Empiricism According to Some Social Scientists Term Paper

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According to some social scientists, empiricism is the only truly scientific basis for social science research. This assertion is made with the purpose of understanding that empiricism does not rely on reason as its guiding principle but instead relies upon direct observation of phenomena as it occurs in nature. Some argue that the natural sciences and the social sciences are distinctly different, in content and therefore require differing scientific theories to develop realistic concepts to explain phenomena, while others argue that the natural laws, can be applied to both the social and natural worlds, and therefore such discovery cannot be eliminated as "unscientific."

One of the foundational members of the empiricist school of though was Hume, who argued that one cannot derive cause and effect from an understanding of natural laws, or from observing an object without watching it in action. To Hume the object and its effect are separate and mutually exclusive, and it was not until one observed the object in action that one was able to derive its effects.

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But to convince us that all the laws of nature, and all the operations of bodies without exception, are known only by experience, the following reflections may, perhaps, suffice. Were any object presented to us, and were we required to pronounce concerning the effect, which will result from it, without consulting past observation; after what manner, I beseech you, must the mind proceed in this operation? It must invent or imagine some event, which it ascribes to the object as its effect; and it is plain that this invention must be entirely arbitrary. The mind can never possibly find the effect in the supposed cause, by the most accurate scrutiny and examination. For the effect is totally different from the cause, and consequently can never be discovered in it.

This work will establish a clear understanding of empiricism, as it compares to naturalism as a theoretical principle of scientific discovery.

Term Paper on Empiricism According to Some Social Scientists, Empiricism Assignment

Naturalism in comparison to empiricism contends that the ideas one has within their innate and learned repituar, i.e. theories can be utilized to allow the scientist to see the nature of an object and/or phenomena and that such knowledge is not based upon observation alone to do so and this can be applied to both the natural and social aspects of science. Bhaskar, contends that the sciences have been split for some time with regard to ideals of what is and is not "scientific" and the two camps, according to Bhaskar are the naturalist camp and the empiricist camp. Kuhn in fact agrees and contends through his work that the nature of this conflict has divided the sciences, and made science a construction of linear discoveries that demonstrate the current body of knowledge. He also points out that the natural sciences and the social sciences have been split by the argument, in that the natural sciences are looking at objects and observational events while the social sciences are seeking to understand a more complicated dynamic.

Empiricism Compared

Empiricism grew out of the idea that scientific theory must be developed within the context of observation and that without such observation no assumptions can be made with regard to the reality of the phenomena. Observation, without interference, of the whole external object is essential to understanding the development of causation. Direct observation of social phenomena is also possible, for those who believe that empiricism is the only real way to conduct science. "Now, 'toy' models appear not to be rooted in empiricism; appear not to involve the events of sense experience; and appear not to involve constant conjunctions of events. "

Empiricism contends that no research intervention is needed or possible to elicit results that are scientific. To most social scientist there is a difficulty associated with observation of social phenomena as, many argue that just the simple act of observation becomes and actor on the events that take place between people or groups of people, and removing this influence is far more difficult in such as setting, than it is in the context of a lab controlled experiment on an intimate object causing phenomena. One of the main conflicts then arises out of the content and differences between sociology and natural scientific endeavors, as the content of the science must dominate the manner in which it is studied. According to Bhaskar, "...there are significant differences in these methods, grounded in real differences in their subject-matters and in the relationships in which their sciences stand to them." The empiricist would argue that the development of science through observation can be applied to social science as well as natural science as all phenomena are observable and can therefore be quantified through such observation. From this theory have arisen several theories that both support and expound on this idea. Positivism is one of these theories. Positivism argues that for research to be scientific it must not only be empirical but it must be primary and positively associated with strict scientific methodology. Logical positivism, by comparison is the assertion that both empirical evidence and rational thought, not derived from empirical evidence can be combined to create a complete picture of natural and social phenomena and therefore can be utilized to develop "scientific" theory about either sociology or natural science.

As with most scientific theorization, all the definitive terms can be taken forward through additional works to discern even more sublime ideas about theory and application, making it exceedingly difficult to develop a clear understanding of the essential tradition of any given theory and how it relates to application today. Each subsequent theorists adds to the bulk of understanding and assertions based on his or her own observations and thoughts on the theory, which can leave an individual seeking understanding about such theories in a position of needing to associate each term with the theorist associated with its contextual definition. Keat & Urry in Sociology as Science for example helped to develop the idea of logical positivism, as a manner in which the incorporation of empirical data and natural laws can be linked to create a fuller understanding, as long as such natural laws were proven and therefore can be used as predictable associations to events that are being observed. A concept which will be discussed more thoroughly later in this work.

Metatheoretical Realism a Contrary Concept

Additionally, the development of theories that gravitate toward specific social discovery, also occurred. The best example of just such an event is the development of Metatheoretical Realism and its application to international politics. Marx, Lenin and Luxemburg all develop view in this line, in direct opposition to empiricism. Metatheoretical realism is a theory that applies the concept of the mechanism of the whole entity, as the source of causal relationships, and that the observer could also be an actor in the process of change. Application to social as well as natural subject mater is possible if you broaden the scope of the mechanism. In regard to how it was applied to international politics and nationhood, the idea being that the individual parts of the mechanism seek out power and/or security rather than nationalism or any other ideal.

Logical Positivism

So then, empiricism moves into logical positivism, a conglomerate theory that answers many of the questions regarding how theory can be applied to both natural and social science research. The method becomes the theory, as logical positivism demonstrates that known social realities can be predicted and repeated in certain circumstances, and that empirical observational data can be added to this base of knowledge to develop a more complete picture of social causation. Logical positivism, demonstrates that social phenomena cannot clearly be understood when taken away from itself, to create a lab style empirical observation data set without having some effect on the developed evidence. This effect, then can become part of the experiment, as the "law" of social phenomena or the researcher can then do everything in their power to remove such biases, as they are later called from the research results by attempting to eliminate, reduce or at least disclose the social "laws" that can be predicted to affect the results.

Interpretivism and Constructivism

Interpretivism is decidedly an oppositional approach to "scientific" and empirical exploration. The theorists who have attempted to further this idea are rather insistent that empirical data has no real relation to social construct.

These theorists claim that social science is predictable only in a circumstance outside of science, i.e. In interpretation, through knowledgeable and individualistic explanation of observed social phenomena. Though not to be confused with empiricism, in this case observed has a much simpler definition.

Interpretivism thus shifts our emphasis from expertise to narratives and dialogue. We explain events and processes by ascribing beliefs and desires to actors so as to construct a narrative that locates what we want to explain in its contingent context. And we judge the potential effects of a policy by entering a dialogue with the targets of that policy - a dialogue in which they reveal… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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