Inquiry into Inquiries: Essays in Social Theory

By Arthur F. Bentley; Sidney Ratner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Situational vs. Psychological Theories of Behavior

I
SIGHTS-SEEN AS MATERIALS OF KNOWLEDGE1

Most modern psychological inquiry is conducted under postulation expressible thus: Confronting various material objects are to be found certain experiencing beings, whose experiences (including their knowings) may, and for scientific purposes must, be isolated as subjectmatters in behavioral inquiry.2 Upon psychologies so constructed (as a rule in their crudest forms) practically all our sociologies are based. To such psychologies likewise the current philosophizings about science as knowledge are steadily oriented.

This manner of postulation is not always -- indeed, not even commonly -- explicit. For the most part it takes itself for granted as plain common sense. Where affirmed, it exhibits shadings of stress ranging upward to a supreme self-confidence in the eternal verities. It will concern us solely as it enters scientific inquiry as guide to operation. In this form it declares with reasonable modesty, and with presumptive clarity, that investigation into behaviors is to be undertaken, and construction made, as if in fact the materials used consist definitely and precisely of non-organic objects, human beings (or other organisms), and experiences, with specialized isolation of the third of these for technical examination.3

Considered in this way with respect to their operative usefulness, such

____________________
1
This discussion in three sections is an expansion of remarks made at the Third Conference on Methods in Philosophy and the Sciences, New York City, May 8, 1938.
2
For exceptions, see Section II.
3
Let it be flatly stated now, and given maximum emphasis, that "reality" and truth," and dogmatic concern over either, are wholly irrelevant to our present purposes. We shall consider only the status of scientific, pseudo-scientific, and expectantly scientific inquiry, with respect to what is taken to be fact, used as fact, or assumed to be on its way toward improved specification as fact in the advance of inquiry.
From Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XXXVI, No. 7 ( March 30, 1939), pp. 169-81; No. 12 ( June 8, 1939), pp. 309-23; No. 15 ( July 20, 1939), pp. 405-13.

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