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The Philosophy of the Social Sciences

Introduction
The social sciences seek to conduct a science of
phenomena that have no mass.

At the same time, these sciences must adhere to


the logic and rules of science.

How is it possible to conduct a science of


phenomena that have no mass?
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Nominalism: Definitions
Realism: Abstract concepts are real in their
consequences.

Nominalism: Abstract concepts reflect the logical


error of reification: misplaced concreteness based
upon unnecessary subjectivity. The concrete is
real.
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Nominalism: Role of the Scientist
Realism: Observe, as best as possible, the
consequences of abstract reality.

Nominalism: The social scientist has no other


option but to observe the actual behavior of
humans. Collective behavior is the simple
aggregation of individuals behaviors.
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Nominalism: Issues Facing Science
Realism: Challenged by obtaining valid and
reliable measures. How does one measure an
abstract concept?

Nominalism: Challenged by understanding


collective behavior. What is the basis of social
order?
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Nominalism: Application
Realism: Observations and interpretations can be
used to understand abstract concepts.

Nominalism: Observations and interpretations can


be used to advance grounded theory: theory that
can be traced to direct observations of human
behavior.
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Idealism: Definitions
Realism: One reality to be observed as best as
possible.

Idealism: Multiple realities, each valid at the same


time.
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Idealism: Role of the Scientist
Realism: Observe as best as possible. Data
speak for themselves.

Idealism: The scientist has no option except to


impose structure upon observations. Data do not
speak for themselves.
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Idealism: Issues Facing Science
Realism: Can be challenged by aberrations in
observations.

Idealism: Can be challenged by differences in


observations.
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Realism vs. Idealism: Application
Realism: Observations and interpretations are
value neutral (as best as possible).

Idealism:
Observations and interpretations reflect the
subjectivity of the society.
Interpretations can be used to promote
advocacy.
Scientists are bound by verstehen.
An Example
An Example
Structure-Functionalism
The Adaptation is the production of food.
The Goals are multiple, with feed the world as
the one being given priority.
The appeal to Integration is that together we will
achieve our goal.
As a nation with vast resources, we have a moral
obligation (Latent function) to feed the world.
An Example
Marxian/Critical
This poster represents an attempt by powerful
agribusiness firms to create a false
consciousness among consumers that their true
purpose is to feed the world.
Instead, these powerful actors seek to distract us
from their exploitation of the environment, animals,
and our health and well-being so as to maximize
their profits.