Towards a rational philosophy of the social sciences: Interpretivism and the rationality of other cultures

Yoshida, Kei.   York University (Canada) ProQuest Dissertations & Theses,  2005. NR11645.

Abstract (summary)

The main thrust of this dissertation is to make a critique of interpretivism by scrutinizing five different advocates of it and their solutions to the problem of how social scientists can/should describe and explain other cultures or their aspects under concepts of rationality. The five advocates are Peter Winch, Charles Taylor, Clifford Geertz, Marshall Sahlins, and Gananath Obeyesekere.

In my view, none of the interpretivists discussed in this dissertation provides a cogent solution to the problem of rationality. There are two main problems with interpretivism. First, interpretivists exaggerate the differences between the social/cultural and the natural, and hence they also exaggerate the differences between the social and the natural sciences. Second, the interpretivists ignore important social science problems where internal perspectives are unenlightening, particularly outcomes due to the unintended consequences of agents' actions. This can be seen in their disregard of social institutions. What social scientists need to do is not simply to interpret or understand symbolic systems or agents' intentions, but to explain the role of social institutions where individuals act and behave.

The root of these problems is that the interpretivists are still entangled in positivism. They claim that the social sciences are different from the natural sciences and thus reject the unity of method. However, such a claim suggests that they tacitly accept the positivist view of natural science, arguably a caricature of natural science. In this regard, they are not so different from positivist social scientists who accept the same mistaken image of natural science. The only difference between them is whether they accept or reject the positivist view of science as a model for the social sciences. We need to overcome the mistaken positivist image of science and to develop and elaborate a philosophy of the social sciences which is more rational than either positivism or interpretivism as a shadow of positivism.

Indexing (details)

0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Charles Taylor; Clifford Geertz; Cultures; Gananath Obeyesekere; Geertz, Clifford; Interpretivism; Marshall Sahlins; Obeyesekere, Gananath; Peter Winch; Philosophy; Rational; Sahlins, Marshall; Social sciences; Taylor, Charles; Winch, Peter
Towards a rational philosophy of the social sciences: Interpretivism and the rationality of other cultures
Yoshida, Kei
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Degree date
School code
DAI-A 67/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
York University (Canada)
University location
Canada -- Ontario, CA
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
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