Lets return to our original question Why do we not seem to have laws of the

Lets return to our original question why do we not

This preview shows page 69 - 71 out of 104 pages.

Let's return to our original question: Why do we not seem to have laws of the social sciences in the sense that we have laws of the natural sciences? There are several standard answers to that question. Some philosophers point out that we don't have a science of behaviour for the same reason we don't have a science of furniture. We couldn't have such a science because there aren't any physical features that chairs, tables, desks, and all other items of furniture have in common that would enable them to fall under a common set of laws of furniture. And besides we don't really need such a science because anything we want to explain – for example, why are wooden tables solid or why does iron lawn furniture rust? – can already be explained by existing sciences. Similarly, there aren't any features that all human behaviours have in com- mon. And besides, particular things we wish to explain can be explained by physics, and physiology, and all the rest of the existing sciences. In a related argument some philosophers point out that perhaps our concepts for describing ourselves and other human beings don't match the concepts of such basic sciences as physics and chemistry in the right way. Perhaps, they suggest, human science is like a science of the weather. We have a science of the weather, meteorology, but it is not a strict science because the things that interest us about the weather don't match the natural categories we have for physics. Such weather concepts as 'bright spots over the Midlands' or 'partly cloudy in London' are not systematically related to the con- cepts of physics. A powerful expression of this sort of view is in Jerry Fodor's work. He suggests that special sciences like geology or meteorology are about features of the world that can be realised in physics in a variety of ways and that this loose connection between the special science and the more basic science of physics is also characteristic of the social sciences. Just as mountains and storms can be realised in
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different sorts of microphysical structures, so money for ex- ample can be physically realised as gold, silver or printed paper. And such disjunctive connections between the higher order phenomena and the lower order do indeed allow us to have rich sciences, but they do not allow for strict laws, because the form of the loose connections will permit of laws that have exceptions. Another argument for the view that we cannot have strict laws connecting the mental and the physical is in Donald Davidson's claim that the concepts of rationality, consistency and coherence are partly constitutive of our notion of mental phenomena; and these notions don't relate systematically to the notions of physics. As Davidson says they have no 'echo' in physics. A diff10culty with this view, however, is that there are lots of sciences which contain constitutive notions that similarly have no echo in physics but are nonetheless pretty solid sciences. Biology, for example, requires the concept of
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