Theoretical Approaches of the Social Sciences

PHILOSOPHY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE Theoretical approaches in the social sciences – for example, behaviorism, functionalism, hermeneutics – have a perspectival nature. Perspectives have their own way of describing social sciences and may be dangerous for any social institution (Blinov, 2010:21). Philosophy’s aim is to question beliefs and opinions in the social science disciplines but also these disciplines can be politically innocent and neutral institutions by not favouring any particular practices or results in group or individual perspectives (Blinov, 2010:6).

In sociology, many different points of view/theories exist (Sargent, 1996:xiv). Theories begin with efforts to resolve unresolved experiences by leading towards a commitment of self awareness to achieve change. All ideas and structures are subject to examination by the social sciences by being critical or sceptical of what is put in front us by praxis on the strengths or weakness of the event. Theoretical approaches are foundational in the sense that initial harmless perspectives can lead to reckless applications by a social scientist towards relativism in their search for the truth. A social science perspective is a system of descriptive terms which highlights some features which are especially likely to be useful in accomplishing the purposes of the social sciences”(Blinov, 2010:29). It is this general view on theoretical approaches that gives innumerable features to relationships people create with the world. A social science perspective classifies and can identify differences by categorising theoretical approaches or types sociologically. Perspectives in the social sciences are about the search for knowledge.

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Perspectives in the social sciences outline the potential harm that knowledge can carry and how knowledge can lead to destruction by discovering their own needs and interests by rational thought processes that are trying to justify beliefs in social science perspectivism claims and the struggle to do so. Perspectivism is the view that all knowledge is essentially perspectival in character. By this, knowledge claims and assessment take place within a framework (Fay, 1996). Social science is an objective phenomena because of internal and subjective opinions.

In some areas of social science, the description and explanation of theoretical approaches with perspective nature cannot be detached as they are influenced by set beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions, moral and political judgements. Approaches to different aspects do not necessarily become agreed upon because there is a never one valid point of view due to alternative topics presented. Theoretical frameworks help interpret society providing a basis for building fields in law, education, health and welfare for example.

In order to prevent social scientists from imposing their perspectives on the participant the use of flexibility and discretion must be maintained by setting limits on the perspectives actions. An ideology can be based on truth or fiction so it is essential that the favours of certain groups are perspectives involving the interests of that particular group in cognitive ways because of the persuasion of the validity of the truth (Sargent, 1996:28). Examples of perspectivism in the social sciences are behaviourism, functionalism, Marxism, Rational Choice Theory and hermeneutics.

Their purpose focuses attention on some features which can be very complicated psychically and/or socially. Each of the social sciences can be inexhaustible due to the numerous amounts of descriptions whether true or not because the principle does not end (Blinov, 2010:22). Selectivity gives a social science phenomena a noticeable difference to other features in order to be deceptive in appearance. The goal/purpose is reachable and adequate when items are grouped or classified (Blinov, 2010:23). Choices or conventional elements that help us decide the purpose when seeing what is or isn’t significant requiring discipline (Blinov, 2010:29).

The attention focused on is explained by the use of the terminology as to what the linguistics of the theory means (Blinov, 2010:30). A Social Science outsider perspective/s depends on values, concepts and techniques but do not have to be shared by social science alone because phenomenas can be viewed in different phenomena as to why it occurs (Blinov, 2010:1). Behaviourists claim the individuals actions reinforces the performance of those actions in their terms. Sociologically, Marxists claim the individuals are related by the different ways economically for production.

A conservative functionalist theoretical perspective entails the individual fault philosophy but is rejected by critical and feminist sociologist in their frameworks. Social Institutions are social practices that are regularly and continuously repeated, legitimised and maintained by social norms. Perspectivism in social science is the process of applying social scientific results to modify certain aspects of the society in question and/or of the individual’s life. Perspectives in the social science can inflict harm on the search for truth by the social science practitioners, audiences and non participants.

The possible harm that can be caused can be classified into varieties on the basis of the harm. There are three varieties possible harm. The first variety is harm for the internal goods of social science as a practice. Harm of this sort can be done in the process of doing social science, and harm done to the third party in the process of social science. The second variety is harm for the well being of the individuals who are not social science practitioners. In the search for knowledge, students may be influenced by the teachers of social sciences which may lead to harm in learning from institutions.

The final variety of harm is in the process of social scientific results to modify/influence the aspects of society in the individuals lives. It is important to note that whatever action the individual may take in their search for knowledge, there can be corruption through specialisation in certain areas and how selective they are in what they choose to use and influence other beliefs in society. Although according to Fred’s interpretation, the social sciences are politically innocent or neutral institutions in our society leaving practices and results not favouring any particular perspective (2010:6).

Perspectivism has four claims. Firstly, Phenomena can be described in innumerable ways in the search for the truth. Second, every particular description of phenomenon is selective, Thirdly, In determining how phenomena are to grouped or classified, we have to rely on conventions rather than the classifications directly presented from the phenomena themselves and Fourthly, the classification convention is best chosen depending on our purposes. Decisions made in regard to these conventions involve significant ideas of inexhaustibility of description, selectivity, conventionality and purpose relativity.

Perspectivism in Social Sciences has a possibility of being susceptible to harm. Perspectives can be described as having three varieties of power. The level of control is determined by the ability to do harm by exercising specific power over the interests of another party. Decisions are made sensitive to the facts and not to the attitudes or beliefs of the social scientists. Variety One is the harm for the internal goods of social science as a practice. Internal goods can be harmed in the process of social science such as social science research.

The internal goods at this stage do not have objective truths but has subjective truths present. Perspectives can be integrated and classified into schemes. This domain must always continue to search for the truth even if it’s not obvious by comparison when concerning the internal good. A philosopher will use his/her specialisation which is knowledge to be more objective in the process leading to conventional truths after being broken down. If the version of perspectivism is extreme, then internal goods can be harmed during the social science practice as it obstructs the search for the truth.

To fix this, all perspectives are not necessarily on par but can be better, deeper or progressive in their perspectives in their journey for the truth regardless of what their theoretical approach is based on. There are two versions of perspectivism in social science according to Luke. It is strong and weak perspectivism. Luke explains strong perspectivism as “the interpreters perspective cannot be divorced from the account he gives as cited in Dawson’s paper (1985:373).

Strong perspectives argue that conclusions are typically drawn about society as incommensurable. Strong perspectivism can have implications for social theory. Perspectives when placed together can support each other by determining arguments both for and against as evidence of the theory with or without commitment. But when there is no reason to compare the pairs, incommensurable or not then there is no consequence for questioning the perspective. These theories need to have feasible reason to be compared in order for it to make sense in a rational way.

If the concept is one of a perspective related nature, then it is at risk of being essentially contested making it clear that it is a rational contested concept that accepts or rejects procedures (Dawson, 1985:375). Weak perspectivism is referred to as an interpretation and explanation that must make reference to the actor’s perspectives . Weak perspectives are observed opinions that are interpreted and explained in relation to a social action in accordance with the performers’ concepts and criteria leading to harm by misinterpretation affirming its weakness.

Principles can be interpreted by analysing its weak perspectives (Dawson, 1985:376). The observer searches for an alternative explanation to the event allowing the participant to reflect on the events experience because of the search for the possible truth (Dawson, 1985:377). Luke explains there are three ways to interpret this. First, the sociological account of the event cannot be true unless the reasons are confined to the event participant. Second, the sociological account of the event has reasons that are volunteered or accepted by the event participant are introduced by a social scientist.

Thirdly, the sociological account of the event allows for the reasons to be intelligible to the participant and accepted. The perspectives weakness is shown as untenable due to the restricting explanations and conditions for the truth as sufficient but cannot be expected as a methodological principle by an observer due to the inconsistencies that offer little protection for the participant. For example A can exercise power over B by making decisions in observable conflicts which harm B’s interests, suppresses conflicts or imposes a consensus as different people hold different powers.

Luke argues beliefs and motives are presumed to the imputed than investigated when rational and firm expectation theory are used by seeking the greatest possible output from a given input of resources (Dawson, 1985:380). Rational expectations theory has agents making use of the available information such as in regard to government and economics. Both Strong and Weak perspectivism doctrines depending on interpretation are either inconsistent with the objectivity of the social sciences but can be false or true but consistent with the objectivity of the social sciences (Dawson, 1985:380).

The remedy is to notice that the mature science perspectives are just theories which entail a connection of terms and can be equally important in the quest for the truth in the social sciences but also can be threatened in the process. The nation state can be controlled through force or by ideology also referred to as hegemony. Hegemony is an ideology where there is some form of control over groups of people or political, intellectual and moral leadership over allied groups (Gramsci, A, 1971 as cited in Sargent, 1996:29).

Both of these theories can evolve over time and constantly change due to the influence of the social scientists opening up the potential for harm to practices and institutions. Praxis is a theoretical approach that tests theory out in practice by developing intellectual ideas. It helps achieve and discover the perspectival nature of the social structure. Implications for the social sciences and the theoretical approaches associated with perspectivism show the potential for change through critical evaluations on ideas and structures subject to examination by the social ciences but can also be influenced or harmed by power. Behaviourism or behaviorism is a theory of learning perspective based on the idea that all behaviours are acquired through conditioning. Behaviourism looks at the relationship features of its perspectives and their purposes in the world. Controversially, the perspective stems from the idea that a science of behaviour is possible due to the questioning of behaviour being free or determined in the search for truth.

Attention is placed on the effects of an individual’s actions in reinforcing the performance of those actions. Behaviorism offers an alternative view that often runs counter to traditional thinking about action, because traditional views have been unscientific. Philosophy reasons from assumptions to conclusions. Scientific truths are susceptible to being disconfirmed from new observations from outsiders. Thoughts were no longer hypothetical assumptions but were now natural phenomenas and psychology began to be known as “the science of the mind (reference unknown)”.

Behaviorism influenced Functionalism in regard to new strains of functionalism to rectify difficulties, respectivity, of empirical of logical behaviourism whilst retaining important insights of the theories (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Rational Choice Theory terminology focuses on how complex social phenomena can be. This phenomenon can be the outcome of calculative, self interested individual action. Rational Choice Theory links a series of actions/approaches together as part of a strategy and describes the actions as satisfying (Fay, 1996:74).

Descriptions classify the phenomena as being more useful than what other conventions might be. Kuhn (1996) argues “the challenge is not to uncover the unknown but to obtain the known”. Scientists will use their paradigm to seek evidence to confirm observable facts awaiting classification but can also reflect other sets of ideas or interests in their search for knowledge and innovation. Perspectivism sees social scientists as never viewing reality directly as it is but rather from their own slant with their own assumptions and preconceptions.

These preconceptions were originally from the positivist view emphasising observation techniques. The science then sorts facts and classified and not just gather the facts. The chosen facts are selected due to being in possession of their principles that are required to sort the final judgement. The facts are usually what had happened or what exists brought together by building blocks of vocabulary. The theories of the facts are then less likely to be contested. Scientists are then able to provide a more sophisticated and precise terminology than a basic concept would normally identify.

The audience can then be seen as passive users of knowledge and not selective users of knowledge. According to Fay (1996:75), assumptions and concepts have two basic claims. Firstly the concept has commitments to provide guidance in theory development. It claims the process indicates what can and cannot be changed as modifications and developments in a conceptual environment. And secondly, any scientific theory has commitments to basic concepts because they provide the material in which all the information and theories are formulated.

Perspectivism claims without organising a conceptual scheme no intellectual activity can occur even if it is as simple as a description (Fay, 1996:74). It is within these theoretical networks we can see individual theories where basic concepts and assumptions lie. It is this network that scientists see conceptual schemes providing the framework for scientific thinking to occur in. For relativism to be true in one conceptual scheme then the other conceptual scheme does not have to be true in that particular framework scheme.

Perspectivism shows that knowledge itself would be impossible without basic presuppositions leads most social scientists to question positivists ideals that knowledge only reflects what is there and contributes nothing has seen the theoretical networks involving knowledge to become active contributors to social science today. Perspectivism can be defined as a linguistic and conceptual framework in which the social scientists live and operate. From this perspectivism can gain power from Relativism.

Fay (1996:77) describes Relativism as either experience or reality that is a function of a particular conceptual scheme. This occurs because the way we interpret our experiences in different parts of the world are different because of the way different descriptions and explanations shape our conceptions in certain schemes. Knowledge in the social sciences is not powerful because it is true; it seems powerful because it is true due to the methods that the supporters use to promote it (Bilton, Bonnet, Jones, Lawson, Skinner, Stanworth and Webster, 2002).

Whorf (1954) as cited in Fay, B (1996) in his studies towards the search for the truth and implications found perceptions and senses operate differently in different linguistic groups. Experiences in these groups are the truth because they are unique to the group as epistemological relativism claims because they belong to a particular conceptual scheme. Bruhl (1931) backs up Whorf cited in Fay, B (1996) by linking any theoretical network principle is derived from another conceptual scheme but there is a condition present.

This condition is that the principle/s accepted must have empirical beliefs to be accepted. Ontological relativism examines conceptual schemes within a particular scientific world. When combined, epistemological and ontological relativism become incommensurable due to the differences in translation of the conceptual schemes and the sense of reality found whilst social scientists search for the truth. Relativism highlights the radical differences in framework environment but the picture presented because certain paradigms cannot be translated into another framework without compromising cognitive merits.

In order for a paradigm to be questioned then the competing framework must carry the same sort of cognition and if this was to continue then error can occur because the translations are not operating within the same conceptual scheme because a general agreement has not been reached even though all cognitive activity occurs and operates within a conceptual framework whilst searching for the truth and differences. Claims of differences by a social scientist as incommensurable allows incoherency. The disagreement is radical but presupposes a fundamental agreement and understanding amongst others.

Different cultures do not live in a different world but might be living differently in the same world (Fay, 1996:90). Institutions in society branch together because theories require many disciplines by selecting, keeping, changing or throwing away assumptions found in their search for the truth. The social sciences are constantly developing and any changes need to directed towards both sexes. The search for knowledge is always limited by our previous interpretations. This knowledge has been continued to be used in both natural and social sciences.

Implications on scientific methods shows truth and knowledge is coherent within its own world. What participants discover in science is not directly observed data. Participants use indirect perceptions to shape the previous knowledge, attitudes and knowledge already acquired. The scientific method procedure cannot yield certain knowledge as it comes from a part of the particular culture of science. A feminist observer stands outside the objectives of scientific research in seeking change. Scientists have many theoretical frameworks when scientific revolution or a change of ideology occurs that can promote certain interests of sociology.

Any complex system no matter its design or engineering is not fail proof and is therefore a major implication for the social sciences in their search for the truth. Perspectives based on mere conventions are open to obstructions are shown to be harmful to theoretical approaches today and into the future. REFERENCES Bilton, T, Bonnett, K, Jones, P, Lawson, T, Skinner, D, Stanworth, M and Webster,A, 2002. Introductory Sociology, 4th Edition. Palgrave Macmillian Publishing. Blinov, A, 2010. PHIL 323 UNIT NOTES, Philosophy of Social Science. University of New England, Semester 1, 2010.

Blinov, A, 2010. PHIL 323 LECTURE NOTES, Philosophy of Social Science. University of New England, Semester 1, 2010. Dawson, Graham, Philosophy, Vol 60, No 233 (July 1985), p 373- 380. Accessed from J Stor. Fay, Brian, 1996. Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science. A Multicultural Approach: Do People in Different Cultures Live in Different Worlds? Chapter 4 p 72-91. Blackwell Publishing. Accessed from J Stor. Functionalism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed on 21 April 2010 from http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/functionalism/ Levy Bruhl, 1931. Page 21.

Reference unknown as cited in “Do people in different cultures live in different worlds”? Sargent, Margaret, 1996. The New Sociology for Australians. 3rd Edition of Sociology for Australians. Longman Publishing. What is Behaviorism? An introduction to Behaviorism. About. com. Psychology. Accessed on 21 April 2010 from http://psychology. about. com/od/behavioralpsychology/f/behaviorism. html. Whorf, Benjamin, 1954. Source unknown. As cited in “Do people in Different Cultures Live in Different Worlds”? ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Unit Notes 2010. Hard Copy [ 2 ].

Ibid. [ 3 ]. Ibid. [ 4 ]. S. Lukes, ‘Relativism in its Place’, Rationality and Relativism, M. Hollis and S. Lukes (eds) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982). [ 5 ]. Ibid. [ 6 ]. Unit Notes 2010. Hard Copy [ 7 ]. Ibid. [ 8 ]. Ibid. [ 9 ]. Ibid. [ 10 ]. Ibid. [ 11 ]. S. Lukes, Power (London: Macmillan, 1974). [ 12 ]. S. Lukes, ‘Relativism in its Place’, Rationality and Relativism, M. Hollis and S. Lukes (eds) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982) [ 13 ]. Ibid. [ 14 ]. S. Lukes, ‘Relativism in its Place’, Rationality and Relativism, M. Hollis and S. Lukes (eds) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982).


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