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66. Social Science, Philosophy of


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00069.x


Do the social sciences employ the same methods as the natural sciences? If not, can they do so? And should they do so, given their aims? These central questions of the philosophy of social science presuppose an accurate identification of the methods of natural science. For much of the twentieth century this presupposition was supplied by the logical positivist philosophy of physical science. The adoption of methods from natural science by many social scientists raised another central question: why had these methods so apparently successful in natural science been apparently far less successful when self-consciously adapted to the research agendas of the several social sciences? Alternative answers to this last question reflect competing philosophies of social science. On one view, the social sciences have not progressed because social scientists have not yet applied the methods of natural science well enough. Another answer has it that the positivists got the methods of natural science wrong, and that social scientists aping wrong methods have produced sterility in their disciplines. Still another response to this question argues that the social sciences are using the right methods and are succeeding, but that the difficulties they face are so daunting that rapid progress is not to be expected. Finally, a fourth answer which has attracted many philosophers of social science has ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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