Cover image for Laws and explanation in the social sciences : defending a science of human behavior
Title:
Laws and explanation in the social sciences : defending a science of human behavior
Author:
McIntyre, Lee C.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1998.

©1996
Physical Description:
x, 197 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1570 Lexile.
ISBN:
9780813328287

9780813336480
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The first full-length defense of social scientific laws to appear in the last twenty years, this book upholds the prospect of the nomological explanation of human behavior against those who maintain that this approach is impossible, impractical, or irrelevant. By pursuing an analogy with the natural sciences, McIntyre shows that the barriers to nomological inquiry within the social sciences are not generated by factors unique to social inquiry, but arise from a largely common set of problems that face any scientific endeavor.All of the most widely supported arguments against social scientific laws have failed largely due to adherence to a highly idealized conception of nomologicality (allegedly drawn from the natural sciences themselves) and the limited doctrine of "descriptivism." Basing his arguments upon a more realistic view of scientific theorizing that emphasizes the pivotal role of "redescription" in aiding the search for scientific laws, McIntyre is optimistic about attaining useful law-like explanations of human behavior.


Summary

The first full-length defense of social scientific laws to appear in the last twenty years, this book upholds the prospect of the nomological explanation of human behavior against those who maintain that this approach is impossible, impractical, or irrelevant. By pursuing an analogy with the natural sciences, McIntyre shows that the barriers to nomological inquiry within the social sciences are not generated by factors unique to social inquiry, but arise from a largely common set of problems that face any scientific endeavor.All of the most widely supported arguments against social scientific laws have failed largely due to adherence to a highly idealized conception of nomologicality (allegedly drawn from the natural sciences themselves) and the limited doctrine of ?descriptivism.? Basing his arguments upon a more realistic view of scientific theorizing that emphasizes the pivotal role of ?redescription? in aiding the search for scientific laws, McIntyre is optimistic about attaining useful law-like explanations of human behavior.


Author Notes

Lee C. McIntyre is assistant professor of philosophy at Colgate University.


Lee C. McIntyre is assistant professor of philosophy at Colgate University.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

The central thesis of this interesting and important book is that failure to discover laws in the social sciences is not because of the "complexity" or "openness" of the subject matter. Rather, the problem stems from a common lack of understanding among those whose views on the actual characteristics of existing and widely accepted laws in the natural sciences MacIntyre criticizes. Indeed, McIntyre convincingly argues that those who contend that laws in social sciences are impossible or irrelevant base their claims on a nomological ideal of what constitutes a law that the laws of the natural sciences, including physics, could not meet! Although he can offer no examples of existing laws in the social sciences, the author does point out a promising path for the pursuit of such laws, a path currently being followed in evolutionary biology, and one that stresses conceptual "redescription" and a search for "non-human-sized" theories. McIntyre's style is clear, imaginative, and should be accessible to a wide readership even though it is occasionally repetitive. The book is thoroughly researched and amply documented; footnotes are extensive and the bibliography is both inclusive and current. Upper-division undergraduates and above. W. P. Nye Hollins College


Choice Review

The central thesis of this interesting and important book is that failure to discover laws in the social sciences is not because of the "complexity" or "openness" of the subject matter. Rather, the problem stems from a common lack of understanding among those whose views on the actual characteristics of existing and widely accepted laws in the natural sciences MacIntyre criticizes. Indeed, McIntyre convincingly argues that those who contend that laws in social sciences are impossible or irrelevant base their claims on a nomological ideal of what constitutes a law that the laws of the natural sciences, including physics, could not meet! Although he can offer no examples of existing laws in the social sciences, the author does point out a promising path for the pursuit of such laws, a path currently being followed in evolutionary biology, and one that stresses conceptual "redescription" and a search for "non-human-sized" theories. McIntyre's style is clear, imaginative, and should be accessible to a wide readership even though it is occasionally repetitive. The book is thoroughly researched and amply documented; footnotes are extensive and the bibliography is both inclusive and current. Upper-division undergraduates and above. W. P. Nye Hollins College


Table of Contents

Prefacep. viii
1 The Nomological Idealp. 1
2 Fundamental Objections to Social Scientific Lawsp. 15
3 Practical Objections to Social Scientific Lawsp. 53
4 The Role of Laws in Scientific Understanding: the Case of Evolutionary Biologyp. 83
5 A Question of Relevancep. 119
6 Metaphysical Interludep. 143
7 Prospects and Limitations of a Nomological Social Sciencep. 165
Bibliographyp. 177
About the Book and Authorp. 189
Indexp. 191
Prefacep. viii
1 The Nomological Idealp. 1
2 Fundamental Objections to Social Scientific Lawsp. 15
3 Practical Objections to Social Scientific Lawsp. 53
4 The Role of Laws in Scientific Understanding: the Case of Evolutionary Biologyp. 83
5 A Question of Relevancep. 119
6 Metaphysical Interludep. 143
7 Prospects and Limitations of a Nomological Social Sciencep. 165
Bibliographyp. 177
About the Book and Authorp. 189
Indexp. 191