Interactions: Some Contacts between the Natural Sciences and the Social Sciences

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Overview

One of the fruits of the Scientific Revolution was the idea of a social science - a science of government, of individual behavior, and of society - that would operate in ways comparable to the newly triumphant natural sciences. Thus was set in motion a long and often convoluted chain of two-way interactions that still have implications for both scholarship and public policy. This book, by the dean of American historians of science, offers an excellent historical perspective on these interactions.The core of the book consists of two long essays. The first focuses on the role of analogies as linking factors between the two realms. Examples are drawn from the physics of rational mechanics and energy physics (in relation to marginalist or neoclassical economics) and from the biology of the cell theory (in relation to nineteenth-century sociology). The second essay looks closely at the relations between the natural and the social sciences in the period of the Scientific Revolution.The book also includes a record of a series of conversations between the author and Harvey Brooks (Professor of Technology and Public Policy
Emeritus at Harvard) that addresses the present-day public policy implications of the historical interactions between the natural and the social sciences. A short but illuminating history of the terms "natural science" and "social science" concludes the book.

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262531245
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/1994
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 An Analysis of Interactions between the Natural Sciences and the Social Sciences 1
1.3 Types of Interaction 11
1.4 Analogy and Homology 15
1.5 Metaphor 28
1.6 Roles of Analogy 35
1.7 Rational Mechanics and Marginalist Economics 38
1.8 Biological Theory and Social Theory 48
1.9 Incorrect Science, Imperfect Replication, and the Transformation of Scientific Ideas 61
1.10 Inappropriate or Useless Analogies 66
2 The Scientific Revolution and the Social Sciences 101
2.1 The "New Science" and the Sciences of Society 101
2.2 The Seventeenth-Century Goal of a Social Science in Mathematical Form (Grotius, Spinoza, Vauban) 108
2.3 Political Arithmetic and Political Anatomy (Graunt and Petty) 114
2.4 An Independent "Civil" Science based on Motion (Hobbes) 118
2.5 The Notion of a Balance: A Social Science based on the New Physiology (Harrington) 124
3 A Conversation with Harvey Brooks on the Social Sciences, the Natural Sciences, and Public Policy 153
A Note on "Social Science" and on "Natural Science" 189
Index 201
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