in the wake of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century have been most impressive. Their investigation of nature has produced elegant and powerful theories that have not only greatly enhanced understanding of the natural world, but also increased human power and control over it.
Natural science is manifestly progressive, insofar as over time its theories tend to increase in depth, range and predictive power. It is also consensual. That is, there is general agreement among natural scientists regarding what the aims of science are and how to conduct it, including how to evaluate theories. At least in the long run, natural science tends to produce consent regarding which theories are valid. Given this evident success, many philosophers and social theorists have been eager to import the methods of natural science to the study of the social world.
If social science were to achieve the explanatory and predictive power of natural science, it could help solve vexing social problems, such as violence and poverty, improve the performance of institutions and generally foster human well-being. Those who believe that adapting the aims and methods of natural science to social inquiry is both possible and desirable support the unity of scientific method.
Such advocacy in this context is also referred to as naturalism. Of course, the effort to unify social and natural science requires reaching some agreement on what the aims and methods of science are or should be. A school of thought, broadly known as positivism, has been particularly important here. However, brief mention of some of its key ideas is warranted, given their substantial influence on contemporary advocates of naturalism. The genesis of positivism can be traced to the ideas of the British empiricists of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, including most notably John Locke , George Berkeley , and David Hume.
Immanuel Kant | esarynezivak.gq
As an epistemological doctrine, empiricism in essence holds that genuine knowledge of the external world must be grounded in experience and observation. The aim of scientific explanation is prediction, he argued, rather than trying to understand a noumenal realm that lies beyond our senses and is thus unknowable. Comte also advocated the unity of scientific method, arguing that the natural and social sciences should both adopt a positivist approach.
For a variety of reasons, positivism began to fall out of favor among philosophers of science beginning in the latter half of the twentieth century. Not only did this implausibly relegate a slew of traditional philosophical questions to the category of meaningless, it also called into question the validity of employing unobservable theoretical entities, processes and forces in natural science theories.
Logical positivists held that in principle the properties of unobservables, such as electrons, quarks or genes, could be translated into observable effects. In practice, however, such derivations generally proved impossible, and ridding unobservable entities of their explanatory role would require dispensing with the most successful science of the twentieth century. Despite the collapse of positivism as a philosophical movement, it continues to exercise influence on contemporary advocates of the unity of scientific method. Though there are important disagreements among naturalists about the proper methodology of science, three core tenets that trace their origin to positivism can be identified.
First, advocates of naturalism remain wedded to the view that science is a fundamentally empirical enterprise. Second, most naturalists hold that the primary aim of science is to produce causal explanations grounded in lawlike regularities. And, finally, naturalists typically support value neutrality — the view that the role of science is to describe and explain the world, not to make value judgments. At a minimum, an empirical approach for the social sciences requires producing theories about the social world that can be tested via observation and experimentation.
Indeed, many naturalists support the view, first proposed by Karl Popper, that the line demarcating science from non-science is empirical falsifiability. According to this view, if there is no imaginable empirical test that could show a theory to be false, then it cannot be called a scientific theory. Producing empirically falsifiable theories in turn necessitates creating techniques for systematically and precisely measuring the social world.
Much of twentieth century social science involved the formation of such tools, including figuring out ways to operationalize social phenomena — that is, conceptualize them in such a way that they can be measured. The data produced by operations in turn provide the raw, empirical material to construct and test theories. The purpose of a theory, according to naturalists, is to produce causal explanations of events or regularities found in the natural and social worlds.
Indeed, this is the primary aim of science. Scientific explanations of such regularities or events in turn require identification of lawlike regularities that govern such phenomena. An event or regularity is formally explained when its occurrence is shown to be logically necessary, given certain causal laws and boundary conditions. This so-called covering law model thus views explanation as adhering to the structure of a deductive argument, with the laws and boundary conditions serving as premises in a syllogism.
These laws may be invoked to produce causal explanations of a variety of other events and regularities, such as the orbit of the planets in our solar system, the trajectory of projectiles, the collapse of stars, and so forth. Thus the discovery of lawlike regularities offers the power to produce parsimonious explanations of a wide variety of phenomena. Proponents of the unity of scientific method therefore hold that uncovering laws of social phenomena should be a primary goal of social inquiry, and indeed represents the sine qua non for achieving genuinely scientific social investigation.
That is, factual statements about the world can never logically compel a particular moral evaluation. For instance, based on scientific evidence, biologists might conclude that violence and competition are natural human traits. But such a factual claim itself does not tell us whether violence and competition are good or bad.
According to advocates of naturalism, the same holds true for claims about the social world. For example, political scientists might be able to tell us which social, political and material conditions are conducive to the development of democracy. But, according to this view, a scientific explanation of the causes of democracy cannot tell us whether we ought to strive to bring about democracy or whether democracy itself is a good thing.
Science can help us better understand how to manipulate the social world to help us achieve our goals, but it cannot tell us what those goals ought to be. To believe otherwise is to fall prey to the so-called naturalistic fallacy. Naturalism has been highly influential in the social sciences, especially since the middle in the twentieth century and particularly in the United States.
Movements to make social inquiry genuinely scientific have dominated many fields, most notably political science and economics. However, whether these efforts have been successful is contestable, and naturalism has been subjected to wide-ranging criticism. Some critics point to what they view as formidable obstacles to subjecting the social world to scientific investigation. These include the possible absence of law-like regularities at the social level, the complexity of the social environment, and the difficulty of conducting controlled experiments. These represent practical difficulties, however, and do not necessarily force the conclusion that modeling social inquiry on the natural sciences is doomed to failure.
More radical critics of naturalism argue that the approach is thoroughly misconceived. Proponents of interpretive social inquiry are perhaps the most significant among such critics. Advocates of this approach claim that the aim of social investigation should be to enhance our understanding of a meaningful social world rather than to produce causal explanations of social phenomena grounded in universal laws. Their skepticism is shared by adherents of two other influential schools of social inquiry, known as critical theory and postmodernism. But proponents of these approaches also emphasize the various ways in which social science can mask domination in society and generally serve to reinforce the status quo.
These various criticisms of naturalism are considered below. Among critics who point to practical obstacles impeding efforts to model social inquiry on the natural sciences, perhaps their most important objection questions the very existence of law-like regularities in the social world. They argue that the stringent criteria that philosophers of science have established for deeming an observed regularity to be an authentic law-like regularity cannot be met by proposed social laws.
For a regularity to be deemed a genuine law of nature , the standard view holds that it must be universal; that is, it must apply in all times and places. The second law of thermodynamics, for example, is held to apply everywhere in the universe and at all points in the past and future. In addition, the types of laws of most importance to science are causal laws.
A law may be described as causal, as opposed to a mere accidental regularity, if it represents some kind of natural necessity — a force or power in nature — that governs the behavior of phenomena. Not all law-like regularities meet the causal requirement. For instance, it is a regularity of nature that the earth orbits the sun in a certain elliptical path once every days.
But the orbital regularities of earth and the other planets in the solar system have no causal powers themselves. Whether there are genuine law-like causal regularities that govern social phenomena is not at all clear. In any event, no laws governing the social world have been discovered that meet the demanding criteria of natural science. To be sure, social scientists have identified many social regularities, some of which they have even dubbed social laws. Examples from the discipline of economics would include the laws of supply and demand.
But upon closer inspection, these laws fail to meet the criteria for genuine law-like regularities. Sometimes, particularly in economics which boasts more purported laws than the other social sciences , the laws merely describe logical relationships between concepts. These laws may be true by definition, but because they do not describe the empirical world, they are not scientific laws. On the other hand, social laws that claim to describe empirical regularities invariably turn out to be imprecise, exception ridden and time-bound or place-bound rather than precise and universal.
Consider the law of demand from economics, which holds that consumer demand for a good will decrease if prices go up and increase if prices go down. Though this pattern typically occurs, it is not without exception. Sometimes increasing the price of a good also increases demand for it. This may happen when consumers interpret a higher price as signaling higher quality or because purchasing an expensive good provides an opportunity for conspicuous consumption — wasteful expenditure as a display of status. Moreover, the law of demand is a weak law; it merely specifies an inverse relationship between price and demand.
Unlike the more precise laws of natural science, it does not specify the magnitude of the expected change. In many cases proposed social laws are grounded in simplified and therefore false assumptions about human nature. For instance, the laws of economics are typically grounded in the assumptions of rational choice theory.
This theory posits that individuals always act rationally and instrumentally, weighing potential costs and benefits as they aim to maximize their own utility. But though individuals may typically act rational in this sense, especially in the economic sphere, it is nonetheless the case that they do not always do so.
Psychologists, for instance, have documented numerous ways in which individuals frequently fail to act rationally, owing to predictable kinds of flawed reasoning or perceptual errors. Moreover, it is evident that much behavior, even within the sphere of economics, is not instrumental but rather is guided by social norms, habit or tradition. Thus the laws of economics grounded in the assumption of instrumental rationality are in fact false. Outside of economics, the laws of social science are fewer and generally even more dubious. Many simple-majority, single-ballot systems do in fact exhibit more than two political parties.
At best, such purported laws could be described as tendencies or typical patterns rather than genuine law-like regularities. The reason for the absence of genuine laws in the social sciences is a source of debate. Some argue that the failure to uncover social laws stems from the complexity of human behavior and the social world. Human behavior is the product of manifold factors, including biological, psychological and perhaps sociological forces, each of which are themselves quite complex. Moreover, the social systems in which human behavior are embedded are themselves highly intricate.
Untangling the myriad interactions between multiple individuals in, for example, an economic system is a daunting task. Perhaps it simply lies beyond human cognitive powers to detect law-like patterns in such a milieu. Or perhaps no law-like regularities even obtain at the social level, even if laws obtain at the level of individuals. Natural scientists often enjoy the ability to manipulate variables in a controlled laboratory setting.
This helps them identify causal factors with respect to phenomena that they are trying to explain. For practical or ethical reasons, this is often not possible in the social sciences. In many cases the best a social scientist can hope for is to uncover so-called natural experiments, in which a suspected causal factor is present in one naturally occurring setting but absent in another. For instance, suppose social scientists wish to test the hypothesis that television viewing causes violence. They would benefit from a natural experiment if they could find two demographically similar communities, one of which has just recently received access to television and another that remains without it.
They could then track violence rates over time in the two communities to determine if exposure to television does in fact lead to more violence. The difficulty is that social scientists must wait for natural experiments to come to them and, in any event, such experiments seldom offer the opportunity to control for all the potentially relevant variables.
Some observers have pointed to the relative youth of social science to explain the failure to uncover law-like regularities of the social world. According to this view, the social sciences are still awaiting their Galileo or Newton to provide an explanatory framework that will allow them to begin uncovering such laws. However, critics of this view may note that rigorous, systematic attempts to explain social behavior arguably date back all the way to the ancient Greeks. And attempts to produce empirically grounded social inquiry intentionally modeled on natural science are almost as old as the scientific revolution itself.
At many points in the history of social science, eminent figures have emerged who seemed to offer the promise of putting social investigation on a proper scientific footing. But, in the end, a consensus on method and the hoped-for scientific progress have failed to materialize. The explanations discussed above for why social scientists have yet to identify genuine law-like regularities cite the practical difficulties of uncovering such laws in the social realm.
But more radical critics of naturalism argue that the attempt to unify the methods of the natural and social sciences is deeply misguided. They claim that the social world is different from the natural world in crucial respects that render the methods of natural science at best inadequate for enhancing understanding of the social world.
At worst, naturalism not only fundamentally mischaracterizes the social world, it also serves to reinforce oppressive beliefs, values and social practices. These critics include advocates of interpretive social inquiry, critical theorists, and postmodernists. Advocates of interpretivism propose an approach to social inquiry grounded in profoundly different assumptions about the nature of the social world than those who support naturalism.
In particular, interpretivists assert that the social world is fundamentally unlike the natural world insofar as the social world is meaningful in a way that the natural world is not. This difference can be made clear by considering the difference between human action and the behavior of entities or systems found in the natural world. Suppose that there is an action by an individual that we wish to explain — for example, voting at a school board meeting for a particular proposal.
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