This site addresses a series of topics in the philosophy of social science. What is involved in “understanding society”? The blog is an experiment in thinking, one idea at a time. Look at it as a dynamic web-based monograph on the philosophy of social science and some foundational issues about the nature of the social world. The blog began in November 2007, and now includes over 850 posts on a wide range of topics.
I am a philosopher of social science with a strong interest in Asia. I have written books on social explanation, Marx, late imperial China, the philosophy of history, and the ethics of economic development. Topics having to do with racial justice in the United States have become increasingly important to me in recent years. All these topics involve the complexities of social life and social change. I have come to see that understanding social processes is in many ways more difficult than understanding the natural world. Take the traditional dichotomy between structure and agency as an example. It turns out that social actions and social structures are reciprocal and inseparable. As Marx believed, “people make their own histories, but not in circumstances of their own choosing.” So we cannot draw a sharp separation between social structure and social agency. I think philosophers need to interact seriously and extensively with working social researchers and theorists if they are to be able to help achieve a better understanding the social world.