«One may wonder why a Galilean-type revolution took so long to manifest in the field of human behavior analysis compared to what happened in the field of natural sciences. One may also wonder why the achievements of the scholars who initiated the experimental research on human behavior, laying the foundations for a scientific theory of psychological and social phenomena, have not become part of the field of experience and the common language of ordinary people, in contrast to what happened with natural sciences.
One first answer to these questions is that behavior science, founded on controlled (laboratory) experiments, contrasts with the subjective interpretations of human behavior, i.e., the intuitive stances resulting from emotional situations on which current social structures rest. A second answer is that subjective interpretations give rise to class differentiation, class conflict, and consequently, power relations. Therefore, the social space for a scientific (i.e., intersubjective) consideration of human behavior is very narrow. […]
The dissemination of human sciences is hindered not only by the structures of power but also by incorrect theoretical approaches originating both in traditional metaphysics and the Weberian philosophical method of the social sciences and, broadly speaking, in the thought of philosophers belonging to the so-called school of contemporary German historicism. Many scholars still consider the latter an unsurpassed culmination of methodological reflections on human behavior due to its contrast with traditional metaphysics and openness in terms of cultural relativism.» IT
(Il problema del metodo nella sociologia [The problem of method in sociology], pp. 3-4)
Il problema del metodo nella sociologia (Critica di alcune prospettive metafisiche)
[The problem of method in sociology (Criticism of some metaphysical perspectives)]
[The problem of method in sociology (Criticism of some metaphysical perspectives)]
- Gli ostacoli alla comprensione scientifica del comportamento umano.
[Obstacles to scientific understanding of human behavior]
- La prospettiva di Max Weber.
[Max Weber’s perspective]
- La distinzione tra scienze storico-sociali e scienze naturali.
[The distinction between historical-social sciences and natural science]
- La confusione tra prospettiva evoluzionistica e prospettiva strutturale.
[Confusion between evolutionary versus structural perspective]
- La spiegazione causale.
[The causal explanation]
- Prospettiva strutturale e prospettiva evoluzionistica con riferimento all’ordine seriale.
[Structural perspective versus evolutionary perspective in relation to serial order]
- L’inconsistenza del concetto di comprensione scientifica dei fenomeni nel loro divenire storico.
[The inconsistency of the concept of scientific understanding of phenomena in their historical becoming]
- Verifica e imputazione causale.
[Verification and causal attribution]
- Critica del metodo della spiegazione condizionale.
[Criticism of the conditional (counterfactual) explanation method]
- Osservazioni sulla struttura del linguaggio scientifico.
[Remarks about the structure of scientific language]
- Un esempio di relazione funzionale.
[An example of functional relation]
- Relazione funzionale e ordine seriale: analisi dinamica e analisi statica.
[Functional relation and serial order: dynamics analysis and statics analysis]
- Il tempo come ordine (dinamica strutturale) e il tempo come direzione (dinamica cumulativa).
[The order of time (structural dynamics) and the direction of time (cumulative dynamics)]
- Le analisi sociali in termini di equilibrio e di forze.
[Social analyses in terms of equilibrium and forces]
- La prospettiva di Talcott Parsons.
[Talcot Parsons’s perspective]
- I modi di organizzazione degli elementi dell’azione.
[Modes of organizing action elements]
- Predicati sperimentali e predicati teorici. Il livello di astrazione dei predicati.
[Experimental predicates and theoretical predicates. The abstraction level of predicates]
- La relazione di interscambio, la relazione di appartenenza e la relazione di controllo.
[The interchange relation, the belong-to relation, the controlling relation]
- Le dicotomie neutralità-affettività e specificità-generalità e l’uso della relazione combinatoria.
[The dicotomies neutrality-affectivity and specificity-diffuseness and the combinatorial relation]
- Il distacco tra la prospettiva metafisica di Parsons e la prospettiva scientifica.
[The disconnect between Parsons’s metaphysical perspective and scientific perspective]
- La distinzione tra processi di confine e processi interni.
[The distinction between boundary processes and internal processes]
- I concetti di personalità e need-disposition.
[The concepts of personality and need-disposition]
- Le relazioni di interscambio tra il sistema psicologico e gli altri sistemi.
[The interchange relations between the psychological system and other systems]
- Considerazioni critiche conclusive sul metodo di Parsons.
[Final critical remarks on Parsons’s method]
Faggiani D., La struttura logica della fisica, Torino, 1957
Homans G.C., Social behavior: its elementary forms, London, 1961
Mach E., La meccanica nel suo sviluppo storico-critico, Torino, 1968
Pareto V., Corso di economia politica, Torino, 1948
Parsons T., An approach to psychological theory in terms of the theory of action, in: S. Koch (ed.), Psychology: a study of a science, N.Y., 1959, vol. III
Parsons T., La struttura dell’azione sociale, Bologna, 1962
Parsons T., Pattern variables revisited: a response to Robert Dubin, in: T. Parsons, Sociological theory and modern society, N.Y., 1967
Parsons T., Shils E.A. et al., Some fundamental categories of the theory of action: a general statement, in: T. parsons, E.A. Shils (eds.), Toward a general theory of action, Cambridge, Mass, 1951
Parsons T., Shils E.A., Values, motives, and systems of action, in: T. parsons, E.A. Shils (eds.), Toward a general theory of action, Cambridge, Mass, 1951
Rossi P., Lo storicismo tedesco contemporaneo, Torino, 1956
Weber M., Il metodo delle scienze storico sociali, Torino, 1958
1/20«The Weberian argument founding the value-freedom of historical-social sciences can be interpreted just in the opposite way due to its intrinsic contradiction; in fact, it strengthened all metaphysical theories which deny the possibility of a scientific, hence intersubjective, analysis of human behavior. This denial also extended to the scientific discourse at large, which accordingly would be characterized by the evaluative attitude of the researcher, whose choice among the infinite perspectives of analysis would be arbitrary, although justified by the cultural values at that given historical time.» IT
2/20«The causal relation, in science, entails that the analysis concerns a specified but not an individualized phenomenon, given that repeatability characterizes the causal relation. Repeatability excludes the possibility of speaking of the researcher’s choice, referring to the determination of the experimental predicates of scientific discourse, in the sense as Weber spoke of the selection of some of the infinite multiplicity of causes to establish a causal relation. The researcher’s activity is not a matter of choice, as identifying variables and (hypotheses of) relations between variables cannot be arbitrary. On the contrary, it is constrained by the hypothesized relations explicating the phenomena, namely, systematizing the phenomena within increasingly comprehensive schemata (which explain increasingly large classes of phenomena) with an increasingly high abstraction level and allowing for the verification of these schemes at the operational level.» IT
3/20«The historicalness of the motives and social values that guided and pushed the researcher to undertake specific research does not imply the subjectivity of the scientific discourse. On the contrary, the scientific discourse is intersubjective in that it can be operationalized and expresses properties typical of classes of phenomena rather than individualized phenomena. Scientific intersubjectiveness survives (so to speak) the cultural context within which the scientific discourse is formulated. Subsequent enlargements of the scientific discourse are not the product of new choices in a new historical context, which involve the rejection of the previous choices; instead, these enlargements represent a widening of the applicability of scientific discourse to phenomena not explained by the previous narrower formulation.» IT
4/20«When the scientific discourse is considered in its intersubjectiveness, the discourse predicates are taken into account without reference to any concrete set of historically determined behaviors, such as those carried out by researchers in their research activity. The successive stages that mark the historical diversification of the scientific discourse are analyzed with reference to the abstraction levels of the fundamental postulates and of the new postulates whose insertion, replacing the previous ones, results in the widening of the domain of application of the discourse. The new postulates have a higher level of abstraction than the previous ones, which always belong to scientific discourse as special cases of a more comprehensive system; this is the case, in physics, of Newton’s theory compared to Einstein’s.» IT
5/20«According to Weber, the difference should consist in the orientation of the historical-social sciences to singularity (individuality), whereas the natural sciences would be oriented to generality. Therefore, there would be two types of causal schemata: an individualizing causal schema and a generalizing causal schema; that is, causality pertaining to non-repeatable and individualized phenomena (i.e., phenomena inserted in irreversible evolutionary dynamics) and causality pertaining to classes of phenomena (i.e., a repeatable and generalized relation between phenomena expressing reversible dynamics). It goes without saying that the concept of causality is completely misrepresented compared to its explicandum within the methodological language of science.» IT
6/20«Weber’s thought is vitiated by a methodological confusion between the historical perspective, regarded as an orientation to singularity (individuality), and the scientific (structural) perspective, oriented to determining a system of laws. From a commonsense perspective, social phenomena appear in their continuous flux, undergoing an irreversible change. However, this does not entail the impossibility of constructing a structural perspective comparable (at the methodological level) to the perspective of natural sciences, based on which it is possible to find out relations between social phenomena not reducing to the mere chronological order defined in terms of irreversibility. Within commonsense language (i.e., in everyday experience), the two aspects are not always consciously distinguished; however, this should not lead one to believe that it is impossible to distinguish precisely the two perspectives on the level of social theory. The sciential interest can orient the research activity towards either a structural perspective or a historical perspective (i.e., an analysis circumscribed in evolutionary terms). Therefore, albeit the two phenomena may appear indistinct to common sense, the scientific methodology allows us to identify two specific viewpoints which characterize two different types of knowledge.» IT
7/20«Thinking about the causal explanation as identification of the total number of causes that determine a given phenomenon means considering causality in metaphysical terms. Weber did not realize this fact and, hence, did not understand that the schema of the functional explanation is valid in both social and natural sciences. It is evident, in fact, that the two concepts of causality -the metaphysical one relating to the classical model of causal explanation and the functional one- are radically different. On the one hand, the classic concept of causality is meant as a necessary relation between phenomena, namely, as an explanation intended to trace the endless number of causal relations reflecting an ontological structure of reality, which would implicate a system of general laws; it expresses a necessary determinism that translates into a system of principles which are unconditionally valid. On the other hand, the concept of functional schema presupposes the impossibility of tracing the totality of factors determining a given phenomenon; therefore, it turns out to be incompatible with a concept of causality understood as a necessary relation between phenomena.» IT
8/20«The metaphysical concept of causality as a relation between phenomena characterized in terms of universal order and necessity (i.e., a relation between countless factors and a given phenomenon) is an erroneous characterization of the scientific discourse (be it natural or social sciences). The structure of scientific discourse consists, in fact, of functional relations. It means methodological determinism is valid in the scientific discourse, not metaphysical determinism. Methodological determinism does not entail the attribution of a truth-value to the alternative between determinism and indeterminism as to real processes, which is a metaphysical perspective; it only expresses an adequacy condition for scientific discourse, such that the latter must be characterized by functional relations and serial order to be considered scientific. It is thereby excluded from the domain of scientific methodology any metaphysical characterization about the existence or non-existence of a necessary order among phenomena.» IT
9/20«A radical difference exists on the level of scientific methodology between the evolutionary perspective, which considers phenomena in terms of irreversibility, and the structural perspective, which considers phenomena in terms of an indeterminate serial order as to the change in the content of states (reversibility). Not seeing this difference led Weber to several contradictions, which are ultimately reflected in the ideal-type theory and the definition of the object of sociology.» IT
10/20«Overcoming the perspective of historicist metaphysics and analyzing the behavior in structural terms make it possible to explicate human phenomena regardless of history. The latter ceases to be what Weber presumably believed it to be: the great laboratory in which the social scientist should work a posteriori. The irrelevance of the historical viewpoint for the construction of social science does not imply that events that have already occurred cannot be scientifically explicated. However, the explication is based on laws verified in the laboratory and expressed in functional terms, which is why the fact to be explicated is no longer characterized in terms of individuality (singularity) but of repeatability or reproducibility.» IT
11/20«The scientific explanation of phenomena consists in identifying a set of variables and the relations between these variables. The reason why some variables are assumed as typical variables is not a problem within the language of science, as the field is always open to the identification of new variables with a lower abstraction level (restrictive predicates) or with a higher abstraction level than the abstraction level of the fundamental predicates characterizing the scientific discourse at any given time.
The only condition for introducing new predicates is that these predicates must always be related to each other according to the rules characterizing the structure of the language of science. This structure is given by the functional relation between three types of variables (dependent and independent variable, parameters) at the level of both experimental predicates and more abstract predicates: Rf (x, y; p1, p2, …, pn).» IT
12/20«Whether designed from the perspective of statics or dynamics, scientific analyses are always based on the fundamental relation Rf (x, y; p1, p2, …, pn). In one case, the relation is seen as an asymmetric relation expressing an interdependence between the factors taken into consideration, pure and simple; no (temporal) order of states can be derived from it. In the other case, the relation contains time as an independent implicit variable; hence, it is also seen as an order relation from which a (temporal) sequence of states can be derived.» IT
13/20«We can observe that an explanatory schema of history, i.e., cumulative (evolutionary) dynamics, cannot be constructed by considering the order of time. Cumulative (evolutionary) dynamics consists of a sequence of serially ordered states, where time is considered not as an order but as a direction. Here, the states of the system are ordered by referring to the change in the content of states; namely, change is characterized in terms of evolution (cumulative process).» IT
14/20«An inverse description of the process is conceivable in both the reversibility and irreversibility cases. In the reversibility case, however, the two descriptions are structurally identical because the meaning of the relation remains unchanged in the two descriptions (it is possible to describe the process in reverse order). In the irreversibility case, on the contrary, the inverse description (description in negative time, -t) is structurally different from the original one (description in positive time, +t); i.e., the meaning of the relation differs in the two descriptions because the process can only be described in the original order (direction).» IT
15/20«In the field of social sciences, the relation Rf (x, y; p1, p2, …, pn) can refer to time as an implicit independent variable, but this does not entail that the social laws can be expressed in terms analogous to dynamics in physics.
In this regard, it should be pointed out the methodological character of our analyses on the structure of scientific discourse: they concern the identification, at the semantic level, of the most abstract relations that characterize any domain of scientific discourse; hence, not only the social-sciences discourse but also the natural-sciences discourse. However, this consideration should not lead to the erroneous conclusion that it is possible to construct the discourse of the social sciences based on naïve analogies with the discourse of physics.» IT
16/20«The above allows us to point out that it is possible to speak of dynamics analysis in the social sciences when the relation Rf (x, y; p1, p2, …, pn) contains time as an implicit independent variable; but one should be aware that such a dynamics analysis has nothing to do with mechanics. Even if, on a methodological level, the functional relation is used (as in physics), it acquires a radically different meaning and relates radically different predicates (variables).
Conceiving the social dynamics in terms of equilibria and forces is sterile from the scientific perspective because these concepts have no explanatory capacity for social phenomena.» IT
17/20«The search for abstract predicates that unify different experimental predicates forces us to abandon the empirical meanings of ordinary language and to look for concepts that, in most cases, can seem incompatible with the concepts drawn from everyday experience. How does this happen? Let us dwell on an example of great methodological importance, that of mechanics, and analyze the first step (taken by Galileo) to unify the motion of celestial bodies and the motion of bodies on earth using more abstract predicates.
Galileo made this unification possible by formulating the law of inertia, which states that an object preserves its state of rest or keeps moving in a straight line at a constant speed when no forces act upon it. We can observe that this hypothesis is surprisingly distant from the commonsense experience because it postulates that uniform motion in a right line does not require any force. Galileo’s hypothesis, which allowed Newton to find out even more abstract predicates on which to establish laws valid for every type of motion, is an example of the insertion in the scientific language of a theoretical predicate whose abstraction level is such as to enable the unification of several experimental predicates.» IT
18/20«The cultural obstacles that interfere with the development of social sciences are of the same type as those that even Galileo had to overcome. Even back then, a prescientific kind of physics (i.e., Aristotelian physics) was institutionalized and characterized social structures. Namely, the domain of social interests was so vast that it also included the acceptance of some philosophical presuppositions about physical phenomena.» IT
19/20«This crucial point has not been detected even by the most acute critics of Parsons, such as Homans. Although he is right when he states that Parsons’s theory is a purely taxonomic and non-explicative theory, he is wrong when he states that identifying categories is the first step in building a scientific discourse and that this step should be completed later by identifying the propositions (the relations between categories). The distinction between these two aspects (identifying categories and identifying relations between categories) does not conform to the scientific method. The aspect of the identification of categories is metaphysical, as it is not possible to identify functional relations between essences but only to connect essences through radically different relations.» IT
20/20«The classification mentioned above of motions in pre-Galilean physics resembles Parsons’s classification. It is notable that physical science, as already observed, did not develop as long as it continued to establish relations between the metaphysical categories of Aristotelian physics for the very reason that the functional relation had not yet been identified. The functional relation marks the transition from the question of why to the question of how and disregards any prior definition of categories or essences, scientific predicates being defined within the functional relation.» IT