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  1. #1
    Systematic chaos Cenomite's Avatar
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    Default Philosophy of the Social Sciences

    I've just learned about this whole topic and I'm curious to see what people think.

    There are generally two main beliefs for how the social sciences should be studied, and what their goals should be. These are the naturalistic and anti-naturalistic approaches.

    Naturalistic: The social sciences should be reduced to probabilistic laws, and should strive for deterministic laws. They should not be treated differently in terms of goals and ways of conduction than the physical sciences. As far as I know, most naturalists believe that the social sciences can be reduced to the physical sciences.

    As an example of deterministic laws, here is how some naturalists would want a human action to be explained:
    Code:
    C1 + C2 + C3 + ... Cn
    +
    L1 + L2 + L3 + ... Ln
    ---------------------------
    E
    Where Cx are are statements of how things are, and Lx are laws. E is the explanandum, or the event to be explained.

    This is an example of a probabilistic law, which we would hope to reduce to the above deterministic model:
    Code:
    C1 + C2 + C3 + ... Cn
    +
    P1 + P2 + P3 + ... Pn
    ---------------------------
    E
    Where Cx are statements of how things are, and Px are probabilistic laws. E is the explanandum, but instead of being guaranteed to happen, it only more likely to happen due to the Ps.

    We strive closer and closer from probabilistic laws to deterministic ones, and deterministic laws should be the ultimate goal of the social sciences.

    Anti-naturalistic: The social sciences are inherently more complex than the physical sciences, so they should not be studied in the same way. The goal of the social sciences is not to reduce human nature to probabilistic/deterministic laws, but to interpret human behavior.

    Some (such as Fay & Moon) argue that neither approach can adequately serve as a philosophy of the social sciences. Either a new approach, or a synthesis of the two existing approaches is needed. If interested, their article can be found here
    Readings in the philosophy of social ... - Google Books
    (although some pages are removed, their general ideas can be seen. Also, "humanism" is the same as anti-naturalism in their chapter.)

    The anti-naturalist approach mostly dominates how social sciences are studied today. What are your thoughts on how the social sciences should be studied, and what their goals should be?
    The probability that I was procrastinating when I was typing this post:

    P(have big assignment due) = 0.6
    P(posting on TypoC) = 0.2
    P(having big assignment due | posting on TypoC) = 0.7

    P(posting on TypoC | having big assignment due) = .......


    Eh, I'll finish it later.

  2. #2
    Sniffles
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    I'm with the anti-naturalistic("Humanist") perspective.

  3. #3
    Systematic chaos Cenomite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    I'm with the anti-naturalistic("Humanist") perspective.
    Any particular reasons?
    The probability that I was procrastinating when I was typing this post:

    P(have big assignment due) = 0.6
    P(posting on TypoC) = 0.2
    P(having big assignment due | posting on TypoC) = 0.7

    P(posting on TypoC | having big assignment due) = .......


    Eh, I'll finish it later.

  4. #4
    Sniffles
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    Yeah sure maybe when Im sober.

  5. #5
    Systematic chaos Cenomite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    Yeah sure maybe when Im sober.
    Hey now, some of the best conversations about this sort of stuff that I've had have been while drunk.
    The probability that I was procrastinating when I was typing this post:

    P(have big assignment due) = 0.6
    P(posting on TypoC) = 0.2
    P(having big assignment due | posting on TypoC) = 0.7

    P(posting on TypoC | having big assignment due) = .......


    Eh, I'll finish it later.

  6. #6
    Babylon Candle Venom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    I'm with the anti-naturalistic("Humanist") perspective.
    you would

    I feel like social sciences have way too much ad hoc reasoning. Psychology is still littered with Galtonian understandings of statistics.

    Social sciences should simply start over. They only see shit from their own a priori view points. Eg. the sociologists vs the psychologists. It should all be abolished for some sort of Socio-Biology that would hopefully not embrace genetic fatalism like some social scientists do today.

  7. #7
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Two questions need to be asked, can the social sciences be reduced to a naturalistic account? That is, can we view psychology and sociology in the regard that we view chemistry? Are there laws that guide human behavior? I would assume that there are because even the staunchest anti-naturalist would admit that all human behaviors must have a cause. To maintain otherwise would say that human behavior is a result of magical or a supernatural motivator and the true causes of human actions are either inexplicable or can be explained only by an appeal to the supernatural rather than the law of nature.

    The distinction between naturalism and anti-naturalism can be depicted as follows, all events have a define cause and there is a rational explanaiton for all things that happen. Another way of saying this is that laws of nature regulate all occurences and therefore everything can be explained by an appeal to a law of nature.

    Anti-naturalism maintains that there is no rational explanation for some things, I find this view spurious as it is indeed quite difficult to prove that there is no cause for some things. For the most part, the anti-naturalists discovered that we probably do not know the true cause of some things and have assumed that the cause is not knowable. This view is fallacious because it confuses our ignorance of the cause of a phenomenon with a non-existence of the cause of the phenomenon in question. It hinges on a principle that can be summarized as follows; I do not understand what causes an apple to fall, so I will assume that there is no cause at all for the people to follow. (I do not understand what caused X, so X must have no cause.)

    All of our sciences start as essentially observational disciplines. When we began investigating physics, we did not know of any laws of nature that we could use to explain how things work. Only after many observations of the natural world, did we establish laws such as gravity for example. At first, physics was guided by merely conjectural or intuitive reasoning. The social sciences are exactly at this point today.

    In order to understand the laws of human mind, we need access to their private thoughts. Unlike the physicists who can merely observe the material world, psychologists cannot observe the thoughts of people. Hence, unsurprisingly, they have not progressed nearly as far as the physicists have. Today, neuroscientists are discovering technology that allows people to track cognitive acitivity to empirically observable brain-activity and this facilitates our endeavor to conduct an empirical investigation of the realm of mind.

    Perhaps in two centuries, we will have established the laws of mind that describe human thought as accurately as the contemporary laws of physics describe the laws of the material world. In principle, is it possible that there are no exact or probabilistic laws to human behavior? I would think not, as then there would be no pattern at all to their behavior, which is certainly false because we know that people are more predisposed to behave in a certain way under some circumstances rather than others. (E.G, they are more likely to cry when they feel pain rather than when they experience pleasure). Altogether, anti-naturalism appears preposterous.

    Is there any hope for the anti-naturalist method? It is plainly false, however, the attitude of the anti-naturalists is quite useful. We are nowhere close to clearly discovering the exact nature of the laws of mind, it would be merely naive of us to think that we are. At best, our success at establishing such laws is limited and hence the naturalistic method is inefficient at this point, but surely may be efficient in one to two hundred years when neuroscience is advanced enough.

    Hence, the anti-naturalistic method of conjecture and intuition is more efficient at this point.
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  8. #8
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    Everything has biological roots, within the brain and the body. There is nothing manifest in the human world that is not descended from that immutable core. Certainly some areas covered by the social sciences have many degrees of separation from the biological/neurological factors, but it's nothing more than added complexity from the same building blocks of human nature as determined by neurological and biological factors.

  9. #9
    Systematic chaos Cenomite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
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    Your views on this are pretty much the exact same as mine. I also appreciate your point about "if I cannot explain X, then there is no cause for X."

    I think that some anti-naturalists believe this, because they -want- to believe that humans are more complex than laws. It's almost as if the entire anti-naturalist approach is based off of a "hunch" or a deeply held belief that "I am intricate and complex".

    One question for you: What do you think the purpose of the social sciences should be until laws of human behavior are discovered? I think that we should be actively trying to figure out these laws, while at the same time applying the anti-naturalistic method to keep producing the results that people expect the social sciences to produce.

    Quote Originally Posted by Babylon Candle View Post
    you would

    I feel like social sciences have way too much ad hoc reasoning. Psychology is still littered with Galtonian understandings of statistics.

    Social sciences should simply start over. They only see shit from their own a priori view points. Eg. the sociologists vs the psychologists. It should all be abolished for some sort of Socio-Biology that would hopefully not embrace genetic fatalism like some social scientists do today.
    I tend to think that some social sciences and psychology should be combined to help each other towards the goal that SW describes (finding laws of human behavior).
    The probability that I was procrastinating when I was typing this post:

    P(have big assignment due) = 0.6
    P(posting on TypoC) = 0.2
    P(having big assignment due | posting on TypoC) = 0.7

    P(posting on TypoC | having big assignment due) = .......


    Eh, I'll finish it later.

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