Philosophy of Social Science

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Philosophy of Social Science provides a tightly argued yet accessible introduction to the philosophical foundations of the human sciences, including economics, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, history, and the disciplines emerging at the intersections of these subjects with biology. Philosophy is unavoidable for social scientists because the choices they make in answering questions in their disciplines force them to take sides on philosophical matters. Conversely, the social and behavior sciences must inform philosophers' understanding of human action, norms, and social institutions.

The third edition retains from previous editions an illuminating interpretation of the enduring relations between the conduct of inquiry in the social sciences and the fundamental problems of philosophy, with accessible considerations of positivism, European philosophy of history, causation, statistical laws, quantitative models, and postempiricist social science. Features new to this edition include an overview of the eclipse of behaviorism in psychology and the rise of game theory in economics; consideration of problems for functionalism in social science that must be addressed by an appeal to biology and especially Darwinian thinking; analysis of the debate between "nativists" and exponents of the "standard social science model" that emphasizes nurture over nature as the source of significant human traits; and expanded discussion of feminism in the human sciences.

About the Author:
Alexander Rosenberg is R. Taylor Cole professor of philosophy at Duke University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for previous editions:

“Once again, Alexander Rosenberg has set the bar for books on the philosophy of social science. An outstanding introduction, even for those who are already in the discipline.”
—James Bohman, Saint Louis University

“This was already a very useful book for teaching philosophy of social science. It covers many important topics in an engaging way. This edition is even better, with interesting new material and a reorganization with pedagogy in mind. It will make for a great course in philosophy of social science.”
—Harold Kincaid, University of Cape Town

“Ever since the first edition of Alexander Rosenberg’s Philosophy of Social Science appeared in 1988, it has been indispensable for anyone teaching the subject at all levels from absolute beginners on. Each new edition has been still more indispensable as a teaching aid, but also as a source of new ideas and insights about changes in the philosophy of science and in the social sciences themselves. This new edition preserves the freshness and liveliness of the first edition, and has added new depths of reflectiveness and a wider range of reference without any loss of the sprightliness and lucidity that readers have treasured for twenty-four years. It is a very considerable achievement.”
—Alan Ryan, Princeton University

"What is social science? Study of causes or of interpretation? Holistic or reductionistic? Morally neutral or morally engaged? Rosenberg’s text provides a thorough, clear and remarkably evenhanded exposition and examination of these fascinating, important, and loaded issues.”
—Paul Teller, University of California, Davis

"A model of clarity, scope, and analytical precision, this book is both a superb introductory text and a work of outstanding scholarship."
—Lee McIntyre, Colgate University; coeditor of Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science

"A splendid introduction to the subject. It addresses in a marvelously coherent and engaging way virtually all the major philosophical issues to which the social sciences give rise. Philosophy of Social Science is both a pedagogical masterpiece and a work of serious philosophical interest."
—Daniel M. Hausman, University Wisconsin

"Will become the standard text for philosophy courses on social science and social science courses on foundations and method. This remarkably compact book maintains an admirably objective stance on contending views on all the really outstanding problems. There is no other book in the field that I can recommend so highly."
—Alan Nelson, University of California at Irvine.

"Rosenberg's book succeeds nicely in conveying … a sense of the current state of the social sciences. His analytical structure works well for that purpose."
Economics and Philosophy

“Significant in covering all the major themes discussed in this complex field.”
Canadian Philosophical Review

“Rosenberg … has boldly surpassed all previous attempts to stake out this difficult area …. This book clearly lays out the role that philosophy plays in elucidating the scientific status of specific social sciences.”

“Rosenberg’s book succeeds nicely in conveying … a sense of the current state of the social sciences. His analytical structure works well for that purpose.”
Economics and Philosophy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813306179
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 9/7/1988
  • Series: Dimensions of Philosophy Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 218

Meet the Author

Alexander Rosenberg is R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke University. He is author of many books and papers in the philosophy of science, including The Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Approach, The Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Approach, and Economics—Mathematical Politics or Science of Diminishing Returns (winner of the prestigious Lakatos Prize). In 2007, he was the national Phi Beta Kappa Romanell lecturer in philosophy.

Tyler Curtain is associate professor of English and American Literature at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and associate director of the Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Third Edition     xi
What is the Philosophy of Social Science?     1
Philosophical Problems of Social Science     3
Progress and Prediction     8
A Brief History of the Philosophy of Science     10
Lawlessness in Social Science     14
Rejecting Prediction for Intelligibility     19
Taking Sides in the Philosophy of Social Science     24
Naturalism Versus Interpretation     26
Introduction to the Literature     28
The Explanation of Human Action     31
Making Folk Psychology Explicit     32
Reasons and Causes     36
The Holism of the Mental     40
The Logical Connection Argument     47
Intentionality     52
Intensionality and Extensionality     57
Introduction to the Literature     61
From Behaviorism to Rational Choice, and Back     65
Causation and Purpose     67
The Experimental Analysis of Behavior     72
The Ghost in Behaviorism's Machine     76
Folk Psychology Formalized: The Theory of Rational Choice     80
The Economist as Behaviorist     85
Instrumentalism in Economics     90
The Eclipse of Behaviorism in Psychology and Economics     95
Introduction to the Literature     97
Interpretation     101
The Hermeneutics of Human Action     102
Can We Reconcile Rules and Causes?     107
The Social Construction of Society     111
The Philosophy of History     115
Freud and the Analysis of Deep Meanings     117
Marxism and Meaning     121
Critical Theory     127
Epistemological Impasse?     131
Introduction to the Literature     136
Functionalism and Macrosocial Science     141
Holism and Human Action     144
The Autonomy of Sociology     147
Holism and Reductionism in Psychology and Sociology     151
Functional Analysis and Functional Explanation     158
The Trouble with Functionalism     162
Introduction to the Literature     169
Biology, Human Behavior, and Social Science     171
The Prisoner's Dilemma to the Rescue?     173
Farewell to the Standard Social Science Model?     181
Blunting the Threat of Genetic Determinism     190
Natural Selection and Mother Nurture?     193
Causation, Statistics, Laws, and the Relevance of Biology     202
Introduction to the Literature     209
Shall We Commit a Social Science?     211
Moral Problems of Controlled Research     212
Mill: Naturalism and Utilitarianism     216
Kant: Interpretation and Deontology     220
Facts and Values     225
Feminist Philosophy of (Social) Science     230
Dangerous Questions, Moral Obligations, and Predictive Knowledge     236
Introduction to the Literature     239
Social Science and the Enduring Questions of Philosophy     241
The Unavoidability of Epistemology     243
Science and Metaphysics     245
Reductionism and Instrumentalism     249
Philosophy and the Moral Sciences     250
Conclusion     251
Bibliography     253
Index     261
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