Why are tastes and aversions beyond rational control?

Rational choice theory is a powerful foundation for thinking about social behavior (at least in its moderate versions). People have beliefs and goals; they survey the environment of choice and they arrive at actions that are intelligently related to the achievement of their goals.However, as an exclusive, abstract description of human behavior, rational choice theory …

Basis for the social science disciplines

Is there a reason or rationale underlying the scope and methods of the social science disciplines? Or is the current division of the subject matter arbitrary and contingent on accidents in the history of thought (as perhaps Michel Foucault believes in The Archeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language)?There are abbreviated definitions of the …

Are social facts reducible to something?

What is the relationship between facts about society and facts about individuals? Reducibility means that the statements of one scientific discipline should be logically deducible from the truths of some other "more fundamental" discipline. It is sometimes maintained that the truths of chemistry ought in principle be derivable from those of quantum mechanics. A field …

How does transportation function as a mid-range social cause?

Transportation systems function to move people, goods, and ideas. Rail systems, road networks, airline systems, and water transport provide links between places that permit more reliable and low-cost movement of people and goods from point to point than previously available. The history of transportation is simultaneously a history of technology change, population movement, colonialism, economic …

Varieties of social causation

What are some chief mechanisms through which social behavior is shaped and social outcomes are caused? Ideally the best answer to this question would result from a survey or inventory of many explanations. But consider some high level possibilities that could serve as a causal mechanism bringing about a social phenomenon of interest.Selection mechanisms. Why …

A simple sociology

What is involved in providing a scientific study of society--a scientific sociology? Several features of science are crucial. Scientific claims are intended to be true and rationally supportable. Scientific knowledge is based on empirical research and rigorous reasoning. Science provides a basis for explaining the phenomena it considers. And science depends upon the idea of …

Are there historical structures?

The French Revolution began in 1789. It was caused by conflict between the aristocracy and the monarchy. Eventually it developed into violent conflict in every region of France. It created more lasting change in French society than did the Russian Revolution. These statements purport to refer to an extended but unified historical thing, the French …

The heterogeneous social: institutions

Populations and groups are inherently diverse; virtually any property that might be attached to an individual shows variance across the group. So we have to pay special attention to specifying what we mean when we ask for a "measurement" of a property of a group. This is the basic ontological fact that undergirds a critical …

The heterogeneous social: groups

A social whole -- the city of Chicago, for example -- is a densely various empirical reality. At virtually every level of scale there is variance with respect to social characteristics -- income, health status, ethnic or social identity, political adherence and preference, age, race, or occupation. Neighborhoods differ from each other -- but equally, …

Social knowledge: measurement of properties in diverse groups

When we gain knowledge about silver, DNA, or cholera, we can study virtually any samples of the item and arrive at a description of its properties and causal powers, and this description will correspond accurately to other instances as well. We learn about the type by learning about the individuals, and we don't have to …

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