Social science

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[T]here is no such thing, strictly speaking, as social science; there is only economic science, which studies the natural organism of society and shows how this organism functions.
Gustave de Molinari

Social science is an academic discipline concerned with society and the relationships among individuals within a society. It includes anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology.


  • The restriction of rationality to the use of means … entails that the other aspect of the practical problematic, the realm of ends, falls prey to pure decisionism, the whim of mere decisions not reflected upon by reason. The decisionism of unreflected, arbitrary decisions in the realm of practice corresponds to the positivism implied by the restriction to pure value-free theories.
    • Hans Albert, “The Myth of Total Reason,” The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology (1969), p. 165
  • Social science and humanities … have a mutual contempt for one another, the former looking down on the latter as unscientific, the latter regarding the former as philistine. … The difference comes down to the fact that social science really wants to be predictive, meaning that man is predictable, while the humanities say that he is not.
    • Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), p. 357
  • What must be acknowledged, for example the prevalence of anxiety, is grafted onto man’s essence as if it grew there. Such is the tried and tested method of the apologist: what is social in origin is presented as natural.
  • There are two ways of considering society.  According to some, the development of human associations is not subject to providential, unchangeable laws.  Rather, these associations, having originally been organized in a purely artificial manner by primeval legislators, can later be modified or remade by other legislators, in step with the progress of social science.  In this system the government plays a preeminent role, because it is upon it, the custodian of the principle of authority, that the daily task of modifying and remaking society devolves.

    According to others, on the contrary, society is a purely natural fact.  Like the earth on which it stands, society moves in accordance with general, preexisting laws.  In this system, there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as social science; there is only economic science, which studies the natural organism of society and shows how this organism functions.

  • Critical (i.e., separating) methods apply only to the world-as-nature. It would be easier to break up a theme of Beethoven with dissecting knife or acid than to break up the soul by methods of abstract thought. Nature-knowledge and man-knowledge have neither ways nor aims in common.
    • Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West, Volume 1, C. Atkinson, trans., p. 300
  • If we see [our lives] from the outside, as the influence and popular dissemination of the social sciences and psychiatry has persuaded more and more people to do, we view ourselves as instances of generalities, and in so doing become profoundly and painfully alienated from our own experience and our humanity.
    • Susan Sontag, “On Style,” Against Interpretation, p. 29
  • The great shift … is the movement away from the value-laden languages of … the “humanities,” and toward the ostensibly value-neutral languages of the “sciences.” This attempt to escape from, or to deny, valuation is … especially important in psychology … and the so-called social sciences. Indeed, one could go so far as to say that the specialized languages of these disciplines serve virtually no other purpose than to conceal valuation behind an ostensibly scientific and therefore nonvaluational semantic screen.
  • Social science means inventing a certain brand of human we can understand.
    • Nassim N. Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010), p. 95
  • The Scientistic sociologist wishes people to feel that he is just as empirical and thoroughgoing as the natural scientist, and that his conclusions are based just as relentlessly on observed data. The desire to present this kind of façade accounts, one may suspect, for the many examples and the extensive use of statistical tables found in the works of some of them. It has been said of certain novelists that they create settings having such a wealth of realistic detail that the reader assumes that the plot which is to follow will be equally realistic, when this may be far from the case. What happens is that the novelist disarms the reader with the realism of his setting in order that he may “get away with murder” in his plot. The persuasiveness of the scene is thus counted on to spill over into the action of the story. In like manner, when a treatise on social science is filled with this kind of data, the realism of the latter can influence our acceptance of the thesis, which may, on scrutiny, rest on very dubious constructs.
    • Richard Weaver, “Concealed Rhetoric in Scientistic Sociology,” Language is Sermonic (1970), pp. 148-149

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