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1 WORLD VIEWS, SOCIAL SCIENCES AND THE UNDERSTANDING OF SOCIAL REALITIES Mack H. Jones There are three distinct dimensions of reality: physical, natural\biological, and social. The first two are natural phenomena. The latter is created by human action. Disciplines such as chemistry, physics, and geology describe and explain physical reality while botany, zoology, anatomy and related disciplines explain the natural world. The third dimension of reality, the social world, deals with the interaction of people with each other and with the natural and physical worlds. Social reality is that dimension of the world created by people themselves. It consists of the social, cultural, economic, political, and spiritual beliefs, institutions and practices created and developed by human beings to serve human purposes. The social sciences such as history, sociology, economics, anthropology, and political science were developed to describe, explain, and give meaning to social realities. Social scientists, like their counterparts in the physical and natural sciences, conduct systematic research through which they attempt to determine why things happen as they do. However, just how social scientists explain, describe and assign meaning to social reality is determined to a great extent by the assumptions which inform their research and writing. That is to say that all efforts to know the world, to understand and explain reality, must necessarily begin with certain prior assumptions about the very nature of that reality, a reality that not only has been created by the people themselves, but one in which they have vested interests in seeing in a positive light. These prior assumptions that condition inquiry are derivative of their world view. The world view that informs a scholar's work are not merely functions of his or her personal reflections because scholars are social products and more or less supportive and loyal members of the societies into which they were born and socialized. Every society has a dominant world view which functions as the primary lens through which the people view and give meaning to the world and their place in it. A world view is a broad outlook or set of assumptions which the people in a given country or culture have about themselves, their history, their present circumstances, and the desired future state of affairs that they should strive to bring about. The world view provides a basis for a people's definition of themselves, their interpretation of history, their choice of the goals and objectives that they wish to achieve, and their beliefs about the appropriate institutions, practices and values through which their goals are to be realized. A historically driven and culturally conditioned set of assumptions, the world
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This note was uploaded on 05/27/2011 for the course POT 4064 taught by Professor Densu during the Fall '09 term at Florida A&M.

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