Professor Little presents an introduction to the philosophy of social science with an emphasis on the central forms of explanation in social science: rational-intentional, causal, functional, structural, materialist, statistical and interpretive. The book is very strong on recent developments, particularly in its treatment of rational choice theory, microfoundations for social explanation, the idea of supervenience, functionalism, and current discussions of relativism.Of special interest is Professor Little’s insight that, like the philosophy of natural science, the philosophy of social science can profit (...) from examining actual scientific examples. Throughout the book, philosophical theory is integrated with recent empirical work on both agrarian and industrial society drawn from political science, sociology, geography, anthropology, and economics.Clearly written and well structured, this text provides the logical and conceptual tools necessary for dealing with the debates at the cutting edge of contemporary philosophy of social science. It will prove indispensible for philosophers, social scientists and their students. (shrink)
This text focuses on the theory of popular politics constructed within the context of analytical Marxism, and asks if rational choice theory provides an adequate basis for explaining patterns of social, political and economic behaviour in traditional China.
Insight has been investigated under the assumption that participants solve insight problems with insight processes and/or experiences. A recent trend has involved presenting participants with the solution and analysing the resultant experience as if insight has taken place. We examined self-reports of the aha experience, a defining aspect of insight, before and after feedback, along with additional affective components of insight. Classic insight problems, compound remote associates, and non-insight problems were randomly interleaved and presented to participants. Solution feedback increased ratings (...) of aha experience in both insight and non-insight problems, with this result being driven by responses to solutions that were initially incorrectly generated. Ratings of aha for correctly generated solutions decreased after the correct solution was presented. These findings have implications for insight research paradigms as well as informing teaching methods. (shrink)
The article responds to Richard Lauer’s “Is Social Ontology Prior to Social Scientific Methodology?” The article concurs that “social ontology matters” for the conduct of research and theory in social science. It argues, however, that neither of the interpretations of the status of social ontology offered by Lauer is satisfactory. The article argues for a naturalized, fallibilist, and realist interpretation of the claims of social ontology and presents the field of social ontology as the most abstract edge of social-science theorizing, (...) subject to broad empirical constraints. The approach taken is anti-foundationalist in both epistemology and metaphysics. Ontological theorizing is part of the extended scientific enterprise of understanding the social world. Claims about the nature of the social world are not different in kind from more specific sociological claims about social class or individual rationality, to be justified ultimately by the coherence and explanatory success of the theories they help to create. At the same time, it is justified to treat the claims of social ontology as provisionally true, which supports a realist interpretation of the findings of social ontology. (shrink)
The ability to generate diverse ideas is valuable in solving creative problems ; yet, however advantageous, this ability is insufficient to solve the problem alone and requires the ability to logically deduce an assessment of correctness of each solution. Positive schizotypy may help isolate the aspects of divergent thinking prevalent in insight problem solving. Participants were presented with a measure of schizotypy, divergent and convergent thinking tasks, insight problems, and non-insight problems. We found no evidence for a relationship between schizotypy (...) and insight problem solving. Relationships between divergent thinking and insight problem solving were also surprisingly weak; however, measures of convergent thinking had a stronger relationship with problem solving. These results suggest that convergent thinking is more important than divergent thinking in problem solving. (shrink)
This article disputes the common view that social science explanations depend on discovery of lawlike generalizations from which descriptions of social outcomes can be derived. It distinguishes between governing and phenomenal regularities, and argues that social regularities are phenomenal rather than governing. In place of nomological deductive arguments, the article maintains that social explanations depend on the discovery of causal mechanisms underlying various social processes. The metaphysical correlate of this argument is that there are no social kinds: types of social (...) entities that share a common casual constitution giving rise to strong regularities of behavior. The article turns next to a consideration of the character of social causation and argues for a microfoundational interpretation of social causation: social causal powers are embodied in the constraints and opportunities that institutions present to individual agents. Finally, it is noted that these arguments have consequences for the credibility of social predictions: it is argued that predictions in social science are generally unreliable. (shrink)
The article addresses the topic of “group agency” with respect to large organizations. It undertakes to analyze some of the concrete micro- and meso-level processes through which large organizations arrive at collective “knowledge” and “action.” The article makes use of the theory of strategic action fields to analyze processes of knowledge and the implementation of organizational intentions. The article describes some of the dysfunctions and disunities that should be expected from these individual-level processes, including principal–agent problems, conflicts of interests and (...) priorities among organizational actors, loose coupling among subunits, and outcomes that are influenced by powerful outsiders. It argues for a limited conception of “ bounded localistic organizational rationality” in which organizations have limited coherence, unity, and consistency over time in their beliefs and actions. (shrink)
Causal mechanisms theory has provided an important contribution to the theory of social explanation. This article considers whether CMT also makes a contribution to improvement of social science methodology. Methodology serves as a guide to the construction of research questions and explanatory hypotheses. Research is guided by background assumptions about the ontology of the domain of investigation. CMT provides a valuable ontology for social science research. Furthermore, it provides a valuable research heuristic: “seek out the causal mechanisms that underlie an (...) outcome of interest.” CMT does indeed have valuable implications for social science investigation, hypothesis formation, and research strategy. (shrink)
This article addresses Tuukka Kaidesoja’s critique of the philosophical presuppositions of Roy Bhaskar’s theories of critical realism. The article supports Kaidesoja’s naturalistic approach to the philosophy of the social sciences, including the field of social ontology. The article discusses the specific topics of fallibilism, emergence, and causal powers. I conclude that Kaidesoja’s book is a valuable contribution to current debates over critical realism.
A prominent historiographic theme in the past decade has been a movement away from causal explanation of large-scale processes and outcomes and toward narrative interpretation of singular historical processes. This article argues for the continued vitality of large-scale historical inquiry and surveys the historiographic issues that arise in large-scale historical explanation. The article proceeds through an examination of several important recent examples of large-scale history: comparative history of Europe and China, the history of alternative forms of industrial organization, and the (...) history of technology. These three cases provide the basis for a conception of what may be called "conjunctural contingent meso-level" explanations: explanations that identify intermediate-level structures and processes and highlight both the structural factors that govern change and the multiple pathways that change can take. (shrink)
This volume represents a contribution to the philosophy of economics with a distinctive point of view -- the contributors have selected particular areas of economics and have probed these areas for the philosophical and methodological issues that they raise. The primary essays are written by philosophers concentrating on philosophical issues that arise at the level of the everyday theoretical practice of working economists. Commentary essays are provided by working economists responding to the philosophical arguments from the standpoint of their own (...) disciplines. The volume thus represents something of an `experiment' in the philosophy of science, striving as it does to explore methodological issues across two research communities. The purpose of the volume is very specific: to stimulate a discussion of the epistemology and methodology of economics that works at the level of detail of existing `best practice' in economics today. The contributors have designed their contributions to stimulate productive conversation between philosophers and economists on topics in the methodology of economics. (shrink)
The breadth-first search adopted by Bayesian researchers to map out the conceptual space and identify what the framework can do is beneficial for science and reflective of its collaborative and incremental nature. Theoretical pluralism among researchers facilitates refinement of models within various levels of analysis, which ultimately enables effective cross-talk between different levels of analysis.
A behavioral drive directed solely at minimizing prediction error would cause an agent to seek out states of unchanging, and thus easily predictable, sensory inputs (such as a dark room). The default to an evolutionarily encoded prior to avoid such untenable behaviors is unsatisfying. We suggest an alternate information theoretic interpretation to address this dilemma.
It is commonly supposed that Marx's Capital is part and parcel of his theory of historical materialism. It is argued here, however, that this view is incorrect, and that Capital is distinguished from the more general theory of historical materialism in its standing as a work of social science. This conclusion rests on several grounds. First, Capital is substantially more specialized than the theory of historical materialism, since it is concerned only with one aspect of one mode of production. As (...) a result, Capital provides a more rigorous treatment of its subject matter. Second, Capital is based on a fund of empirical evidence which is substantially more detailed than that offered in support of the theses of historical materialism. And third, given the preceding points, Capital is a developed empirical theory, whereas historical materialism is best construed as a general program of research. For these reasons Capital is epistemically distinct from historical materialism: unlike the latter, it is a substantive contribution to social science. (shrink)
We live in a time of human paradoxes. Scientific knowledge has reached a level of sophistication that permits understanding of the most arcane phenomena and yet religious fundamentalism dominates in many parts of the world. We witness the emergence of a civil, liberal constitutionalism in many regions of the world and yet ethnic violence threatens.
This article considers the dispute between moral economy and rational peasant theories of agrarian societies in application to problems of collective action. The moral-economy theory holds that traditional peasant society is organized cooperatively through shared moral values and communal institutions; while the rational-peasant theory maintains that peasant society shows the mark of rational individual calculation, leading to free-rider problems that undermine successful collective action. This article offers an abstract model of a traditional village and assesses the applicability of recent qualifications (...) of the collective action argument to this model. It will emerge that the social characteristics of the traditional village embody features that facilitate collective action by rational peasants. (shrink)
There has been much discussion in recent years of the role of moral ideas within Marxism. Marx's stringent criticisms of purely philosophical inquiry impose rather narrow limits on the form which a Marxian moral philosophy might take. For Marx often holds that moral ideas and moral theorizing are irremediably ideological. By this Marx appears to mean that moral ideas are part and parcel of a system of class domination, a way of preserving class domination through internalized norms. As many recent (...) commentators have shown, however, these criticisms of moral reasoning, though present in Marx's system, cannot be the beginning and end of his stance on moral matters. For Marx himself is committed to making normative judgments about capitalism and socialism, and there is a richly textured set of normative ideas that run through his writings from early to late. Further, and perhaps more compellingly, there is a pressing need internal to Marxism for discussion of moral ideas in order to steer the course towards the attainment of socialism. (shrink)