2nd Edition

Philosophy of Social Science A Contemporary Introduction

By Mark Risjord Copyright 2023
    336 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    336 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Philosophy of Social Science: A Contemporary Introduction examines perennial questions of philosophy through engaging the empirical study of society. Questions of normativity concern the place of values in social scientific inquiry. Questions of naturalism concern the relationship between the natural and the social sciences.  And questions of reductionism ask how social institutions relate to the people who constitute them. 

    This accessible text offers a comprehensive overview of debates in the field, with special attention to new research programs. Topics include the relationship of social policy to social science, interpretive research, cognitive and evolutionary explanations, intentional action explanation, rational choice theory, conventions and social norms, joint intentionality, causal inference, and experimentation. 

    Detailed examples of social scientific research motivate the philosophical questions and illustrate the important concepts. Treating philosophical commitments as implicit in social science, students of the social sciences will benefit from its application of philosophical argument to methodological and theoretical problems. The text argues that social science transforms philosophical questions, and students of philosophy will benefit from its direct engagement with contemporary debates.

    The Second Edition provides updates with the most recent literature and adds two new chapters: one on modeling and one on the role of race and gender in the social sciences.

    Key Updates to the Second Edition:

    • A new chapter on "Modeling and Explaining," which explores how models represent social systems and whether highly idealized models explain
    • A new chapter on "Race and Other Social Constructions," capturing much of the recent empirical research and philosophical interest in the social construction of categories like race and gender
    • Revised and updated chapters throughout, clarifying earlier presentations and bringing discussions from the First Edition into line with new research
    • Updated annotated Further Reading lists, which now include relevant publications from 2013 to 2022.

    1. Introduction
    1.1. What is the Philosophy of Social Science?
    1.2. A Tour of the Philosophical Neighborhood

    2. Objectivity, Values, and the Possibility of a Social Science
    2.1. The Ideal of Value-Freedom
    2.2. Impartiality and Theory Choice
    2.3. Essentially Contested Ideas
    2.4. Wrap Up

    3. Theories, Interpretations, and Concepts
    3.1. Aggression, Violence, and Video Games
    3.2. Defining Theoretical concepts
    3.3. Interpretivism
    3.4. Wrap Up

    4. Interpretive Methodology
    4.1. Evidence for Interpretation
    4.2. Rationality, Explanation, and Interpretive Charity
    4.3. Cognition, Evolution, and Interpretation
    4.4. Wrap Up

    5. Action and Agency
    5.1. Explaining Action
    5.2. The Games People Play
    5.3. Agency
    5.4. Wrap Up

    6. Modeling and Explaining
    6.1. Modeling Segregation
    6.2. Learning From Models
    6.3. The Explanation Paradox
    6.4. Wrap Up

    7. Reductionism: Structures, Agents, and Evolution
    7.1. Explaining Revolutions
    7.2. Social Theory and Social Ontology
    7.3. Agents and Social Explanations
    7.4. Evolutionary Explanations
    7.5. Wrap Up

    8. Race and Other Social Constructions
    8.1. Race in the Social Sciences: A Brief History
    8.2. Reductionism and the Social Construction of Race
    8.3. Is Race Real? From Social Construction to Social Kinds
    8.4. Wrap Up

    9. Social Norms
    9.1. Disenchanting the Social World
    9.2. Norms and Rational Choices
    9.3. Normativity and Practice
    9.4. Is Unification Possible?
    9.5. Wrap Up

    10. Intentions, Institutions, and Collective Action
    10.1. Agency and Collective Intentionality
    10.2. Joint Intentionality
    10.3. Intentions and Institutions
    10.4. Wrap Up

    11. Causality and Law in the Social World
    11.1. The Democratic Peace Hypothesis
    11.2. Are There Social Scientific Laws?
    11.3. Causation and Law
    11.4. Interventions, Capacities, and Mechanisms
    11.5. Wrap Up

    12. Methodologies of Causal Inference
    12.1. Bayesian Networks and Causal Modeling
    12.2. Case Studies and Causal Structure
    12.3. Experimentation
    12.4. Extrapolation and Social Engineering
    12.5. Wrap Up


    Mark Risjord is Professor of Philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, where he was awarded the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award, and he has served as the Masse-Martin/NEH Distinguished Teaching Chair.