Early Origins of the Social Sciences

Early Origins of the Social Sciences

Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Early Origins of the Social Sciences
    Book Description:

    Against these contentions she shows, for example, that women social thinkers have been active in every age since the sixteenth century. McDonald presents these women's work as evidence of the way in which the empirical social sciences have been employed by social reformers, including advocates for the equality of women, to challenge the state and those in authority. She argues as well that Weber's "interpretative sociology" has been misinterpreted, citing his extensive, but usually ignored, quantitative work. Despite the supposed opposition of interpretative and mainstream sociology, McDonald maintains that many of the founders of the discipline explored both.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6432-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
    Lynn McDonald
  4. 1 Methodological Debate in the Social Sciences
    (pp. 3-18)

    The social sciences are far older and wiser than we give them credit for being. While histories commonly date them to the nineteenth century, with precursors in the eighteenth, the basic elements can be seen as far back as the fifth century B.C. Fragments from the sixth century B.C. show the germ of certain of those ideas in the notions of regularities, laws of nature, probability, and convention. Contrary to popular belief the social sciences are at least as old as the natural sciences. The two grew up side by side; the same people often pursued interests in both. The...

  5. 2 The Ancient Origins of the Social Sciences
    (pp. 19-73)

    Most of the history of the social sciences consists of variations on themes developed in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The sixth century B.C. has left only rough, fragmented hints, but they are enough to indicate that the basic notions of social convention, causal relations, and hypothetical knowledge had already been formulated. By the fifth century B.C. there was a fairly sophisticated understanding of many methodological issues.⁵ The earliest surviving book of social science,The Peloponnesian Wars, dates from this time. The attack on materialism and scepticism resulted in what we can now see as the beginning of the...

  6. 3 Empiricism and Scepticism Recovered
    (pp. 74-144)

    Medieval Europe experienced technological innovation, economic growth, some development in natural science, but scarcely any in the social sciences. The Greek schools had all disappeared, the Roman libraries had been sacked. Knowledge of Greek was lost, so that those manuscripts that survived in monasteries could not be read. The reigning social theory was Augustinian, which permitted no place to either social convention or scepticism. Revealed truth, certified by ecclesiastical authority, replaced the former, a firm certainty the latter. Neo-Platonic mysticism infused the whole. Alchemy and astrology spread.

    The recovery of the ancient Greek schools was slow and gradual. In the...

  7. 4 The French Enlightenment
    (pp. 145-195)

    Advances in learning in eighteenth-century France were as great as those anywhere in the world; still, that this period should be called the Enlightenment never ceases to amaze. The eighteenth century was an age of great economic expansion, colonizing, and war. There were achievements in architecture, music, and the arts generally. New schools, academies, and research institutes were created; old ones expanded. Scholarly publications in books and journals increased enormously. The fame of the salons attests to the respect intellectual life acquired in this period. Important methodological advances were made, but in my view they were no greater than those...

  8. 5 From Moral Philosophy to the Quantum of Happiness
    (pp. 196-239)

    For many scholars the eighteenth century was the age of Hume. Leslie Stephen credited him with marking the great turning point of thought, the definite abandonment of the philosophical conceptions of the seventeenth century. Yet, if Hume was free of theological prepossessions, few of his contemporaries were, and eighteenth-century methodologists include Presbyterian divines, Unitarian ministers, and the founder of Methodism. Hume’s contribution was prodigious, but I would still stress the continuities with the seventeenth century. The same Leslie Stephen, after all, called Locke the “intellectual ruler” of the eighteenth century.⁵

    There was an enormous output of substantive work in Britain...

  9. 6 Sociology: Mainstream, Marxist, and Weberian
    (pp. 240-312)

    After the French Revolution came the Terror; after the Terror, Napoleon and the Napoleonic wars. For most of Europe the early part of the nineteenth century was a time of great misery. Invasion, occupation, and continuing industrialization and urbanization created brutal conditions.Laissez-faireeconomics prevailed. There was scant public protection for the poor against any kind of economic calamity. According to Malthus and the “political economists” intervention would not help in any event. When Marx and Engels began to write the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. The lot of the poor did begin to improve at mid-century,...

  10. 7 Revisiting the Critiques of Methodology
    (pp. 313-322)

    Before revisiting the critique of empiricism in the social sciences that prompted this study we will briefly tour developments in methodology in the mid to late twentieth century. I have argued from the outset that the foundations of social science methodology are ancient indeed. Nineteenthcentury theorists built on them, and although this book ends with Weber, the sheer scale of work in recent decades deserves mention. Prodigious work has been done in both the empiricist and idealist traditions, and increasing specialization by academic discipline now complicates matters. Idealism has been characterized by a rejection of unity in method; the cultural...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 323-348)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 349-384)
  13. Index
    (pp. 385-397)