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 Confronting Evil in History (2022), A New Social Ontology of Government (2020), 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.

Visit Dan Little’s research website and bio at danlittle.org.

Daniel Little

University of Michigan, USA


LinkedIn profile

One Reply to “About”

  1. I just came across your site while looking into the work of Wan Yu-ze (Poe), and I have explored it a little (and intend to come back) mostly because your approach reflects what seems to me to be a wise combination of concern with the epistemological questions (e.g., what constitutes good social science?) on the one hand and empirical, useful analysis of real life in the human community on the other. So thanks, and keep up the good work.

    (Actually I like your site so well that I plan to make use of some of your design principles in creating my own blog in the next few days. So thanks in that context too.) You can see the results at http://www.jnewcomerphd.com, which will be my personal site, or at http://www.stretchingbiology.org, which will hold my blog, which will explore the ecology of a world-wide scale-free information network consisting of national and multinational organizations and whether imposing that model/metaphore on the world yields useful predictions. Your comments would be valuable – after I have gotten started.

    Jim Newcomer, Ph.D
    Portland, Oregon

    PS – 我也是老中国通, 原来是美国外交官。


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