Philosophy of Science


The philosophy of social science is a field of study that seeks to examine the foundational principles that underlie social scientific research. It is concerned with questions about the nature of social phenomena, the relationship between the natural and social sciences, and the ethical and political implications of social science research. In the field of social science philosophy, experts conduct research on both the actual application of social science practices and the inherent attributes of the subjects that social science researchers focus on, specifically, human beings.

Over the course of its development, the discipline of social science philosophy has witnessed numerous scholars engage in a discussion about the core issue of whether social sciences are "scientific" as natural sciences if they relied solely on empirical methods and refrained from making value judgments. The points of contention were whether social sciences required a distinct methodology or whether they could adopt the approach of natural sciences.

Critics argued that the social sciences were fundamentally different and required their methods. Social sciences were no longer just an afterthought of natural sciences and began to explore a different model of explanation that included the interpretation of social events by the participants not reducing social phenomena to natural science.

Human behaviour-Meaning and Causes

In social science, meaning interpretation is an essential aspect. According to Heinrich Rickert and Wilhelm Dilthey, social phenomena result from the intentional behavior of conscious beings who assimilate cultural values and practices. They believe that, unlike animal behavior, human behavior is self-evidently meaningful and expresses intention, frequently following rules that define their nature. Thus, social science involves interpreting the meanings of human actions, and these actions are often rule-bound and intentional.

Human Behaviour

These two individuals interpreted the meaning of the action of waving goodbye

The study of the hermeneutics of human social life was emphasized. Hermeneutics is a philosophical approach that emphasizes the importance of understanding the meanings and intentions behind human behavior. According to this approach, empirical observation alone is insufficient to fully comprehend human behavior and deeper interpretation is required to uncover its underlying significance. Philosophers who adopt this approach emphasize that meaning, rather than cause, and understanding, rather than explanation, are important in studying human behavior. However, there are different views on what interpreting meaning entails.

Phenomenology is a philosophical branch that emphasizes the subjective experience of human behavior. It proposes that human behavior is not solely shaped by external factors such as social norms and cultural values, but also by internal factors such as consciousness and perception. Human beings should not be studied in the same manner as the biological world is studied. Instead, the human consciousness must be uncovered, and how they are expressed and demonstrated by human relations and actions. This approach involves exploring feelings such as empathy to understand the subjective experiences of individuals.

Social science- nature of theory

Social scientists study the structures and resources that support society, as well as the intentions and meanings associated with behavior. They use causal explanations and theories to understand social life beyond just the meaning of behavior. Some social scientists believe that causality in the social sciences is in contrast to the natural sciences, while others try to combine both approaches for a more complete understanding of social phenomena.

Competence theories in social science posit that human behavior is rooted in principles of rationality and internalized rules or systems. These theories aim to understand how an ideal actor, who is perfectly rational and has fully internalized the relevant rules, would behave in different situations. For instance, one could examine how students behave in classrooms by exploring the principles of rationality and rules governing classroom behavior.

The social sciences theories vary from natural sciences where they are focused on comprehending human behavior, and humans have their own theories about their own and others' activities. This can be called the agents' self-understanding or ideology. The role of agents' ideology in social-scientific theories is significant, but it raises questions about how it relates to the theoretical constructs proposed by social-scientific observers. This tension is an important aspect of social science and is addressed by the concept of critique

Social science- Function of critique

Social science can involve critique because individuals' self-understandings may be mistaken. Their self-characterizations of motivations, emotions, and beliefs may be influenced by ideologies or irrationalities, which can result in ignorance or self-deception. This can create difficulties in understanding and explaining their behavior and relationships. To examine the correctness and rationality of individuals who study core self-understandings, social scientists must participate in ideology criticism, explain any errors, and recommend strategies to remedy them.

Deconstruction is a type of critique used in social sciences, developed by Jacques Derrida and inspired by postmodernism. It reveals hidden aspects of entities, such as categories or social orders, that contradict their apparent nature. This approach can be used to show other oppositions, such as white versus black. Deconstruction can call into doubt social science's integrity, and social scientists should be vigilant not to impose their perspectives on others. The nature and circumstances of objectivity are therefore fundamental concerns in social science philosophy.


The philosophy of social science presents a number of critical issues about the nature of social phenomena, the link between the natural and social sciences, and the ethical and political consequences of social science research. By engaging with these questions, social scientists can gain a deeper understanding of the strengths and limitations of different philosophical approaches to social science and can work to produce research that is both rigorous and socially useful.


Q1. Who founded the process of phenomenology?

Ans. In the early twentieth century, German philosopher Edmund Husserl developed the phenomenological movement.

Q2. Which disciplines are included in the philosophy of social science?

Ans. Economics, political science, anthropology, and sociology are all included in the philosophy of social science, as are linguistics, archaeology, etc.

Q3. What is the origin of the word ‘Hermeneutics’?

Ans. Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word “hermeneuein”, which originated from the Greek name for the deity Hermes, who delivered messages from the other gods.

Updated on: 17-Mar-2023


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