The Poverty of Historicism

The Poverty of Historicism

The Poverty of Historicism

The Poverty of Historicism

Excerpt

Scientific interest in social and political questions is only slightly younger than scientific interest in cosmology and physics; and there were periods in antiquity (I have Plato's political theory in mind, and Aristotle's collection of constitutions) when the science of society might have seemed to have advanced further than the science of nature. But with Galileo and Newton, physics became successful beyond expectation, far surpassing all other sciences; and since the time of Pasteur, the Galileo of biology, the biological sciences have been almost equally successful. But the social sciences do not as yet seem to have found their Galileo.

In these circumstances, students who work in one or another of the social sciences are greatly concerned with problems of method; and much of their discussion of these problems is conducted with an eye upon the methods of the more flourishing sciences, especially physics. It was, for instance, a conscious attempt to copy the experimental method of physics which led, in the generation of Wundt, to a reform in psychology; just as since Mill, repeated attempts had been made to reform on somewhat similar lines the method of the social sciences. In the field of psychology, these reforms may have had some measure of success, despite a great many disappointments. But in the theoretical . . .

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