«Scientific knowledge, as opposed to common-sense knowledge, entails a methodological revolution based on a search not for essences, in the Aristotelian sense, but for mathematical functions, in the Galilean sense, originated from the controlled experiment and founded on the concept of a closed or isolated system. The Priestley-Lavoisier dispute is a historical example that clearly shows the disjunction between pre-science and science. This methodological revolution has not yet been achieved in the field of “social sciences” for the persisting prejudices about dualism between man and nature. Starting from this situation, the paper emphasizes the need for a definition of the research about man and society that overcomes the obstacles and the presuppositions of philosophical ideology and common sense, according to the distinctive features of scientific inquiry and the corresponding requirements for the scientific language. In particular, with reference to the language of every science, the condition of semantic homogeneity of predicates is analyzed, and the main misunderstandings deriving from the non-conformity to this basic criterion (that have so far not allowed the development of any real social science) are pointed out; namely: (a) the consideration of the languages that designate the different fields of research (economics, psychology, and sociology) as pairwise disjoint sets, even if there are clear intersections among them, and (b) the resort within the current “social sciences” language to pseudo functions, whose domain is a set of internal (cognitive) events, or a set of biological events, and the range is a set of external (behavioral) events.»
(On “social sciences” and science, Abstract, p. 465)
- Obstacles to the Foundation of a Social Science
- “Descriptivism,” “Redescription,” and the Development of Science
- Distinctive Features of Scientific Inquiry
- The Problem of Semantic Homogeneity in “Social Sciences”
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1/7«In short, research about man and society has to be redefined by overcoming the obstacles and the presuppositions of philosophical ideology and common sense. The so-called world of spirit (mind), which prevents us from building an experimentally based explanatory language of man univocally defined and implies in principle a multiplicity of often mutually contradictory perspectives, must be replaced by the world of behavior.»
2/7«Two kinds of histories of science, therefore, exist: (a) socio-psychological history concerning all the research methods, in whatever manner carried out, and the socio-psychological conditionings to which the researchers have been subjected in the social context where they worked; and (b) history, purified from socio-psychological connotations, concerning the research methods conforming to the constraints and to the cumulative results of science, i.e., the history of the deepening and widening of the domains of application of scientific language only.»
3/7«The history of scientific thought (and the Galilean revolution) shows us that “a shift in attitude that allows us to be more flexible” is by no means sufficient to construct, to widen, and to deepen the language of science, and even more the language of the social science. It is necessary to break the science away from the common sense; that is, to bear in mind the constraints settled first by Galileo and Newton.»
4/7«Controlled experiment entails a real methodological revolution (a revolution in the research methods) compared to the Aristotelian pre-scientific idea that still persists as a philosophical view of science and is seriously detrimental to the development of an actual social science. This revolution is founded on the rise of the Galilean and Newtonian concept of a closed or isolated system.»
5/7«A particular violation of the semantic homogeneity criterion occurs in the field of psychology when behavioral variables and inner variables (expressing cognitive-type or, more specifically, emotional-type states) are related by pseudo-functions. The introduction of so-called intervening variables and hypothetical constructs, despite MacCorquodale’s and Meehl’s (1948) efforts, paves the way for a sort of anomalous functions (pseudo-functions) that do not conform to the semantic homogeneity criterion and are seriously prejudicial to scientific knowledge.»
6/7«Likewise, in economics the set of cognitive variables (upon which the explanation of choice is based) and the set of behavioral variables are mixed up, leading to a duplication of concepts and preventing the translation of all the economic predicates into strictly behavioral predicates, which could have important repercussions on economic analysis as a whole and on so-called experimental economics. Moreover, this situation produces an anomalous dissociation between the logical–syntactic characterization of choice (which is identified with cognitive–rational choice) and the experimental–semantic characterization of choice behavior (behavioral choice), which is not considered at all by economists and cognitivists (with the obvious exclusion of cognitive-type “experiments”).»
7/7«The languages of neuroscience and behaviorism are characterized by completely different semantic interpretations, although they use the same syntactic structures founded on functions. It follows that, because of the lack of semantic homogeneity between the two disjoint languages, no functional relation can be given, by definition, between neuroscience and behaviorism.»