The Empirical Counter-Revolution

Authored by: Jaakko Kuorikoski

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Social Science

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138825758
eBook ISBN: 9781315410098
Adobe ISBN: 9781315410081


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Methodological anti-naturalism is dead—at least in contemporary philosophy of science. Winchian arguments claiming that explanation of human action and social phenomena is a conceptual impossibility, an illegitimate application of the grammar of the natural sciences to the normative sphere of rule-governed meaning, have not gained much traction in contemporary philosophies of language, mind, or explanation. Arguments from the centrality of free agency in the understanding of human experience, sometimes combining existential phenomenology and philosophical anthropology with hermeneutic ideas, seem similarly limited in appeal. These arguments have been unable to move the compatibilist consensus in philosophy of science, which regards the inconsistency of free will and causal explanation as a naïve conceptual confusion and leaves no room for any residual notion of agent causation. The apparent lack of strict laws of human behavior and societies (see Reiss this volume) is no longer seen as an insurmountable obstacle for causal explanation. The causalist consensus is now further bolstered by the currently popular theories of causal explanation and discovery which are not founded upon a nomothetic ideal of science. Also the locality and contextuality of social knowledge that motivated Clifford Geertz’s anti-naturalism is now being tackled with these new ideas of causality, mechanisms, and extrapolation. Even the inherently value-laden nature of social science has now been accommodated within broader conceptions of scientific objectivity capable of acknowledging the fact that scientific knowledge in general is a fundamentally human product and thus its production and even evaluation are legitimately subject to various social and political considerations. Finally the old accepted truism that social sciences are necessarily non-experimental has been rendered decidedly obsolete by the widespread adoption of laboratory and field experiments.

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