Seminar with Stuart Toddington
Time: Monday 15 January 2018 from 14:00 – 15:00
The predictive power of practical reason: hermeneutics and causal explanation in social science
The problem of formulating a systematically reliable model of explanation in the social sciences has been a longstanding preoccupation of philosophers and social theorists. The intuitive confidence in material causation – or the 'nomological' scheme of explanation and prediction is powerful, but fails to capture what, in equally intuitive terms - seems to be essential to the subject matter of the social sciences, namely, the meaning and purpose of of social action.
Weber's methodological analysis of the Ideal Type marks one of the great breakthroughs in the philosophy of social science. It teaches us that our cognitive interests largely determine what will be an appropriate form of explanation for the phenomena we seek to understand. The idea of Verstehen that underpins Ideal-typical reconstruction relies on presuppositions about the ubiquity of the structure of Means – ends oriented reason.
In Weber we are familiar with large-scale and highly abstract institutional models of it - the ideal types of legal rationality, Protestantism, capitalism, and so on. But in Weber's less well-known works he talks about the minutiae of practical reason and its predictive and explanatory power in framing hypotheses in the historical-economic and social sciences. I want to take the opportunity to strip down the logic of the ideal type into illustrations of simple instances of social action and show how cognitively satisfying, powerfully predictive and precise interpretive science can become.
All interested are welcome to attend.
Registration: For participation in this lecture please use this registration form no later than Friday 12 January 2018, 12:00.