Understanding Society is an academic blog by Daniel Little that explores a series of topics in the philosophy of social science and the workings of the social world. Published continuously since 2007, the blog has treated a wide range of topics, from the nature of causal mechanisms to the idea of emergence to the political dynamics of right-wing extremism to the causes of large-scale technological disaster. Readers should consider the blog an example of “open-source philosophy”. It is an experiment in thinking, one idea at a time.
Daniel Little is a philosopher of social science with an extensive interest in Asia. He has written books on social explanation, Marx, late Imperial China, the philosophy of history, and the ethics of economic development. Little has come to see that understanding social processes is in many ways more difficult than understanding the natural world. Social phenomena are heterogeneous, plastic, and contingent, and understanding the social world requires a plurality of methods and theories. Little’s philosophy of social science proceeds on the assumption that philosophers need to interact seriously and extensively with working social researchers and theorists if they are to be able to achieve a better understanding of the social world.
Little is the author of a number of books, including New Directions in the Philosophy of Social Science (2016), New Contributions to the Philosophy of History (2010), and The Paradox of Wealth and Poverty (2003), as well numerous journal articles and book chapters. His books are listed on the “Books” tab above and research articles are listed on the “Research Papers and Presentations” tab. Little has also conducted a series of video interviews with talented social scientists which can be found on the “Interviews” tab. This interview in 5 Questions: Philosophy of the Social Sciences, edited by Diego Rios and Christoph Schmidt-Petri, describes Little’s approach to the philosophy of social science.
University of Michigan, USA