Society, Law, and Morality: Readings in Social Philosophy from Classical and Contemporary Sources

Society, Law, and Morality: Readings in Social Philosophy from Classical and Contemporary Sources

Society, Law, and Morality: Readings in Social Philosophy from Classical and Contemporary Sources

Society, Law, and Morality: Readings in Social Philosophy from Classical and Contemporary Sources

Excerpt

The term "social philosophy" can be interpreted in a number of different ways. In its most familiar meaning, it signifies any more or less systematically worked out social ideal that can serve as a model of what our institutions and laws ought to be. By this definition, social philosophers are a sub-group of practicing moralists; and our appraisal of their recommendations and our decision to accept or reject them require a process of deliberation that is in many respects quite similar to-while in others quite different from-the kind we engage in when we have a personal moral decision to make.

In another sense that is not so familiar, "social philosophy" is roughly equivalent to "philosophy of the social sciences." Like the general philosophy of science of which it is a part, the philosophy of the social sciences is not a competitor of the special sciences-- in this case, sociology and political science-and does not enjoy any privileged insights into the nature of social institutions that are denied to empirical inquiries. It is, in fact, not primarily concerned with the production of new knowledge, but rather with the logical framework and methods of explanation that the social scientist uses in his work. This kind of social philosopher is interested in the social sciences as representing a distinctive kind of knowledge, and he concentrates on the logical and conceptual questions raised by this knowledge. It is clear that there is no close connection between this sort of neutral methodological interest and the morally committed social philosophy described above.

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