WORLD VIEWS, SOCIAL SCIENCES AND THE
UNDERSTANDING OF SOCIAL REALITIES
Mack H. Jones
There are three distinct dimensions of reality: physical, natural\biological, and
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.
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
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.
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
and objectives that they wish to achieve, and their beliefs about the
institutions, practices and values through which their goals are to be realized.
A historically driven and culturally conditioned set of assumptions, the world