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Mitchell, Sandra, , . Complexity and explanation in the social sciences
2009, Mitchell, Sandra. “Complexity and explanation in the social sciences.” Chrysostomos Mantzavinos (Hg.), Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Philosophical Theory and Scientific Practice, Cambridge (2009): 130-145.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Abstract: To answer Condorcet, in this chapter I will investigate what it is about the social world that makes the universal, exceptionless generalizations that are heralded as the foundation of knowledge of the physical world so elusive. I am not going to rehearse all the arguments for and against the possibility of laws in the social realm. What I aim to do is not to take either side of the debate, that is, not to say – “YES! Social science does have laws just like physics (or close enough any-way)” or “NO! Social science can never have laws like those of physics; knowledge of the social has a wholly different character.” Rather I will suggest replacing the standard conception of laws that structure the debate with a more spacious conceptual framework that not only illuminates what it is about knowledge of the social that is similar to knowledge of the physical, but also explains what is so different in the two scientific endeavors.

Comment: When studying the philosophy of the social sciences, the nature of explanation and the role of laws in explanation are important issues. This text provides a valuable argument on this topic, provides an example of how philosophy of biology is relevant to the social sciences, and brings in some other useful philosophical concepts.

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