Ten paper topics in philosophy and history framed by ChatGPT

An earlier post considered the question of how to assess the quality of ChatGPT as an academic writer. One particular concern shared by professors in humanities and social sciences is whether ChatGPT will lead to "AI-plagiarism" in which students substitute ChatGPT sessions for their own work. This particular worry seems unjustified at present, but there …

ChatGPT as an academic writer

I've taken the view that the hoopla about ChatGPT is overblown, and that the texts generated by large language models in response to "prompts" are nothing more than strings of sentences, without coherent meaning. But now that I've spent an evening playing with the tool, my opinion is changed. I'm frankly amazed at how informative …

Guest post: Varieties of realism by Jamie Morgan

[Jamie Morgan accepted my invitation to contribute a guest post to Understanding Society on the topic of the varieties of realism in the philosophy of social science. Jamie is Professor of Economic Sociology at Leeds Beckett University. He co-edits the Real-World Economics Review with Edward Fullbrook. He has published widely in the fields of economics, …

Lies and myths in the social world

An earlier post mentioned the topic of folk psychology and its relation to cognitive science. Scholars like Paul Churchland question whether there is a realistic correspondence between the properties identified by our folk-psychological understanding of each other and the real underlying cognitive processes on the basis of which we operate. My interest here is a parallel question for social …

Frameworks and stereotypes

It is evident that we approach the social world, and specific social settings, with a body of "framework" assumptions about what is going on, and how we should behave. Here is how I put the point in an earlier post: It seems clear that human beings bring specific frameworks of thought, ideas, emotions, and valuations …

Journal of Critical Realism CFP on Judgemental Rationality

Roy Bhaskar is best known for his ideas about social ontology. However, he also had a substantial interest in "the epistemology of social science" -- the means through which social scientists provide their theories with rational credibility. The Journal of Critical Realism is planning a special issue on the key concept that Bhaskar introduced in this area, …

Reasoning for sociological theory

What is involved in providing a compelling and justified formulation of an abstract theoretical concept in sociological theory? When we engage in theorizing about human action and the social world, we would like our statements to be rationally grounded in some specifiable sense; we would like to be able to offer evidence and reasons for …

Twitter’s unacceptable hidden defect

image: github analysis of Twitter follower network (link) Twitter's paroxysms in the past two weeks have been unsettling. But suddenly, I am coming to believe that many of us have misunderstood what we were getting into when we got involved in Twitter in the first place. We had made assumptions about the advantages that Twitter …

Critical realism and ontological individualism

Most critical realists would probably think that their philosophy of social science is flatly opposed to ontological individualism. However, I think that this opposition is unwarranted. Let's begin by formulating a clear idea of ontological individualism. This is the view that social entities, powers, and conditions are all constituted by the actions, thoughts, and mental …

Scientific rationality and anomaly

Some discussion of the empirical status of social science theories and hypotheses in the past has revolved around Karl Popper's formulation of the doctrine of falsifiability. However, this criticism is almost always misplaced in the context of the social sciences. This is true for several reasons: sociologists rarely offer unified deductive theories of social phenomena; …

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