1. LibGuides: online library support and resources for your subject 1 item
  2. Reading 5 items
    1. The construction of social reality - John R. Searle 1995

      Book  Searle is a leading contemporary philosopher, and this book is a superb example of clear, rigorous, analytic reflection on, and analysis of, the nature of social phenomena. It also provides lucid accounts of age-old philosophical questions on epistemology, ontology, objectivity, subjectivity, realism, truth, and individualism versus holism. It is beautifully written and entertainingly presented, and should be readable for non-philosophers.

    2. Making the Social World - John Searle 2010

      Book  Slightly revised and refined version of The Construction of Social Reality with addition of chapters on free will, power, rights

    3. Idea of a Social Science : And its Relation to Philosophy - Peter Winch 2002

      Book  Written from a very different point of view, and in a different way to Searle’s. It addresses the same topic – the nature of social phenomena - but has much more to say than does Searle about how, given the nature of social phenomena, social life should be studied. It is a very short book, carrying a highly controversial attack on the conventional ‘Idea’ of social science.

    4. The idea of a social science and its relation to philosophy - Peter Winch 1958

      Book  1st edition

    5. The social construction of what? - Ian Hacking 1999

      Book  Also written for the non-philosopher. A systematic investigation into the currently popular notion of ‘social construction’. It has chapters on the ‘social construction’ of such things as scientific knowledge, weapons technology, gender, mental illness, child abuse, race, amongst others

  3. 1. Introduction: What is Philosophy of Social Science? 3 items
    Reflections on the nature of the topic philosophy of social science and its relation to philosophy of (non-social) science. II: Central modalities of philosophical inquiry: epistemology, ontology, metaphysics, empirical versus conceptual analysis.
    1. Reading: 3 items
      1. What is this thing called science?: an assessment of the nature and status of science and its methods - A.F Chalmers 1978

        Book  For those interested in philosophy of science (which won’t directly feature much in remainder of module).If you can get it, the first edition is best

      2. 'The Post-Positivist Dispute in Social Studies of Science and its Bearing on Social Theory' [in] Theory, Culture & Society - Nigel Pleasants 1997

        Article  For an overview of post-empiricist philosophy of natural and social science

      3. 'A Philosophy for the Social Sciences: Realism, Pragmatism, or Neither?' [in] Foundations of Science - Nigel Pleasants 2003

        Article  Some reflections on what a philosophy of social science aims to do, and two contrasting approaches

  4. 2. Philosophical ‘Elevator’ Concepts 13 items
    Introduction to, and overview of, some basic philosophical analysis on the core concepts and distinctions that often evince controversy in philosophy of social science, social science inquiry, and everyday debate: objectivity and subjectivity, truth and fact.
    1. Reading: 13 items
      1. The Construction of Social Reality - John R. Searle 1995


      2. The Rules of Sociological Method - Émile Durkheim 1964


  5. 3. Social & Institutional Ontology: Durkheim to Searle 13 items
    What is social science about, what does it seek to study? According to Durkheim, if there is no specifically social object there can be no social science; but because there are social objects or social phenomena (which Durkheim calls ‘social facts’), social science is possible, but must take account of the specific features of its objects of study in order to be successful. Searle’s philosophical map of the ontology of the social world is the most comprehensive and sophisticated attempt yet to identify what ‘stuff’ the social world is made from and how it is sustained.
    1. Reading: 13 items
      1. The Construction of Social Reality - John R. Searle 1995


      2. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (Vol. 57, No. 2) 1997

        Journal  Read Review Symposium on Searle, pp. 429-458

      3. 'Review Symposium on John R. Searle' [in] History of the Human Sciences - Ian Hacking, Thomas Osbourne, John R. Searle, Mary Midgley 1997


      4. 'Symposium on Searle's Latest Book' [in] Analysis - N. Fotion, R. Tuomela, J. Searle 2011

        Article  Read Symposium on Searle, pp. 695-741

      5. 'The Construction of Social Reality: An Exchange' [in] The American Journal of Economics and Sociology - Barry Smith, John R. Searle 2003

        Article  Special issue on Searle’s Construction of Social Reality

      6. Anthropological Theory (Vol. 6, No. 1) 2006

        Journal  Special issue ‘Searle on Institutions’

  6. 4. Holism vs. Individualism: Collective Action & Collective Responsibility 18 items
    Having examined the nature and conditions of a cooperatively constructed and sustained world of social objects, practices and institutions that have positive utilitarian value, we now take a look at the cooperative construction and maintenance of states of affairs that have negative utilitarian value. In addition to money, marriage, orchestras, football games, tables, chairs, etc., there are also: riots, corporate manslaughter, genocide, environmental despoliation, racism, slavery, etc. - all of which are collective, cooperatively constructed and maintained, states of affairs. Is there, in addition to individual responsibility for wrongful acts and outcomes, collective responsibility for social and institutional wrongdoing? What exactly is the ontological status of groups and collective action – can there be specifically group harms and suffering over and above what is endured by individuals (e.g. genocide); is there, correspondingly, a collective agent of harm that acts over and above the actions performed by its constituent individual members? What kinds of experience and responsibility is it proper to attribute to people qua membership of a social group; is the group or collective an entity in itself over and above its constituent individuals? What causal and moral properties may be attributed to the collective? What is the relation between individuals and social groups?
    1. Reading: 18 items
  7. 5. Structure and Agency: Social Determinism and Individual Agency 22 items
    The ‘problem’ of structure and agency is sometimes said to be ‘the central problem in social and political theory’ (Carlsnaes). We will examine the contemporary theoretical dispute over the priority of either individual agency or social structure, and its relation to the traditional philosophical conundrum of freedom versus determinism.
    1. Reading: 19 items
      1. The Romanticism of Agency/Structure Versus the Analysis of Micro/Macro [in] Current Sociology 1992

        Article  ‘The romanticism of agency/structure versus the analysis of micro/macro’ 1992, 77-97

    2. Classic Statements of the Compatibility of Freedom and Determinism (Compatibilism): 1 item
    3. On Libertarianism: 1 item
    4. On Hard Determinism: 1 item
  8. 6. Case Study: Structure and Agency in the Holocaust 23 items
    An examination that brings together the problems of individual / collective responsibility, and structure and agency, via an analysis of how these disputes feed into the study of the Holocaust. We look at competing theoretical accounts of the genesis and developmental logic of the Holocaust: the personal agency and ideology of powerful and charismatic individuals versus social structural causation. At issue are competing methodological, theoretical and philosophical commitments that are seemingly inherently oppositional.
    1. Reading: 15 items
      1. 'Sociology after the Holocaust' [in] The British Journal of Sociology - Zygmunt Bauman 1988

        Article  Earlier version of Chapter 1 of 'Modernity and the Holocaust'

    2. Browning – Goldhagen Dispute: 6 items
      1. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland - Christopher R. Browning 2001


    3. ‘Historicisation’ 2 items
  9. 7. Realism & Social Constructionism: The Debate Over Reality & Social Construction 22 items
    Searle offers an account of the construction of social reality according to which social reality is ‘constructed’ out of ‘natural’ (non-social) elements. Some of his critics argue that in so doing he ‘scientistically’ privileges the ‘natural’ over the ‘social’. Some of these argue that the very idea of ‘reality’ is itself, in some sense, a ‘social construction’ and that ‘the social’ ‘goes all the way down’. For example, scientific knowledge, gender, sexuality, race…even ‘reality’ as such, including ‘the past’ have all been claimed to be ‘socially constructed’. Ian Hacking has perspicuously analysed what the controversy is about and what is at stake.
    1. Reading: 22 items
      1. The Social Construction of What? - Ian Hacking 1999


      2. Philosophy and Social Hope - Richard Rorty 1999


  10. 8. Case Studies in Social Construction: Child Abuse, Sexuality, Race, Mental Illness, ‘The Past’ 32 items
    In what sense, and which ways – if any - might these phenomena be dependent on our ideas, concepts, and representations of them?
    1. Reading: 10 items
    2. Gender / sexuality: 6 items
    3. Race: 13 items
    4. Case study: As it’s possible to change one's sex, can one also change one's race? 3 items
      1. See also: 'Hypatia's Editor And Its Board President Defend Publication of Tuvel Article':

  11. 9. Peter Winch & the Idea of a Social Science: Explanation, Meaning & Understanding 12 items
    Peter Winch is famous for showing how Wittgenstein’s philosophy can be applied to the task of assessing the nature and possibility of social scientific explanation and understanding, and for his radical critique of the ‘idea’ of a social science. Perhaps his most controversial arguments are those that focus on the nature and possibility of cross-cultural understanding, and the implications of this for our understanding of ourselves and our own social world.
    1. Reading: 12 items
      1. 'Can We Understand Ourselves?' [in] Philosophical Investigations - Peter Winch 1997

        Article  Winch’s mature reflections on some of the issues raised by his original article

  12. 10. Rationality & Relativism 18 items
    Winch’s arguments have occasioned much controversy over whether or not he advocates an extreme form of relativism, and sparked a controversy known as ‘the rationality debate’. The concept of rationality is slippery and hard to apply, especially to whole ‘ways of life’. How do we go about measuring and assessing the rationality of a people’s way of life, and what stance should the researcher take towards the rationality, sense, and coherence of their subjects’ beliefs and practices?
    1. Reading: 18 items
      1. Rationality and Relativism - Martin Hollis, Steven Lukes 1982


  13. 11. Objectivity, Value & the Social Sciences: The Fact-value Distinction 17 items
    Can, and should the social sciences aspire to objectivity and value neutrality? What might this consist in? We will look at the history of this debate and focus on contemporary arguments which claim that value neutrality is illusory and its pursuit pernicious
    1. Reading: 17 items
      1. Society (Vol. 50, No. 6) 2013

        Journal  See Special Issue of Society.

      2. Value-Free Science?: Ideals and Illusions - Harold Kincaid, John Dupré, Alison Wylie 2007 (electronic resource)


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