Philosophy of social science
Published 14 Feb 2017
In the advent of the booming scientific pursuits, there lies what I would call the “gray” areas. These are the arena where constant debates are still on-going. There are the matters where whether or not science could really address the problems of humanity. There also remains the question if whether or not science had caused technology or technology is just another aspect of science. Numerous questions could still be raised concerning science and these questions are usually addressed or discussed in a normal class of philosophy of science. The main aspect that would be raised in this paper is whether or not social science as a branch of science should really stick to the empirical and rational foundationalism that they adhere to or should social science recognize another methodology that would not lead it to becoming a dead-end pseudoscience that others deem it to be.
There are three branches of science, the first and well-known science is the natural science which deals with the physical world, the second is the behavioral science that deals with the behavioral aspect of things that could be found in the world, and lastly the social science. It could be inferred that the natural science would be the spider where the webs could be attributed to its concrete laws and theories as foundations for its studies. The bees could then be the behavioral science where its behavior is a way of telling the concrete interactions that happen in the natural world. The ants could then be attributed as the social science where its behavior could be seen as the interaction among the sociocultural aspect of man as a whole.
Social science has a long way to go. It seems that it also has branches of its own, namely anthropology, economics, political science, sociology, and social psychology. It was said that social science is a mixture of the humanities where scientific studies are done in order to address the sociocultural perspective and/or aspect of man (Social science). It would be deduced that most of the skepticism towards this branch is the authenticity that it has concerning it being a branch of science.
There are two research methods that the social sciences use. The qualitative research is where the connection between the data and the behavior that people has towards a thing is studied whereas quantitative research could answer that which is empirical in nature. It would seem then that the quantitative research is more inclined into the empirical foundations that it has and the qualitative research would be more inclined to the rational foundations.
What could be inferred from this is that social science has a tendency to see itself as a science since it could still pertain to the researches that the natural sciences use. It could be seen that the empirical foundations that the social science tries to use could not help further their studies that is needed but it has become a hindrance for it to fully develop. The empirical and concrete laws and theories about humankind could not be generalized nor would becoming statistically and mathematically correct a way to salvage the science in social science (Flyvbjerg).
Some people would usually cling to these believes thinking that as a branch of science they have the better advantage to those that belong to the humanities. In this aspect, they cling to what is scientific in order to have the authority that was given to them as a science. This recognition is yet to be revealed by those belonging to the social sciences especially when some usually turn a blind eye to the clamoring assessments that others had done concerning the arena in mention.
It was said that the more social scientists try to do studies like the natural sciences, the more they have not further the developments needed for the branch to progress. It was said that the social science could not have the concrete and predictive results that the natural sciences have especially when the concerns of social science is on the concerns of the social strata that man belongs to. The main difference is that the natural world and its phenomena are different from man and his or her phenomena.
This recognition could only mean that the empirical foundationalism that the social sciences are banking on could not work naturally in the area of concern that it takes up. Making a concrete and universal theory could not work for the social scientists since it would mean that man at this point has become a stagnant entity. The dynamics that is in man could not be generalized into a prejudged theory especially when social aspects could be stretched in countless ways. What could then be empirical in this aspect is that the what, where, and when that man could provide but other than that there is no more. What should be seen here is that after this mentality is scraped, one should then see that the rational foundationalism that the social scientists use could be incorporated in what the empirical foundationalism lacks.
In Kant’s philosophy, an attempted merging of rationalism and empiricism was used as a way to address the growing steam that the two parties have. The qualitative methods that the social scientists use tends to focus on the smaller areas that encompass man’s society but this would be the beginning of what could be used as the “ideal” methods that the social scientists use.
It was said that the best recourse for social science is for it to generally scrap the idea that the patterns in the natural sciences could be used in the studies. Instead it would appear that that the best way to do it is to create a methodology that would focus more on what is important for the subject-matter.
The aspects in the social arena that man belongs makes it hard and diverse but what was proposed by Flyvbjerg is that the social science that matters could make do with the phronetic method and not the epistemic method that mimics the methods in the natural sciences. This phronetic method then would have to start by finding what really matters in society and the after carefully evaluating it, the feedbacks from the people concerned could used to further the research. It would then have to involve the combination of the empirical and the rational.
- Social science. (n.d.). Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 08, 2007, from Answers.com Web site: http://www.answers.com/topic/social-sciences
- Flyvbjerg, B. Social Science That Matters [Electronic Version]. Foresight Europe, 38-42. Retrieved August 8, 2007 from http://flyvbjerg.plan.aau.dk/Publications2006/ForesightNo2PRINT.pdf