Empiricism According to Some Social Term Paper

  • Length: 9 pages
  • Sources: 5
  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #52438076

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Constructivism on the contrary, though it does not agree with empiricism, as it sees all social scientific observation as a non-objective encounter based on the fact that science itself is a socially constructed aspect of the human condition, in much the same way that faith, philosophy or any number of other explanations are socially constructed and driven by social situations and encounters.

A social constructionists deny that science is an objective encounter with the world, as suggested by the "realists." The values of science do not arise out of any privileged access to nature, but are simply contingent social constructions. In this view science is just one story of many about the world and the privileged knowledge that scientists claim is just a manifestation of their ideological success in convincing us of this. This controversy is important to social scientists, for if a version of social constructionism is right then any description of studies of the social world as "scientific" would amount to no more than the claim that social science holds the same set of socially constructed values as natural science.

As with many other aspects of social theoretic the development of particular theories that apply well to some social or natural studies and not as well to others Constructivism seems to apply particularly well to international relations and the development of nations in congress with one another.

Constructivism in International Politics

Constructivism is in fact one of only three traditional ways in which to analyze international politics. Contsructivism is also diametrically apposed to empiricism, as has been noted, but this makes particular sense in the international politics arena as the massive nature of nations and the social structure of culture, ethnicity, nationalism and many other collective concepts is definitely not a collective that can be easily discovers through external operation.

Constructivism, as the supposedly polar opposite in this debating constellation, challenges the assumptions of rationalism, particularly the notion of an unchanging reality of international politics....As a result of recognising that practice influences outcome, the social world is seen as constructed, not given. States may be self-interested but they continuously (re)define what that means. Their identities may change. Norms help define situations and hence influence international practice in a significant way.... Thus the positivist conception of the social world and knowledge about it is challenged. Interpreting meaning and grasping the influence of changing practice, rather than empirically validating explanations of independent mechanisms, become central. Thus constructivism is seen as pitched against rationalism. This debate is then the main site of contention in IR theory.

The constructivist idea is realistically associated with international relations, as well as many other complex social phenomena.


The evolution of empiricism is crucially woven through the many theories that have come after it. From Hume to the modern, there is a clear sense that even when theories are apposed to empiricism they can not evolve without the establishment of it basic rules. What we know as "scientific" is clearly much broader than it was in Hume's day, as tolerance of theoretical differences goes hand in hand with increase tolerance in social phenomena

According to some social scientists, empiricism is the only truly scientific basis for social science research. This assertion is made with the purpose of understanding that empiricism does not rely on reason as its guiding principle but instead relies upon direct observation of phenomena as it occurs in nature. Some argue that the natural sciences and the social sciences are distinctly different, in content and therefore require differing scientific theories to develop realistic concepts to explain phenomena, while others argue that the natural laws, can be applied to both the social and natural worlds, and therefore such discovery cannot be eliminated as "unscientific."

Works Cited

Bhaskar, Roy. The Possibility of Naturalism. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Bevir, Mark. New Labour: A Critique. London: Routledge, 2005.

Brown, Andrew, Steve Fleetwood, and John Michael Roberts, eds. Critical Realism and Marxism. London: Routledge, 2002.

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: And Selections from a Treatise of Human Nature. Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 1921.

Keat, Russell and John Urry. Social Theory as Science. London: Routledge, 1983.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Williams, Malcolm. Science and Social Science: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2000

Zehfuss, Maja. Constructivism in International Relations: The Politics of Reality. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

David Hume, an Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: And Selections from a Treatise of Human Nature (Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 1921) 27.

Roy Bhaskar, the Possibility of Naturalism (New York: Rutledge, 1998) 1.

Thomas S. Kuhn the Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996) 3.

Andrew Brown, Steve Fleetwood, and John Michael Roberts, eds., Critical Realism and Marxism (London: Routledge,), 59.

Roy Bhaskar, the Possibility of Naturalism (New York: Rutledge, 1998) 3.

Russell Keat & John Urry Social Theory as Science (London: Routledge 1983)

Andrew Brown, Steve Fleetwood, and John Michael Roberts, eds., Critical Realism and Marxism (London: Routledge, 2002), 244.

Malcolm Williams, Science and Social Science: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2000) 5.

Mark Bevir, New Labour: A Critique (London: Routledge, 2005), 4.

Malcolm Williams, Science and Social Science: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2000, 47-48.

Maja Zehfuss, Constructivism in International Relations: The Politics of Reality…

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