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Chapter 14. The Power and Limits of Prof... > The Ideal of Social Science: History...

The Ideal of Social Science: History, Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, and Psychology

In light of the success of the physical and natural sciences, it was predictable that those interested in the study of human life and behavior would look to the paradigm of scientific methodology as a means by which questions about the nature of human behavior could be as definitively settled as those about gravity, chemical reactions, plants, and animal life. Many scholars in the professions focused on humans expected a revolution within their professions as a result of a commitment to the application of controlled experiment. By this rigorous process, it was thought, hypotheses about human life could be confirmed or falsified. Foundational truths about human life and behavior could be discovered and built upon.

There is one major problem with this conception of the study of human behavior. Briefly, it might be expressed as follows: Human behavior is the result of the meaning–creating capacity of the human mind and is much more a product of human thinking than human instinct. Furthermore, a variety of influences have an impact on how humans think (and therefore on how they feel and what they want). Humans are highly complex, multidimensional creatures, which makes the study of human behavior through the scientific method subject to many limiting qualifications at best.


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