The analytical rules of the Method in Social Sciences (VII) Epilogue. The possibility of a science naturalistic social

The argument that we have developed in these pages is based on the assumption that the social sciences are, can be, indeed, a science. To be more precise, the project of a description and a rational explanation of the social reality is possible and valid. In other words, that it is possible for an approximation of naturalistic social: the social life is a reality like any other, and therefore can be analyzed with an empirical approach, systematic, and try to explain and not just describe.

A statement such as the above will be highly criticized given that forget about essential features of social life which make it unfeasible to use the approach above: the social life clearly is not a reality as other and requires an approach specific and very different to that of the natural sciences[1].

Despite the above, it is important to note that there are elements of this project naturalist who themselves are part of the consensus in the social sciences. In the natural sciences an approximation of naturalistic involved maintain that one can describe reality without the need of factors extra-natural, which could not be observed (or not had consequences on what we can observe): let’s Say, that can explain the nature from the nature, without the use of extraneous elements: does Not explain the rain from the rain god. In social sciences there is a similar situation, not with supernatural beings, but with ‘people’ supernatural: the explanation of the great men, whether the explanation of the birth of agriculture, the discovery of the fire from the great heroes of civilization, or the explanation of social processes from the actions of specific people and special. The idea of social science is that social processes can be explained from regularities in these processes, requiring no special forces. This is not to deny the importance of individual actors, but that their actions occur within a social fabric. This conviction is an essential part of representing an approximation of a naturalist, and is in fact a belief of the ancient, prior to the development of the modern social sciences: When Polybius was trying to explain why the roman republic had been able to conquer all of the mediterranean basin, his explanation (in the sixth book of his history) is based on the idea that it is in the features of the structure of roman politics that we must seek the explanation. In regard to the rejection of the explanation by big men and the idea that we need to focus on the social process, the project naturalist can ask is common to these disciplines.

However, beyond the foregoing, is a project highly criticized. It is possible to argue that a social science of the way before indicated is no more than an imitation of the physical. An imitation even more inadequate as it is based on models of science the sociology of science has shown does not correspond to the reality of the science. Can also be planned that the entire project in the social sciences that try to approach naturalizante is impossible, because to forget the fact that the social subjects are reflective and, in general, given that the social sciences are part of the social reality, it is society studying society, then there can be applied methods are generalists or mainly explanatory: you can Not make a general theory of marriage given that the concept of marriage is something that is generated by the social actors themselves, and any statement about it depends on the concepts of the actor –is the argument of Giddens, for example. Even more, it can be argued that any approach naturalistic is a way of avoiding a critical approach, making the status quo appear as natural and necessary. The ‘naturalization of the social’ would imply a forgetfulness of the basic features of the social life: human beings construct the social order through their actions.

The critique that an approach naturalizante means to imitate physical, which is not possible in social science is invalid: There are many disciplines of the natural sciences, which do not mimic the physical and do not therefore cease to make an approximation of naturalistic phenomena. What we are not capable of experimental methods? There are many disciplines that are based more on the observation. What we can not make a mathematical description? Biology for a long time to work without those tools, without ceasing to be a natural science. What we cannot develop universal laws formal? The chemical also works in the mode of creation of universal laws. None of these features defines the approximation naturalist. What defines it is simply the belief that we can describe a reality clearly, systematically and orderly, but the results are replicable[2].

The criticism that an approximation of naturalistic demand the use of general statements that you forget the character is reflective of the social life is inadequate in terms of its amplitude. In addition, the fact that sociology is society studying society does not imply anything special: The physical is a matter investigating matter, biology, life researching life. None of those things has been an obstacle to develop such science, I don’t see that you should be especially in the case of sociology. The fact that it is true that what happens in the society is dependent on the concepts of the subject, or who the actors are, finally, also theoretical, social, and that his theories constitute what social does not change the situation. One can continue to develop a science of explanation and generalizante. The theory of Giddens, so critical to that idea, is full of arguments explaining and generalizantes: The idea that the security ontology is essential to construct social order (Giddens, 1984) does not depend for its validity on the knowledge of the actors nor loses if the actors know it. If the actors knew they’d change their actions, but would use that assertion as the basis of it. The same is valid for the idea of the theorem of the duality of structure whose validity is independent of the subject. Even, it would still be valid if the subject would take for real and use it in your life. In other words, I can build a set of statements valid for all subjects reflective as described by Giddens.

In relation to the possibility of criticism and to avoid the ‘naturalization of the social’ also does not appear as very strong. Starting, to describe a reality in a certain way does not imply to evaluate it in a certain way, with Hume, one can remember that there is no way to pass the ‘be’ to ‘should be’. The convictions criticisms need not be affected by the fact of maintaining a general knowledge naturalist. It can be seen that the problem is not the above but rather the fact that thinking about a social reality as something given, something that cannot be altered, it prevents the think of the change as possible: If the reality is so, then perhaps we can maintain that it is a reality that deserves criticism, but we could not demand its modification. However, An approximation of naturalistic does not imply to raise a ‘naturalization of the social’ or to establish the form that currently takes the social life is the only way possible -in fact, to realize that there have been multiple ways of structuring the social life is one of the basic facts that these disciplines analyzed. What arises is that not every combination of features is possible. And in natural science the knowledge of these imposibuilidades has increased our capacity to do things: it is Precisely because not everything is possible is that you can build tools for change. In the same way, one could also argue that knowing the rules universal in the social world (for example the need for security, ontological) would allow us to increase our capacity to generate changes (knowing that if we want to make such a change we must maintain the security ontology, otherwise it will not work). Knowing that not everything is possible allows us to increase the field of what is possible.

Beyond the specific criticisms that we have mentioned, we can show that the rules of the method that we have outlined in this text allow us to show that it is possible for the project of a science naturalist of the social that recognizes the specific characteristics of the social world. The above stated rules –the players have equal abilities, the actions have meaning, actions have consequences, what we want to study are the networks that generate social interactions – these are the rules that are born of specific features of the social world and that allow us to generate a science that tries to explain the social world.


[1] The issue is not that the social sciences do not require methods of analysis and specific techniques. In the end, every discipline does it, and does not use the same approaches of analysis in biology than in physics (or in chemistry). The issue is whether these differences warrant an approach radically different, that cannot be equated to the use of specific tools.

[2] on the other hand, it is common in the social sciences argue that the findings of the sociology of science show that the natural sciences and in particular physics, are not as objective, rigorous or ‘real’, but that they themselves are affected by social factors. The physical does not comply with the alleged requirements of scientificity, and, in the background, it operates in the same way that the social sciences. This is an old feature, it is a matter of remembering some of the reactions to the notion of paradigm Kuhn in the social sciences.

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