Social Sciences

Philosophy of Social Science

Psychology 370

This course grapples with the foundations of social science, foundations that many professionals and students are disinclined to consider or appreciate only at arm’s length. Whether this is an innocent or intentional distancing from the problem is difficult to say – probably both and to varying degrees depending on the person – but it is a distance that comes at a price. Students in this class must be willing to, as Edward Ross said, “dig down past the walls of [their] science to the bed-rock it rests on, so that [they] may learn in what mortar and by what plumb-line the stones of [their] science have been laid.” In doing so they will be properly postured to develop an appreciation for how deeply the scientific mindset has penetrated our ways of thinking about ourselves in modern society, including the perception held by some that our self-understandings are not yet scientific enough. The course seeks neither to blindly defend the social sciences against all attacks nor dismiss them out of hand as impossibilities; it aims, instead, to penetrate truth so that moving forward students will see more clearly to the heart of matters concerning science and questions of human nature. Class readings include August Comte’s “The Nature and Importance of the Positive Philosophy,” Emile Durkheim’s “The Rules of Sociological Method,” Peter Winch’s “The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy,” and Michael Polanyi’s “The Study of Man.”