Science, positivism and social inquiry



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SCIENCE, POSITIVISM AND SOCIAL INQUIRY

  • Gurminder K Bhambra

MODULE OUTLINE - 2013/14

  • Week
  • Topics
  • Lecturer
  • 2
  • Science, Positivism and Social Inquiry
  • GKB
  • 3
  • Interpretation & Realism
  • GKB
  • 4
  • Values, Validity and Ideal Types
  • GKB
  • 5
  • Standpoint Epistemology: Marxist & Feminist
  • GKB
  • 6
  • Postcolonial Epistemologies
  • GKB
  • 7
  • The Mobilities Turn
  • NG
  • 8
  • Social Science in Crisis?
  • NG
  • 9
  • DTC Conference - Nottingham
  • 10
  • Live Methods
  • NG

CONTACT DETAILS

  • Convenor, Lecturer / Seminar Tutor
    • Professor Gurminder K Bhambra
    • Sociology, R2.35, Ramphal
    • g.k.bhambra@warwick.ac.uk
    • Office Hours: Weds, 10-11am or by appointment
  • Lecturer / Seminar Tutor
    • Professor Nicholas Gane
    • Sociology, R3.15, Ramphal
    • n.gane@warwick.ac.uk
    • Office Hours: Tues, 4-5pm or by appointment

ASSESSMENT

  • Final essay, 3000 words due in week 1 of the spring term
    • Tuesday 7th January 2014, by 2pm
    • E-submission – a link will be available on the module website
  • Essay Question:
    • Discuss the strengths and limitations of the epistemological framework underpinning your planned research.
    • Or, you can choose your own question, but this must be agreed with your seminar tutor by week 8 at the latest.

WHAT THE MODULE IS ABOUT…

  • How do we know what we claim to know?
  • How can we justify what we claim to know to others?
  • This gives rise to questions about features of the world that make our knowledge of it possible, but also potentially fallible.
  • How do we explain how knowledge is produced?
  • How do we explain erroneous beliefs and how do we know that they are erroneous?

WHAT IS SCIENCE?

  • These issues are connected to the emergence of science and its self-understanding
    • It is a product of strict ‘norms’ – method
    • It is secured by institutions that reinforce these norms – universities, research laboratories, peer-review journals.
  • Science is presented as rising above particular contexts (universality), but has a history, which, insofar as it involves changing ideas, must also be a history of error and correcting error.

WHAT IS SCIENCE?

  • The possibility of ‘objectivity’ in circumstances of possible ‘subjective bias’
  • Knowledge vs. Belief
  • What counts as evidence?
  • How is evidence produced?
  • Theory-independent observation?
  • Falsification
    • Naïve
    • As process
  • Role of anomalies

SCIENCE AND SOCIAL INQUIRY

  • Science is a social activity, which implies human beings are of nature and distinct from it, capable of acting in relation to it and ‘misrepresenting it’.
  • Representing nature and representing society may be different activities.
    • Natural science might be thought of as a human activity accounting for a reality external to that activity
    • Social inquiry is more problematic. It is an activity accounting for human activities of which it is a part.
  • What does this mean?....

SOCIAL INQUIRY

  • Debates on the nature of social inquiry are implicated with debates on natural science.
  • Consequences ...
    • Pluralism of positions and conflicting ontological claims about the (true) nature of natural and social worlds.
    • Pluralism of positions and conflicting epistemological claims about how these natural and social worlds can be represented in knowledge.
    • These differences more pronounced in social inquiry

SOCIAL INQUIRY

  • Generalities/ regularities:
    • ‘Structures’ – these are frequently taken-for-granted or routinised.
    • ‘Cultures’ – humans are social beings and their behaviours are reinforced by groups and the meanings that inform their interactions.
  • Unique events and ‘unintended consequences’:
    • Emphasis on ‘particularities’ and case study approaches.
  • Unlikely that social inquiry wouldn’t address objects of inquiry that involved a mix of structural and cultural regularities and unique case-specific events.


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