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:
Where Cx are are statements of how things are, and Lx are laws. E is the explanandum, or the event to be explained.Code:C1 + C2 + C3 + ... Cn + L1 + L2 + L3 + ... Ln --------------------------- E
This is an example of a probabilistic law, which we would hope to reduce to the above deterministic model:
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.Code:C1 + C2 + C3 + ... Cn + P1 + P2 + P3 + ... Pn --------------------------- E
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?