Realism and empirical reasoning

How should a realist think about confirmation of hypotheses and theories about real social structures and properties? Here is what the Ur-realist Roy Bhaskar has to say about the object of scientific knowledge in his approach in A Realist Theory of Science: [CR] regards the objects of knowledge as the structures and mechanisms that generate …

Globalization and the planetary knowledge business

  It is a commonplace that modern social and economic systems are intensely knowledge-based, and that the centers of knowledge production are no longer exclusively located in the industrialized north and west. Further, anyone who follows a Twitter feed knows that knowledge centers around the world are connected at the speed of light (more or …

Philosophy of social science and the graduate student

Is there any reason to think that a course in philosophy of social science can be helpful for a graduate student in sociology or political science (or education, public health, or public policy)? Is this part of philosophy a useful contribution to a PhD education in the social sciences? I think there are several reasons …

John Levi Martin on theory

I've found the work of John Levi Martin to be particularly original when it comes to rethinking some of the basis assumptions of sociological theory. (Here are a few earlier posts on his work; link, link. John also provided a guest post here.) So I was pleased to receive a copy of his most recent …

Interests, influence and knowledge

  Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams, and Nicholas Confessore have just published a major story in the New York Times on the topic of foreign influence on major think tanks (link), and through the think tanks, on American policy. It is a fascinating and important case study, and it deserves a broad and careful reading. Here is …

ANT and the philosophy of social science

What does Actor-Network Theory have to add to the kinds of issues in the foundations of the social sciences that are of interest here? ANT is primarily associated with Bruno Latour (Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts), John Law, and Manuel DeLanda (A New Philosophy of Society: …

How do the poles of current PSS interact?

An earlier post offered a diagram of current topics in the philosophy of social science. The three poles of this diagram were analytical sociology, critical realism, and actor-network theory. Here I would like to look more closely at how these polar perspectives interact with each other. To start, it is clear that these three beacons …

New philosophy of social science

The philosophy of social science is a living field with several distinct areas of growth and dozens of talented young contributors bringing fresh ideas and rigorous thinking. (Here are a number of earlier posts documenting this activity; link, link, link, link.) It sometimes happens in a field of philosophy that a period of involution sets in, …

What kind of realist?

I've always felt that scientific realism is almost self-evidently true. Scientific theories and hypotheses put forward ideas that go beyond the evidence of direct experience. They postulate the existence of entities and forces that cannot be directly observed but whose effects can be teased out through the assumptions we have made about their characteristics. And …

Structural realism and social realities?

The topic of realism has come up frequently here -- causal realism, critical realism, scientific realism. Each of these realisms comes out of somewhat different fields of questions and assumptions. Within mainstream philosophy of science there is another realism that has been debated in the past twenty years, referred to as structural realism. The view …

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