Social Inquiry After Wittgenstein and Kuhn

Social Inquiry After Wittgenstein and Kuhn: Leaving Everything as It Is

John G. Gunnell
Copyright Date: 2014
DOI: 10.7312/gunn16940
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Social Inquiry After Wittgenstein and Kuhn
    Book Description:

    A distinctive feature of Ludwig Wittgenstein's work after 1930 was his turn to a conception of philosophy as a form of social inquiry, John G. Gunnell argues, and Thomas Kuhn's approach to the philosophy of science exemplified this conception. In this book, Gunnell shows how these philosophers address foundational issues in the social and human sciences, particularly the vision of social inquiry as an interpretive endeavor and the distinctive cognitive and practical relationship between social inquiry and its subject matter.

    Gunnell speaks directly to philosophers and practitioners of the social and human sciences. He tackles the demarcation between natural and social science; the nature of social phenomena; the concept and method of interpretation; the relationship between language and thought; the problem of knowledge of other minds; and the character of descriptive and normative judgments about practices that are the object of inquiry. Though Wittgenstein and Kuhn are often criticized as initiating a modern descent into relativism, this book shows that the true effect of their work was to undermine the basic assumptions of contemporary social and human science practice. It also problematized the authority of philosophy and other forms of social inquiry to specify the criteria for judging such matters as truth and justice. When Wittgenstein stated that "philosophy leaves everything as it is," he did not mean that philosophy would be left as it was or that philosophy would have no impact on what it studied, but rather that the activity of inquiry did not, simply by virtue of its performance, transform the object of inquiry.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53834-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    WHEN PETER WINCH PUBLISHED hisIdea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy(1958), his argument, at least implicitly, was not simply that Wittgenstein’sPhilosophical Investigationsis a significant guide for thinking about the nature of social science, but that there is a basic logical, epistemological, and theoretical symmetry between philosophy and social inquiry. In chapter 2, I reconstruct Winch’s argument in detail, but there are grounds for a stronger thesis. A close examination of Wittgenstein’s work after 1930 suggests that part of the alteration in his vision of philosophy was to conceive of philosophy itself as a...

    (pp. 13-34)

    AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY on November 15, 2010, the filmmaker Errol Morris presented a lecture titled “The Ashtray.” Morris had been the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant and had made impressive investigative documentaries, which included theGates of Heaven(1978), which dealt with the business of pet cemeteries;The Thin Blue Line(1988), which succeeded in exonerating a man who had been sentenced to die; andThe Fog of War(2003), which focused on Robert McNamara and the deceptions involved in the Vietnam War. Morris continued to pursue a variety of such projects, and his recent book,A Wilderness of...

    (pp. 35-64)

    ALTHOUGH THERE IS REASON TO CONCLUDE that in many respects Wittgenstein quite gradually but explicitly rejected much of the conception of, and approach to, philosophy that characterized theTractatus Logico-Philosophicus, there has been considerable controversy about the exact character and degree of change and continuity. I will say more about that shift in chapter 7, but a significant aspect of what he referred to as “turning our whole inquiry around” (PI, 108) was what, in effect, wasa conception of philosophy as a form of social inquiry. This involved avoiding what he repeatedly stressed as the mistake of projecting the...

    (pp. 65-94)

    MUCH OF THE SCHOLARSHIP in the human sciences remains predicated on the basic premises of what may be termed “folk psychology,” that is, the assumption that language and action are expressions of ontologically prior and qualitatively distinct mental states involving intentions, purposes, motives, beliefs, and so on. The prevalence of this assumption should not be surprising, because it not only corresponds to our common-sense attitude but is reinforced by various philosophical persuasions. Humans say and do things that only seem explicable by reference to a mental state or process that, it seems, must reside somewhere, which is often referred to...

    (pp. 95-128)

    WITTGENSTEIN WAS NOT talking about language and meaning in any narrow sense but rather in terms of the conventions involved in all human actions and activities. In the preface, he noted that he had made “grave mistakes” in his earlier work and had considered republishing theTractatusalong with theInvestigationsin order to demonstrate the “contrast.” A significant element of this contrast was a much broader view of language in the later work, which in part was the result of his conversations with Frank Ramsey and P. Straffa. The work was the “precipitate of philosophical investigations [Philosophischer Untersuchungen] into...

    (pp. 129-160)

    The intricacies of the use of mental terms that Wittgenstein probed might seem too precious for social scientists to confront, but his remarks relate to conceptual entanglements in which the language of these fields is deeply involved. After theInvestigations, much of his work continued to be devoted to elaborating his basic claims about meaning, interpretation, and the character of mental concepts. This included an analysis of the concept of emotion and an emphasis on emotions as discursive phenomena peculiar to creatures that can “talk” and have “mastered a language” and participate in the “pattern” of meaning that constitutes “the...

  11. 6 INTERPRETING SCIENCE: Kuhn as a Social Theorist
    (pp. 161-198)

    ALTHOUGH KUHN’SStructure of Scientific Revolutionshas been justly interpreted as a challenge to the logical positivist/empiricist philosophy of science, his critique of what he referred to as “the image of science by which we are now possessed” was less that account of scientific explanation itself than its reflection in popular views of science and particularly, by the 1950s, its residue in the self-image and aspirations of the social sciences. In the last major interview before his death, he acknowledged that at the point that he wroteStructurehe was not well read in logical empiricism and that “it was...

  12. 7 WITTGENSTEIN ON THE MOON: Certainty, Truth, & Value
    (pp. 199-232)

    The reason that so many commentators still believe that the work of Wittgenstein and Kuhn inhibits inquiry is because these commentators are, for various reasons, in search of certainty. But this is not simply the certainty that scientists profess regarding the results of their research, the certainty that religious advocates proclaim, the certainty of the values and ideologies pursued by political actors, or the vast number of certainties in terms of which we conduct our daily lives. The worries about certainty as a general proposition arise from within philosophy and its search for a form of certainty that both exceeds...

  13. References
    (pp. 233-242)
  14. Index
    (pp. 243-256)