Martin, M., and Lee C. McIntyre, ed. Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994. ISBN: 0262631512.
Readings by Session
To encourage critical thinking about the texts, students were responsible for providing short answers (from a sentence to a paragraph or so) to the corresponding reading questions.
|2||What is "the social"?|| |
Durkheim, E. "Social Facts." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Weber, Max. "Selections of Max Weber." In Sociological Writings. Edited by Wolf Heydebrand. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1994. ISBN: 0826407188.
Greenwood, J. "Social Facts, Social Groups and Social Expanation." Nous 37, no. 1 (2003): 93-112.
Gilbert, M. "The Structure of the Social Atom: Joint Commitment and the Foundation of Human Social Behavior." In Socializing Metaphysics.
According to Durkheim, what is distinctive of social phenomena?
According to Weber, what is distinctive of social phenomena?
What reasons are there for thinking that a social behavior is not just a behavior that is widely practiced?
To what extent are social phenomena "subjective"?
To what extent are social phenomena "mind-dependent"?
|3||Institutions and Practices|| |
Searle, J. R. The Construction of Social Reality. Chapters 1 - 2.
Mallon, R. "Social Construction, Social Roles and Stability." In Socializing Metaphysics.
What is Searle's analysis of social construction? On his view, what sorts of things are socially constructed? Is there a way to make sense of the claim that gender or race is socially constructed on his view?
How does Mallon's account differ from Searle's? How would Mallon's account handle the (purported) social construction of gender and/or race?
|4||"Social Construction"|| |
Hacking, I. The Social Construction of What? Chapter 1.
Haslanger, S. "Social Construction: The "Debunking" Project." In Socializing Metaphysics.
Hacking suggests that we must distinguish the social construction of ideas and of things. How are each constructed? Are there different senses of social construction that apply to each?
On Hacking’s view, what things are socially constructed? In saying that something is socially constructed, is one committed to saying that social factors brought it into existence? What is one saying?
On Hacking's view, are kinds of things socially constructed? Is this idea-construction or thing-construction?
Are there some forms of social construction that Hacking's view doesn't accommodate?
|5||Reductionism, Individualism, Holism|| |
Watkins, J. W. N. "Historial Explanation in the Social Sciences." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Kinkaid, H. "Reduction, Explanation and Individualism." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Pettit, P. The Common Mind. Chapters 3-4.
What is the principle of methodological individualism? Are there several principles? If so, explain the distinctions.
Is any form of methodological individualism plausible?
What sorts of views does methodological individualism rule out?
|6||Explanation, Prediction, Laws|| |
Mill, J. S. A System of Logic. Book VI, chapter 3.
Hempel, C. "The Function of General Laws in History." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Fay, B. "General Laws and Explaining Human Behavior." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Kinkaid, H. "Defending Laws in the Social Sciences." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
To what extent should the social sciences be modeled on the natural sciences? Can we expect prediction and laws in social science? Why or why not?
If social science is not like natural science, then what are its methods, norms and standards?
|7||Interpretation and Meaning|| |
Taylor. "Interpretation and the Sciences of Man." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Martin, M. "Taylor on Interpretation and the Sciences of Man." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Winch, P. The Idea of a Social Science. Chapters 1 and 3.
MacIntyre, Alisdair. "The Idea of a Social Science." In The Philosophy of Social Explanation. Rev. ed. Edited by A. Ryan. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1973. ISBN: 0198750250. (response to Winch)
Geertz, C. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
What are the aims and goals of social science? What sort of explanation is desirable and appropriate to the subject matter?
How is rational explanation different from other forms of explanation? How is understanding different from explanation?
|8||Rational Choice Explanations I||Elster. "The Nature and Scope of Rational Choice Explanation." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.|| |
What are "rational choice" explanations? Give an example.
Are there reasons to think that social science ought to aim, primarily, at giving rational choice explanations of social phenomena? Why or why not?
To what extent do rational choice explanations satisfy the principle of methodological individualism (remember that there are multiple ways of construing methodological individualism)?
|9||Rational Choice Explanations II|| |
Sen, A. "Rational Fools: Acritique of the Behavioral Foundations of Economic Theory." Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (1977): 317-344.
Satz, D., and J. Ferejohn. "Rational Choice and Social Theory." Journal of Philosophy 91, no. 2 (1994): 71-87.
Folbre, N., and R. Goodin. "Revealing Altruism." Review of Social Economy 62, no. 1 (2004): 1-25.
Anderson, E. "Beyond Homo Economicus: New Developments in Theories of Social Norms." Philosophy and Public Affairs 29 (2000): 170-200.
Cudd, A. "How to Explain Oppression." Philosophy of the Social Sciences 31, no. 1 (2005): 20-49.
Sketch three objections to rational choice models of social phenomena.
How would a rational choice theorist respond to each?
To what extent are rational choice explanations compatible with other forms of explanation we’ve discussed?
|10||Structural Explanations|| |
Porpora. "Four Concepts of Social Structure." Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 19 (1989) 199-211.
Jackson, F., and Pettit, P. "Structural explanation in social theory." In Reductionism, Explanation, and Realism. Edited by D. Charles and K. Lennon. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN: 0198242735.
Little, D. "Functional and Structural Explanation." In Varieties of Social Explanation.
What is a social structure?
What is a structural explanation? Give an example.
Are structural explanations compatible with methodological individualism (remember that there are multiple ways of construing methodological individualism)?
|11||Functional Explanations|| |
Hempel, C. "The Logic of Functional Analysis." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Elster, J. "Functional Explanation in Social Science." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Cohen, G. A. "Functional Explanation in Marxism." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Kinkaid, H. "Assessing Functional Explanations in the Social Sciences." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
What is a functional explanation? Give an example.
Are functional explanations in social science the same sort of thing as functional explanations in biology or other natural sciences? How are they similar/different?
What are the main critiques of functional explanation and how would a functionalist respond?
|12||Critical Theory|| |
Habermas, J. "Knowledge and Human Interests," and "The Tasks of a Critical Theory" In Philosophies of Social Science. Edited by G. Delanty and P. Styrdom. New York, NY: Open University Press, 2003. ISBN: 0335208851.
Geuss, R. The Idea of a Critical Theory. Introduction and chapter 3.
What is a critical theory and how does it differ from other sorts of theory? (What are its goals, characteristic forms of explanation, etc.)
Why might one think that the aim of social science is to provide a critical theory?
Do the ordinary norms of science, e.g., objectivity, empirical adequacy, predictive power, apply to critical theories?
|13||Values and Objectivity|| |
Weber, M. "Objectivity in Social Science and Social Policy." In Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.
Anderson, E. "Objectivity, Human Interests and Feminist Epistemology." Philosophical Topics 23, no. 2 (1995).
———. "Feminist Epistemology: An Interpretation and a Defense." Hypatia (June 1995).
Is a value-free science possible?
Is a value-free science desirable?
How should values (and which ones) play a role in scientific theorizing?
Are there distinctive issues about the value-ladenness of social science that don’t arise in natural science? What are they?