January 12, 2014
- what is knowledge?
- how do we come to ‘know’ something.
If you think God exists, going to find a lot of reasons for why he exists.
In the social sciences:
- What kind of knowledge is appropriate to seek?
- How may we best seek it?
- 2 positions:
Positivism and Interpretation
- knowledge in the social sciences should be gathered in the same way as the natural sciences.
So science is the way that we should find out about people.
- Empirical (based on the senses) – have to be able to put it on a chart.
- There are social laws and principles just like natural ones. Would look like the law of
gravity except it would be for human beings.
- We can use deduction to find support for these laws.
- Less often, we can use induction to discover new laws
Ex. Comte’s Law of 3 stages All human societies go through 3 stages – theological,
metaphysical then the 3 positive stage – finally grown up, hit the enlightenment.
Thought that all societies would go through these stages in a progressive manner
Marx’s Historical Materialism – peoples relationship to material resources. As this
changes, society changes too. Also thought we would move through stages.
- social science can (and should be) value-free
Objectivity - people coming at same phenomenom from diff pts of view should be able to look at
the value and know what’s happening... or something.
Intersubjectivity - Between us, we agree
- Normative Statements are not scientific
Are certain acts or social conditions morally acceptable?
- place of religion or philosophy to say
- can’t be empirically tested
Can’t be empirically tested. Interpretivism
Studyiiing people and social life is fundamentally different than subject matter in the natural
- People act based on their own interpretations of the symbolic meaning of a situation
- Thomas’ theorem: Situations perceived as real become real in their consequences –
doesn’t matter what the situation is, just how we think and react to it. Fire alarm goes off
and people are screaming, we jump out window – we react to our perceptions not the
- Theorists – Mead, Weber – empathetic understanding and ‘symbolic interactionism’
Social scientists should be attempting to:
- understand the meaning people attach to their environment and their actions
- see things from the POV of the people involved
Ex. Goffman and ‘dramaturgy’ people have different roles – front stage, backstage. Way of
categorizing ppl based on the way ppl fill roles for themselves.
What is knowledge?
- positivism: explanation of social behaviour
- interpretivism: empathetic understanding (Verstehen) of social behaviour
Critique of Positivism
- can social science really discover social laws? Social sciences moving away from the idea that
social laws can be discovered. Most researchers more of a middle range.
- Can it be value free? Can you step out of your positions to ask scientific questions about social
life? A lot of scientists don’t think this is possible
- Is positivism still dominant in the natural sciences? That’s an I don’t know
Critique of Interpretivism
- social scientist’s interpretation of the actor’s interpretation
- The actors involved are subject to forces they don’t identify or know about – forces that we
don’t necessarily identify. Men don’t know gender forces but women more aware. People a lot
less aware of the social forces. Researcher has that knowledge, people being studied don’t
Ontology: what is the nature of being? Of reality? Of existence? WHAT IS SOCIAL REALITY
MADE OUT OF
In social sciences
- what is social reality? What is its nature
- 2 major debates
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SOCIAL REALITY WHAT WE MEAN IS SOCIAL FACTS. THE INSITIUTIONS OF SOCIETY – NORMS AND VALUES. SOME VALUES THAT ALL OF
- Do social phenomena have an objective reality dependent of our perceptions?
- is social reality merely a set of metal constructions? BASIC SOCIAL PHENOM. PPL HAVING
LUNCH IN RESTAURANT – SITTING TOGETHER AT SAME RESTAURANT. SAME WAITER,
FOOD, LISTENING TO SAME THING. YOU ARE PERCEIVING AN