The Human Project and the Temptations of Science

The Human Project and the Temptations of Science

by Lansana Keita


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The Human Project and the Temptations of Science by Lansana Keita

On account of the impressive yield of empirical science since the dawn of modern era, theorists of human behavior have sought eagerly to adopt its methodology to explain and predict behavior in the same way that natural science does with respect to natural phenomena. Thus, the positivist principle endorsed the unity of science approach to both the natural and social worlds. Modern social science, in its specific forms of sociology, economics, and so on, confidently embraced the positivist principle. In a short period of time, political economy was transformed into economic science. The goal was to purge the social sciences of their supposedly evaluative content. In due course, the idea of objective scientific truth came to be questioned along with the positivist paradigm. Epistemological relativism à la Kuhn is to be credited with this intellectual shift. But this novel theoretical approach was more easily accommodated by epistemologists of science than scientists themselves. Scientists hardly questioned their methodologies of research and the cognitive field of successful theories. Similarly, in the social sciences, neoclassical economics remained dominant. The neoclassical motto was that economics as science answered only questions of efficiency, not evaluative questions of social justice. The Human Project and the Temptations of Science argues that the model of epistemological unity, at one time embracing positivism, at another time supporting epistemological relativism, is questionable. While empirical science does yield knowledge of the natural world, knowledge of the social world - the world of humans - is necessarily value-laden. Despite the quantitative veneer of neoclassical economics - the dominant paradigm in economics - economic analysis cannot avoid questions of value. The reason is that its foundational concepts, such as rationality and the maximization of expected utility, reflect the necessary value-oriented nature of human behavior. The question posed, then, by The Human Project and the Temptations of Science is what sort of optimal values should humans adopt.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789042003200
Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 02/29/2000
Series: Value Inquiry Book Series
Pages: 149

About the Author

Lansana Keita teaches philosophy at Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, West Africa. He is the author of “Science, Rationality, and Neoclassical Economics” and numerous articles in international philosophy journals, including “Philosophy of the Social Sciences”, “The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science”, “Metaphilosophy”, “Quest”, and “Praxis International”. His research interests include philosophy of science, philosophy of economics, contemporary African thought, and the sociology of knowledge. He is also an editorial consultant to “Quest”.

Table of Contents

Editorial Foreword. ONE Introduction. TWO Epistemology and Its Basic Questions. THREE On Scientific Knowledge. FOUR Epistemology, Ideology, and the Sociology of Knowledge. FIVE Neoclassical Economics on Liberty, Individualism, and Rationality. SIX Property, Rights, and the Sociology of the Neoclassical Economy. SEVEN Socialist Economic Theory and Ideology. EIGHT Biology and Human Behavior. NINE The Foundations of Social and Economic Justice. TEN Critical Theory and Human Emancipation. ELEVEN Concluding Remarks. Notes. Bibliography. About the Author. Index.

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