Wittgenstein on the science of psychology

Wittgenstein’s comments about the science of psychology have some resonance with the current state of the social sciences:

“The confusion and barrenness of psychology is not to be explained by calling it a “young science”; its state is not comparable with that of physics, for instance, in its beginnings… For in psychology there are experimental methods and conceptual confusion… The existence of the experimental method makes us think we have the means of solving the problems which trouble us; though problem and method pass one another by” (Ludwig Wittgenstein,

Philosophical Investigations

, 1968, II xiv, 232e).

We need a philosophy of social science because the methods, concepts, and framing theories of the social sciences are not yet adequate. We haven’t yet fully thought through what the central challenges of social inquiry are, and how to think about “the social” as a field of study.

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