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Social Science under Debate: A Philosophical Perspective Paperback – November 16, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'The main merit of this work is a wide range of relevant material, reliably and intelligently assembled, clearly presented. No one can read this volume without learning a great deal, and it could be used as a backbone of a teaching course, or an intelligent person could use it in an initiation to each of the fields. Clarity, erudition and range are the merits.'

(The late Ernest A. Gellner, Central European University)|

'The book is scholarly yet lively; comprehensive yet unified around a few central powerful ideas; profound yet entertaining reading with one bon mot after another; unorthodox yet constructive; a sort of vademecum for the bewitched but critical rover through the manifold of contemporary social studies.'

(Joseph Agassi, Tel Aviv and York Universities)|

'We should welcome the book for its author, subject, and style. He maps what is wrong and what is strong in energetic, opinionated prose. I can't wait to teach from the published version, not to mention embellish my own methodological essays with bright quotations from it.'

(Charles Tilly, Columbia University)|

'This book covers a vast domain with a firm grasp of the big issues. Its great advantage lies in treating all this material from a unified perspective.'

(Nicholas Rescher, Pittsburgh University)

About the Author

Mario Bunge is the Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the Department of Philosophy at McGill University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division (November 16, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802083579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802083579
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,926,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a colleague of the author and have used the book in my own work.
This book will be equally invaluable to those seriously working to understand society and improve it, and repentent postmodernists wishing to be cured of their affliction. The book covers, in a scholarly, systemic, and often humorous and entertaining manner, all the social sciences (including anthropology, demography, linguistics, economics, sociology, political science, culturology and history) and sociotechnologies (including the law, management science, normative economics, and action theory). The following are excerpts from various professional reviews:
From the dust jacket:
"We should welcome the book for its author, subject, and style" (Charles Tilly, Columbia University).
"The book is scholarly yet lively; comprehensive yet unified around a few central powerful ideas; profound yet entertaining reading with one bon mot after another; unorthodox yet constructive" (Joseph Agassi, Tel Aviv and York Universities).
"No one can read [this volume] without learning a great deal, and [it] could be used as backbone of a teaching course, or an intelligent person could use it in an initiation to each of the fields [covered by the book]. Clarity, erudition and range are the merits" (the late Ernest Gellner).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the only book I know of where all disciplines of modern social science - sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, management science etc. - are included in a critical and informed discussion. Few social scientists or philosophers are bold (or foolish) enough to pass judgement on their discipline as a whole. Mario Bunge isn't an expert in every discipline, but he's close enough to articulate well-reasoned opinions on them all. He maintains that social science can be just as rigorous as natural science and that the failures of modern social science have been due to philosophical confusions. So he sets out to separate the wheat from the chaff philosophically. The crucial part is the mandatory interplay between theory and empirical study, which he stresses again and again.

He then puts the various social science disciplines to this philosophical test by directing particularly strong criticism against two developments in social science. The first is the popularity of relativistic and constructivistic theories which renounce scientific objectivity. Anthropology is the main target of this criticism. Amusingly, he always puts the word "interpretation" in scare quotes and condescendingly refers to the "hermeneuticists and postmodernists" whose irresponsible scepticism underlies what he calls the "Verstehen" school of social science. I think he fires away a little too indiscriminately in these sections, but some of his points are certainly valid.

The second object of criticism is the spreading of economic thought to disciplines other than economics, in the form of rational choice and public choice theory, for instance.
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Bunge is a system builder in the field of philosophy of science, which allows him to present a unified view of social science. This benefits the reader, as Bunge not only points out problems, he also suggests remedies.

The book fits well readers that have had an interest in natural sciences and philosophy, but are weak on social sciences. This book gives a good initiation in the field.

The book is witty and insightful.
Some sample quotes below.

The first part of the book is on Basic Social Science.

Chapter 1, From Natural Science to Science

Bunge sketches society as system with four subsystems. One natural (Biologocial) and three artificial (Economy, Polity and Culture).

Chapter 2, Sociology

Chapter 3, Positive Economics
"Economics theory is still a semiscience."
Bunge gives advice for progress. Such as
1. Brush up your philosophy
2. Study the economy more
3. Remain ideologically neutral
4. Focus on systems rather than on individuals or wholes
5. Do not isolate the economy; treat is as a subsystem of society coupled with the natural environment, the polity, and the culture.

Chapter 4, Political Science
Good introduction. More in "Political Philosophy", Bunge 2008.

Chapter 5, Culturology

Chapter 6, History

The second part of the book is on Sociotechnology: the design of policies and plans for the maintenance, repair, or construction of social systems, private or public, on the basis of social science.

Chapter 7, Action theory

On Marxism and Pragmatism: "they both minimize the role of theory."
"It is impossible to build a pragmatist theory of action, rational or not.
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Social Science under Debate: A Philosophical Perspective
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