A.HUANG SOCB05: LOGIC OF SOCIAL INQUIRY NOTES
Chapter 1: Human Inquiry and Science
- Most of what you know is a matter of agreement and belief. Little is based on personal
experience and discovery. The basis of knowledge is agreement
Looking for Reality
- Science offers an approach to both agreement reality and experiential reality.
- In general, a scientific assertion must have both logical and empirical support: It must make
sense and not contradict actual observation.
- Epistemology is the science of knowing; methodology (a subfield of epistemology) might be
called the science of finding out.
LOOKING FOR REALITY
Ordinary Human Inquiry
- Humans seem predisposed to predict their future circumstances using causal and probabilistic
reasoning. We generally recognize that future circumstances are caused or conditioned by present ones
and that such patterns of cause and effect are probabilistic in nature. In that, the effects occur more
often when the causes occur than when they don‘t—but not always. Ex: Studying and good marks
- Once we can understand why things are related to one another and why certain patterns occur,
we can predict better than through simply observing and figuring out.
- Agreement reality both assists and hinders our attempts to find out for ourselves; consider two
important sources of our secondhand knowledge—tradition and authority
- Each of us inherits a culture made up, in part, of firmly accepted knowledge about the world
- Advantage of tradition and by accepting everybody knows, we are spared from searching from
- At the same time, tradition may hinder human inquiry. Normally, many don‘t seek a fresh
understanding of something everybody already agrees upon, or they may be looked at as
- Often, acceptance of new knowledge will depend on the status of the discoverer.
- Authority can both assist and hinder human inquiry: We trust the judgment of the person who
has special training, expertise, and credentials for a given matter but we are also hindered by
that same reason if they were to err in their field
- Inquiry is also hindered when we depend on authority of experts speaking outside of their
Errors in Inquiry and Some Solutions
- Lets look at some common errors we make in our casual inquiries and how science can guard
- Inaccurate Observations
oWe frequently make mistakes in our observations. Most of our daily observations are casual
and semi-conscious, that‘s why we often disagree about what really happened. A.HUANG SOCB05: LOGIC OF SOCIAL INQUIRY NOTES
oIn contrast, scientific observation is a conscious activity.
oIn many cases, simple and complex measurement devices help guard against inaccurate
observations. Ex. Taking colour photos of instructor‘s attire.
oWhen we look for patterns in what we observe, we often assume that a few similar events are
evidence of a general pattern – We over-generalize on the basis of limited observations.
oScientists guard against this by committing themselves in advance to a sufficiently large and
representative sample of observations