G. Bolacchi, Le scatole vuote della sociologia, in: J. Jacobelli (a cura di), Dove va la sociologia italiana?, Laterza, Bari, 1988

This essay presents a concise analysis of the methodological problems that undermine the sociological disciplines and prevent the transition from social philosophy to social science.

The main among these problems is the failure to understand the difference between intuitive and experimental knowledge. Although science’s achievements show that only the Galilean method possesses explanatory capabilities, the Aristotelian perspective still influences our culture. Contemporary experts on social disciplines no longer speak of Aristotle, yet everything is Aristotelian in the most accredited and popular notions of man and society. The notion of social science as knowledge by demonstration endures; it characterizes, by the way, historicism, phenomenology, and functionalism. The approach to knowledge in terms of “what is it?” endures; it binds knowledge to the preconception that phenomena could be known “per se.” Social and psychological research are considered mostly, even nowadays, as investigations about “essences;” attempts are made to give them a methodological form that validates them as scientific within their respective languages. The perspective endures that individuality, as absolutely unique, is not definable, in principle, and cannot be an object of science. Last but not least, the Aristotelian perspective of induction endures, which underlies the view that statistics is the only method to be used in social research.

The acritical postulate of the radical incompatibility of the natural-science methods and social phenomena is a sort of “mental block” that prevents scholars from reading the “great book of social nature.” It is the same Aristotelian perspective that hindered the scientific knowledge of nature for two millennia.

Giulio Bolacchi


Le scatole vuote della sociologia
[Empty sociological boxes]

Published in
Jader Jacobelli (ed), Dove va la sociologia italiana? (pp. 48-56)

Laterza, Roma-Bari