Lecture 002

Anomaly: systematic difference with the accepted theory

Reading 1

Social Science

Reading 2

Philosophy: answer questions that science can't answer Social Science

Question: if philosophy is controversial, is it doing any better than social science?

How successful have economists been in predicting when a major recession will occur and how deep that recession will be?

Are theories from sociology used successfully to explain and predict the formation of urban criminal gangs?

Is there a generally accepted explanation for racial discrimination in the human species?


  1. Rom Harre's view on nature of social science and value of social science

  2. nature: hard to exclude biases (we live in society), can't do controlled experiments, often over-generalization

  3. value: great value since we want social good

  4. Do social science fail at explain/predict as physical? (Rosenberg's opinion about success/failure of social/physical, explanation) social science is slow, and discovery is speeding up

  5. First of all social science fail at explaining social phenomena. Alex Rosenberg, in except "Why a Philosophy of Social Science?" mentioned that there isn't an agreement in social science about the general methodology scientists should use to study a social phenomena. Based on this evidence, it is safe to assume that different school of social scientists have different ways to explain the same observation. This failure to communicate on the same topic will lead to failure to make a consensus explanation about social phenomena. In contrast, as Alex Rosenberg mentioned, there exists such consensus about methodology in physical science. (p2~3) Such consensus can lead to better explaining power in physical science.

  6. Secondly, social science also fail at predicting a social phenomena. As physical science are making great machines and aircraft by manipulating the natural phenomena using physical scientists' accurate prediction about the nature, there are little evidence that social scientists are benefiting the world in the extends that physical scientists do. (page4) Therefore, social science failed to predict, and therefore failed to control, our society.

consensus: social science has little, no benchmark theory progress: extend to benefit society answerable: if a question is unanswerable, then failure to answer a question is fine since answer shifts as time pass

I think there is a failure: - If a science don't progress, it fails! - Because there is potentially no progress can be made due to different schools of social science that have different methodologies

  1. Does the passage suggest social science's lacks of consistent (methodologies)?

  2. not necessarily

    • two study focuses variables on different time after exposure of minority
    • two study focuses variables on different amount of exposure of minority
    • of course they can make different prediction
  3. however, their title may overgeneralizing the result of their findings

    • they subconsciously assume that the behavior is linear -> whether or not
  4. How do you predict your friends

  5. I don't predict based on desires, beliefs, and action. Since desires is hard to measure, beliefs can be personal, action can be trivial.

  6. I predict by

    • history (what they did can be a great prediction of what they will do)
    • monetary value (unbiased) -> like game theory

Context play a big role in predicting (environment)

  1. belief, desires, action are best categories

  2. no. because these terms are highly subjective and undefined.

  3. alternative: SAT Score, ACT Score... because they are relatively standard and objective measure of human success

Angela Ren:

consider Phrenology, it was regarded as a progressive/ accurate scientific explanation for human nature, but turned out it was not. To a degree it was progress back in that days but it also induced many problems, disasters even. Same dilemmas reappear over and over, e.g. the ethical debate on genetic modified children
A example of progress in social science: gender study is now a major in many universities, I do believe it helped society therefore progress
Looking retrospectively there might be progression and regression in a school of science, but if you observe in present time it might become real ambiguous. Not so different in my opinion

Science has a general methodology


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