Science-in-the-Social-Sciences.pdf - 'Science in the Social...

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'Science' in the Social Sciences1. Learning Objectives After reviewing this chapter readers should be able to: Understand the nature and scope of a controversy in the philosophy of the social sciences regarding the causal explanation of types of human conduct. Appreciate the relevance of later Wittgenstein analyses to some central methodological issues in sociology and other social sciences. Understand the limits as well as the strengths of the critique of the social sciences offered by Peter Winch and some of his contemporaries. Grasp the relationships that obtain between certain methodological strategies and the purposes of investigators in selecting them. Become clear about the concept of ‘science’ in the social sciences and the ways in which it is used and also sometimes misused.
2. Introduction Two works of lasting influence on the theory and practice of the social sciences were Emile Durkheim’s Suicide (1897) and G. Yule’s An Introduction to the Theory of Statistics (1911). Both advanced the thesis that statistical data can be used to identify the causes of socially distributed phenomena. In the middle of the twentieth century, however, several philosophers began to question what had by then become orthodox in social-scientific methodology. In this section, we shall examine some of their arguments and attempt to locate the areas of interest in which they were, and remain, pertinent, and to isolate areas of inquiry where the ‘orthodoxy’ can be insulated against some of their criticisms.
Émile Durkheim (1858 – 1917) Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist whose contributions were instrumental in the formation of sociology and anthropology. His work and editorship of the first journal of sociology helped establish it within academia as an accepted social science. During his lifetime, Durkheim gave many lectures and published numerous sociological studies on subjects such as education, crime, religion, suicide and many other aspects of society. He is considered one of sociology's founding fathers. G. Udny Yule (1871 - 1951) G. Udny Yule was a British statistician who made important contributions to the theory and practice of correlation and association and to time series analysis.
3. Use and Interpretation of Statistical Data Perhaps the leading figure in the philosophical dispute about the use and interpretation of statistical data in the social sciences was Peter Winch. In his book, The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy(published in 1958 and still in press), Winch exploited Wittgenstein’s revolutionary re-thinking of the concept of ‘grammar’ and sought to apply it to topics central to social-scientific thought and research – action, reason, explanation, causation, rule and others. For the later Wittgenstein, ‘grammar’ encompasses far more than it does in traditional linguistics: it comprises the rules of use of words and expressions in the language of everyday life, and not just the ‘syntax’

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