Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought

By Pat Duffy Hutcheon | Go to book overview

Twenty-Five
Thomas Kuhn and the Crisis in Social Science

The curse of modern philosophy is that it has not drawn its inspiration from science; as the misfortune of science is that it has not yet saturated the mind of philosophers and recast the moral world.

-- George Santayana, The Life of Reason

W hy is the nature of the prevailing philosophical world view significant for social science? The obvious answer is that the two are related in the same sense that a plant is dependent on the seedbed for which it subsequently provides life-preserving nurture and protection from the wind and sun. It is no exaggeration to say that the scientific study of humanity and its products can progress only in the fertile soil of a philosophy of evolutionary naturalism. It is not merely that the mystical premises of many cultures render social science difficult; they imply that it is impossible. If humans are distinguished from other animals by an unknowable essence at their very core, and if this essence is connected in some mysterious way to a transcendent source of absolute truth, then the search for cause and effect in individual development and social relations is a futile endeavour. On the other hand, it is equally clear that any sound world view depends for its ongoing evolution on the kind of reliable knowledge base in the psycho-social realm that only science has ever been able to provide.


The persistence of anti-science sentiments

The influence of the great social philosophers on the larger culture is necessarily indirect and long term, depending as it does on the ultimate effect of their ideas on social science. It will vary with the degree to which their efforts succeed in rendering this field of study scientific in fact as well as name -- and thereby capable of providing the reliable knowledge base required for the wise

References for this chapter are on p. 464-65.

-445-

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