Philosophy of Social Science

Philosophy of Social Science : A Contemporary Introduction

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The Philosophy of Social Science: A Contemporary Introduction examines the perennial questions of philosophy by engaging with the empirical study of society. The book offers a comprehensive overview of debates in the field, with special attention to questions arising from new research programs in the social sciences. The text uses detailed examples of social scientific research to motivate and illustrate the philosophical discussion. Topics include the relationship of social policy to social science, interpretive research, action explanation, game theory, social scientific accounts of norms, joint intentionality, reductionism, causal modeling, case study research, and experimentation.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 16.26mm | 454g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0415898250
  • 9780415898256
  • 118,579

Table of contents

1. Introduction

1.1. What is the Philosophy of Social Science?

The Democratic Peace

Azande Witchcraft

Freedom Riders and Free Riders

Philosophy in the Social Sciences

1.2. A Tour of the Philosophical Neighborhood





2. Objectivity, Values, and the Possibility of a Social Science

2.1. The Ideal of Value-Freedom

The United States Census

Dimensions of Value-Freedom

A Moderate Thesis of Value-Freedom

2.2. Impartiality and Theory Choice

Risk and Error

What About Objectivity?

2.3. Essentially Contested Ideas

Value-Neutrality and Emancipatory Research

Objection: Values and the Logic of Discovery

Value Presuppositions and Implicatures

2.4. Wrap up

Chapter Summary

Discussion Questions

Further Reading

3. Theories, Interpretations, and Concepts

3.1. Aggression, Violence, and Video Games

3.2. Defining theoretical concepts

The Empiricist View of Concepts and Theory Structure
Realism, Instrumentalism, and the Problem of Construct Validity

3.3. Interpretivism

Ideal Types and Verstehen
Hermeneutics and Meaning
Thick Description and its Challenges

3.4. Realism and Social Concepts

Social Constructions
Realism about Social Kinds
Looping Effects

3.5. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading

4. Interpretive Methodology

4.1. Evidence for Interpretation

Qualitative Research Methods and Their Presuppositions
Authority and Authenticity

4.2. Rationality, Explanation, and Interpretive Charity

The Problem of Apparent Irrationality
Relativism and Rationality
The Principle of Charity

4.3. Cognition, Evolution, and Interpretation

Bounded and Unbounded Rationality
Cognitive Roots of Culture
Interpretation and Cognitive Explanation
The New Questions of Naturalism

4.4. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading
Notes to Chapter 4

5. Action and Agency

5.1. Explaining Action

Admiral Tryon and Instrumental Rationality
The Function of General Laws in History
Reasons and Causes
Re-enactment: Verstehen Revisited

5.2. The Games People Play

Rationality and Utility
Games and Strategies
Nash Equilibria and the Battle of the Bismarck Sea
Multiple Equilibria and Coordination Problems

5.3. Agency

The Psychological Plausibility of Rational Choice Theory
Rational Fools?
Game Theory in the Laboratory
Instrumentalism and Structuralism

5.4. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading

6. Reductionism: Structures, Agents, and Evolution

6.1. Explaining Revolutions

6.2. Social Theory and Social Ontology

The Individualism-Holism Debate
Definition and Theoretical Reduction
Methodological Localism

6.3. Agents and Social Explanations

Methodological Individualism
Microfoundations and Moderate Explanatory Individualism
Agency and Mechanistic Explanation

6.4. Evolutionary Explanations

Functions in Evolutionary Perspective
Selectionist Explanations of Cooperation and the Evolution of Norms
Consequences of Selectionism for the Social Sciences

6.5. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading

7. Social Norms

7.1. Disenchanting the social world

Is and Ought
Good Bad Theories

7.2. Norms and Rational Choices

Conventionality and Normativity
Social Norms

7.3. Normativity and Practice

Norms and practices
Problems for Practice Theory
Practices Without Regularities

7.4. Reductionism and Naturalized Normativity

Normativism and Holism
Norms, Naturalism, and Supervenience
Prospects for Naturalized Normativity

7.5. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading

8. Intentions, Institutions, and Collective Action

8.1. Agency and Collective Intentionality

Team Reasoning
Joint Commitment
Group agency

8.2. Joint Intentionality

Cooperation Again: Ontogeny and Development
Plans and Joint Intentions
We-intentions and the We-mode
Acting as a Group Member

8.3. Intentions and Institutions

The Strange Tale of the Druid Penny
Function and Rules in Institutions
Explaining Social Institutions

8.4. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading

9. Causality and Law in the Social World

9.1. The Democratic Peace Hypothesis

9.2. Are There Social Scientific Laws?

Characteristics of Natural Laws
Creativity and Complexity

9.3. Conceptualizing Causation

Constant Conjunction
Linear Equation Modeling and Causal Regularities
Capacities and Nomological Engines

9.4. Models and Mechanisms

Secret Springs and Principles
Correlations, Black Boxes, and Processes
Middle Range Theory and Agent-Based Models

9.5. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading

10. Methodologies of Causal Inference

10.1. Bayesian Networks and Causal Modeling

Confounds and Common Causes
Bayesian Inference
Challenges to Causal Modeling

10.2. Case Studies and Causal Structure

The Apparent Value of Case Studies
Epistemological Challenges of Case Studies
Justification and Discovery

10.3. Experimentation

What Can We Learn From Social Scientific Experimentation?
Quasi-Experiments and Randomized Controlled Trials

10.4. Extrapolation and Social Engineering

Evidence-based Policy
The FCC Auction
Breaking the Extrapolator's Circle
Performativity and Social Engineering

10.5. Wrap up

Chapter Summary
Discussion questions
Further Reading
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Review quote

"Crisply written, comprehensive and packed with examples, Mark Risjord's new Philosophy of Social Science: A Contemporary Introduction is a wonderful achievement. What is most remarkable is how deeply the philosophical account is embedded in and informed by contemporary empirical work in behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology and cognitive science; to pull this off without sacrificing accessibility is something of a miracle. This is just what philosophy of social science should be and both teacher and student will benefit accordingly."

-Lee McIntyre, Boston University

"This book is a rare accomplishment-it is comprehensive, judicious, and clear. It is comprehensive in its coverage of the central issues in the philosophy of social science and thorough in its treatment of the central responses to each of these issues. It is judicious in that it provides a careful and sympathetic exposition of the various positions, and gives motivated ways of thinking about the relevant debate. It is clear, so that the reader is not unnecessarily tired by the dialectic. It reflects both traditional issues in the philosophy of social science and recent developments in the field. Both initiates and veteran investigators in the philosophy of science can benefit from reading it. It will provide a standard against which general texts in the philosophy of social science will be judged. I must say that I am very happy with the result, and I plan to use this book in my classes and recommend it to others."

-David Henderson, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
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About Mark Risjord

Mark Risjord is Professor of Philosophy at Emory University.
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