The idea of an ethically committed social science

History of the Human Sciences 35 (2):144-166 (2022)
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Abstract

This article presents a long overdue analysis of the idea of an ethically committed social science, which, after the demise of positivism and the deeming of moral neutrality as impossible, has come to dominate the self-understanding of many contemporary sociological approaches. Once adequately specified, however, the idea is shown to be ethically questionable in that it works against the moral commitments constitutive of academic life. The argument is conducted with resources from the work of Peter Winch, thus establishing its continuing relevance and critical importance for the social sciences, sociology in particular. Special reference is made to heretofore unappreciated aspects of Winch’s work, including within the groundbreaking The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy, but focusing specifically on his later contributions to ethics.

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