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Encyclopedia > Social science

The social sciences are groups of academic disciplines that study the human aspects of the world. They diverge from the arts and humanities in that the social sciences emphasize the use of the scientific method and rigorous standards of evidence in the study of humanity, including quantitative and qualitative methods. The Arts is a broad subdivision of culture, comprised of many expressive disciplines. ... The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view. ... Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for the investigation of phenomena and the acquisition of new knowledge of the natural world, as well as the correction and integration of previous knowledge, based on observable, empirical, measurable evidence, and subject to laws of reasoning. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Quantitative research. ... The qualitative method in sociology is a research method. ...


The social sciences, in studying both inter-subjective and objective or structural aspects of society, are sometime referred to as soft sciences. This is in contrast to hard sciences, which may focus exclusively on objective aspects of nature.


Social scientists engage in research and theorize about both aggregate and individual behaviors.

Contents


Major fields

The main social sciences include:

Not all institutions recognize these fields as social sciences: Anthropology (from the Greek word άνθρωπος, human or person) consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). ... Communication studies is the academic discipline that studies communication; subdisciplines include animal communication, argumentation, speech communication, rhetoric, communication theory, group communication, information theory, intercultural communication, interpersonal communication, intrapersonal communication, marketing, organizational communication, persuasion, propaganda, public affairs, public relations and telecommunication. ... Cultural studies combines sociology, social theory, literary theory, film/video studies, cultural anthropology and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in industrial societies. ... Buyers bargain for good prices while sellers put forth their best front in Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala. ... For other senses of this word, see history (disambiguation). ... Linguistics is the scientific study of human language, and someone who engages in this study is called a linguist. ... The stela of King Hammurabi depicts the god Shamash revealing a code of laws to the king. ... Political science is an academic and research discipline that deals with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior. ... Psychology (Gk: psyche, soul or mind + logos, speech) is an academic and applied field involving the study of the human mind, brain, and behavior. ... Social policy is the study of the welfare state, and the range of responses to social need. ... Social interactions of people and their consequences are the subject of sociology studies. ...

  • Communication, cultural studies and history may be classified as humanities depending on how they are taught, and in which country they are taught.
  • Psychology is a very broad science that is rarely tackled as a whole, major block. Although some subfields encompass a natural science base and a social science application, others can be clearly distinguished as having little to do with the social sciences or having a lot to do with the social sciences. For example, biological psychology is considered a natural science with a social scientific application (as is clinical medicine), social and occupational psychology are, generally speaking, purely social sciences, whereas neuropsychology is a natural science that lacks application out of the scientific tradition entirely. In British universities, emphasis on what tenet of psychology a student has studied and/or concentrated is communicated through the degree conferred: B.Psy. indicates a balance between natural and social sciences, B.Sc. indicates a strong (or entire) scientific concentration, whereas a B.A. underlines a majority of social science credits.
  • Some disciplines have characteristics of both the humanities, social and natural sciences: for example some subfields of anthropology, such as biological anthropology, are closely related to the natural sciences whereas archaeology and linguistics are social sciences.
  • Some fields also are considered to be applied sciences, such as education and law.
  • Law is often considered not to be a science at all, and labelled as one of the humanities. The main reason for this is that law is normative (see also norm (philosophy)). Legal discourse is closer in some respects to ethics, politics and interpretation (see also interpretivism). Law should not be confused with sociology of law or anthropology of law.
  • Geography traverses the natural and social sciences: geomorphology and historical geography are often taught in a college in a unified Department of Geography.
  • Some social sciences may converge with certain fields from the natural sciences, and become interdisciplinary. Examples of such fields include sociobiology -- an interdisciplinary field drawing on sociology and biology.

Communication studies is the academic discipline that studies communication; subdisciplines include animal communication, argumentation, speech communication, rhetoric, communication theory, group communication, information theory, intercultural communication, interpersonal communication, intrapersonal communication, marketing, organizational communication, persuasion, propaganda, public affairs, public relations and telecommunication. ... Cultural studies combines sociology, social theory, literary theory, film/video studies, cultural anthropology and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in industrial societies. ... For other senses of this word, see history (disambiguation). ... The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view. ... Psychology (Gk: psyche, soul or mind + logos, speech) is an academic and applied field involving the study of the human mind, brain, and behavior. ... This article is about the field of medical practice and health care. ... Anthropology (from the Greek word άνθρωπος, human or person) consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). ... Physical anthropology, sometimes called biological anthropology, studies the mechanisms of biological evolution, genetic inheritance, human adaptability and variation, primatology, primate morphology, and the fossil record of human evolution. ... Archaeology, archeology, or archæology (from the Greek words αρχαίος = ancient and λόγος = word/speech/discourse) is the study of human cultures through the recovery, documentation and analysis of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, biofacts, human remains, and landscapes. ... Linguistics is the scientific study of human language, and someone who engages in this study is called a linguist. ... Applied science is the exact science of applying knowledge from one or more natural scientific fields to practical problems. ... The stela of King Hammurabi depicts the god Shamash revealing a code of laws to the king. ... The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view. ... In philosophy, normative is usually contrasted with positive, descriptive or explanatory when describing types of theories, beliefs, or statements. ... Norms are a sort of sentences or sentence meanings, the most common of which are commands and permissions. ... Ethics (from Greek ἦθος meaning custom) is the branch of axiology, one of the four major branches of philosophy, which attempts to understand the nature of morality; to distinguish that which is right from that which is wrong. ... Politics is a process by which decisions are made within groups. ... Interpretation, or interpreting, is an activity that consists of establishing, either simultaneously or consecutively, oral or gestural communications between two or more speakers who are not speaking (or signing) the same language. ... Interpretivism is a school of thought in contemporary jurisprudence and the philosophy of law. ... A philosophical approach to law stressing the actual social effects of legal institutions, doctrines, and practices. ... Anthropology (from the Greek word άνθρωπος, human or person) consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). ... Surface of the Earth Geomorphology is the study of landforms, including their origin and evolution, and the processes that shape them. ... Historical Geography is the study of the: Human Physical Fictional Theoretical and Real geographies of the past. ... The term natural science as the way in which different fields of study are defined is determined as much by historical convention as by the present day meaning of the words. ... Interdisciplinary work is that which integrates concepts across different disciplines. ... Sociobiology is a synthesis of scientific disciplines that attempts to explain behaviour in all species by considering the evolutionary advantages of social behaviours. ... Social interactions of people and their consequences are the subject of sociology studies. ... Biology is the branch of science dealing with the study of life. ...

History

In ancient philosophy, there was no difference between the liberal arts of mathematics and the study of history, poetry or politics—only with the development of mathematical proof did there gradually arise a perceived difference between "scientific" disciplines and others, the "humanities" or "liberal arts". Thus, Aristotle studies planetary motion and poetry with the same methods, and Plato mixes geometrical proofs with his demonstration on the state of intrinsic knowledge. In the history of education, the seven liberal arts comprise two groups of studies, the trivium and the quadrivium. ...


This unity of science as descriptive remains, for example, in the time of Thomas Hobbes who argued that deductive reasoning from axioms created a scientific framework, and hence his Leviathan was a scientific description of a political commonwealth. What would happen within decades of his work was a revolution in what constituted "science", particularly the work of Isaac Newton in physics. Newton, by revolutionizing what was then called "natural philosophy", changed the basic framework by which individuals understood what was "scientific". Hobbes redirects here. ... Frontispiece of Leviathan Leviathan was a book written in 1651 by Thomas Hobbes, is one of the most famous and influential books of political philosophy. ... Sir Isaac Newton, President of the Royal Society, (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) [OS: 25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727] was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, chemist, inventor, and natural philosopher. ...


While he was merely the archetype of an accelerating trend, the important distinction is that for Newton, the mathematical flowed from a presumed reality independent of the observer, and working by its own rules. For philosophers of the same period, mathematical expression of philosophical ideals was taken to be symbolic of natural human relationships as well: the same laws moved physical and spiritual reality. For examples see Blaise Pascal, Gottfried Leibniz and Johannes Kepler, each of whom took mathematical examples as models for human behavior directly. In Pascal's case, the famous wager; for Leibniz, the invention of binary computation; and for Kepler, the intervention of angels to guide the planets. Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623 – August 19, 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. ... Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (also Leibnitz or von Leibniz)[1] (July 1 (June 21 Old Style) 1646 – November 14, 1716) was a German polymath. ... Johannes Kepler Johannes Kepler (December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630), a key figure in the scientific revolution, was a German mathematician, astrologer, astronomer, and an early writer of science fiction stories. ...


In the realm of other disciplines, this created a pressure to express ideas in the form of mathematical relationships. Such relationships, called "Laws" after the usage of the time (see philosophy of science) became the model which other disciplines would emulate. Philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, including the formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. ...


August Comte (1797-1857) argued that ideas pass through three rising stages, Theological, Philosophical and Scientific. He defined the difference as the first being rooted in assumption, the second in critical thinking, and the third in positive observation. This framework, still rejected by many, encapsulates the thinking which was to push economic study from being a descriptive to a mathematically based discipline. Karl Marx was one of the first writers to claim that his methods of research represented a scientific view of history in this model. Auguste Comte Auguste Comte (full name Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte) (January 17 (recorded January 19), 1798 _ September 5, 1857) was a positivist thinker and a founder of the discipline of sociology. ... Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818, Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883, London) was an immensely influential German philosopher, political economist, and socialist revolutionary. ... Science in the broadest sense refers to any knowledge or trained skill, especially (but not exclusively) when this is attained by verifiable means. ...


With the late 19th century, attempts to apply equations to statements about human behavior became increasingly common. Among the first were the "Laws" of philology, which attempted to map the change over time of sounds in a language.


It was with the work of Darwin that the descriptive version of social theory received another shock. Biology had, seemingly, resisted mathematical study, and yet the Theory of Natural Selection and the implied idea of Genetic inheritance - later found to have been enunciated by Gregor Mendel, seemed to point in the direction of a scientific biology based, like physics and chemistry, on mathematical relationships. Gregor Johann Mendel Gregor Johann Mendel (July 20[1], 1822 – January 6, 1884) was an Augustinian abbot who is often called the father of genetics for his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants. ...


In the first half of the twentieth century, statistics became a free-standing discipline of applied mathematics. Statistical methods were used confidently, for example in an increasingly statistical view of biology. (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s The 20th century lasted from 1901 to 2000 in the Gregorian calendar (often from (1900 to 1999 in common usage). ... A graph of a bell curve in a normal distribution showing statistics used in educational assessment, comparing various grading methods. ... Applied mathematics is a branch of mathematics that concerns itself with the mathematical techniques typically used in the application of mathematical knowledge to other domains. ... Biology is the branch of science dealing with the study of life. ...


The first thinkers to attempt to combine inquiry of the type they saw in Darwin with exploration of human relationships, which, evolutionary theory implied, would be based on selective forces, were Freud in Austria and William James in the United States. Freud's theory of the functioning of the mind, and James' work on experimental psychology would have enormous impact on those that followed. Freud, in particular, created a framework which would appeal not only to those studying psychology, but artists and writers as well. Sigmund Freud His famous couch Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 - September 23, 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology, a movement that popularized the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior. ... William James William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher. ...


One of the most persuasive advocates for the view of scientific treatment of philosophy would be John Dewey (1859-1952). He began, as Marx did, in an attempt to weld Hegelian idealism and logic to experimental science, for example in his "Psychology" of 1887. However, it is when he abandoned Hegelian constructs, and joined the movement in America called Pragmatism, possibly under the influence of William James' "Principles of Psychology" that he began to formulate his basic doctrine, enunciated in essays such as "The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy" (1910). John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, whose thought has been greatly influential in the United States and around the world. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... William James William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher. ...


This idea, based on his theory of how organisms respond, states that there are three phases to the process of inquiry:

  1. Problematic Situation, where the typical response is inadequate.
  2. Isolation of Data or subject matter.
  3. Reflective, which is tested empirically.

With the rise of the idea of quantitative measurement in the physical sciences, for example Lord Rutherford's famous maxim that any knowledge that one cannot measure numerically "is a poor sort of knowledge", the stage was set for the conception of the humanities as being precursors to "social science." Ernest Rutherford Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM, PC, FRS (August 30, 1871 – October 19, 1937), was a New Zealand nuclear physicist. ...


This change was not, and is not, without its detractors, both inside of academia and outside. The range of critiques begin from those who believe that the physical sciences are qualitatively different from social sciences, through those who do not believe in statistical science of any kind, through those who disagree with the methodology and kinds of conclusion of social science, to those who believe the entire framework of scientificizing these disciplines is solely, or mostly, from a desire for prestige and to alienate the public. Physical science is the branch of science including chemistry and physics, usually contrasted with the social sciences and sometimes including and sometimes contrasted with natural or biological science. ...


Rise

Theodore Porter argued in "The Rise of Statistical Thinking" that the effort to provide a synthetic social science is a matter of both administration and discovery combined, and that the rise of social science was, therefore, marked by both pragmatic needs as much as by theoretical purity. An example of this is the rise of the concept of Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, a test which produces a number which it is not clear what, precisely, is being measured, except that it has pragmatic utility in predicting success in certain tasks. IQ redirects here; for other uses of that term, see IQ (disambiguation). ...


The rise of industrialism had created a series of social, economic, and political problems, particularly in managing supply and demand in their political economy, the management of resources for military and developmental use, the creation of mass education systems to train individuals in symbolic reasoning and problems in managing the effects of industrialization itself. The perceived senselessness of the "Great War" as it was then called, of 1914-1918, now called World War I, based in what were perceived to be "emotional" and "irrational" decisions, provided an immediate impetus for a form of decision making that was more "scientific" and easier to manage. Simply put, to manage the new multi-national enterprises, private and governmental, required more data. More data required a means of reducing it to information upon which to make decisions. Numbers and charts could be interpreted more quickly and moved more efficiently than long texts. Combatants Allied Powers: British Empire France Italy Russia United States Central Powers: Austria-Hungary Bulgaria Germany Ottoman Empire Casualties Military dead: 5 million Civilian dead: 3 million Total dead: 8 million Military dead: 4 million Civilian dead: 3 million Total dead: 7 million The First World War, also known as...


In the 1930s this new model of managing decision making became cemented with the New Deal in the US, and in Europe with the increasing need to manage industrial production and governmental affairs. Institutions such as The New School for Social Research, International Institute of Social History, and departments of "social research" at prestigious universities were meant to fill the growing demand for individuals who could quantify human interactions and produce models for decision making on this basis. This article or section is missing references or citation of sources. ... This article is becoming very long. ... The New School for Social Research is the name of the graduate division of The New School. ... The International Institute of Social History (Dutch: Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, abbreviation: IISG) is situated in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and was founded in 1935 by Nicolaas Posthumus. ...


Coupled with this pragmatic need was the belief that the clarity and simplicity of mathematical expression avoided systematic errors of holistic thinking and logic rooted in traditional argument. This trend, part of the larger movement known as Modernism provided the rhetorical edge for the expansion of social sciences. Modernism is a cultural movement that generally includes the progressive art and architecture, music, literature and design which emerged in the decades before 1914. ...


Present state

There continues to be little movement toward consensus on what methodology might have the power and refinement to connect a proposed "grand theory" with the various midrange theories which, with considerable success, continue to provide usable frameworks for massive, growing data banks. See consilience. Consilience, or the unity of knowledge (literally a jumping together of knowledge), has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos, inherently comprehensible by logical process, a vision at odds with mystical views in many cultures that surrounded the Hellenes. ...


Criticism

The social sciences are sometimes criticized as being less scientific than the natural sciences, in that they are seen as being less rigorous or empirical in their methods. This claim is most commonly made when comparing social sciences to fields such as physics, chemistry or biology in which direct experimentation and falsification of results is generally carried out in a more direct fashion. Social scientists however, argue against such claims by pointing to the use of a rich variety of scientific processes, mathematical proofs, and other methods in their professional literature. Others, however argue that the social world is much too complex to be studied as one would study static molecules. The actions or reactions of a molecule or chemical substance are always the same when placed in certain situations. Humans, on the other hand, are much too complex for these traditional scientific methodologies. Humans and society do not have certain rules that always have the same outcome and they cannot guarantee to react the same way to certain situations. The term natural science as the way in which different fields of study are defined is determined as much by historical convention as by the present day meaning of the words. ... From Latin ex- + -periri (akin to periculum attempt). ... In science and the philosophy of science, falsifiability, contingency, and defeasibility are roughly equivalent terms referring to the property of empirical statements that they must admit of logical counterexamples. ...


Another criticism is the language used in the explanation of ideas. In natural sciences, scientific terms are often used in order to explain things precisely, where everyday language would be ambiguous or lengthly. Some terms have very precise meanings, as a tool to discussion; scientific language isn't used simply for its own sake. For example, although quantum physics involves complex ideas, physicists generally attempt to use simple language when explaining concepts to an untrained audience. Social scientists have been accused of trying to compensate for relatively feeble and easy subject matter by inventing terms to create the illusion of difficulty and complexity. Examples of this include the term "post-modernism", which is ill-defined and does not appear to aid in an explanation of concepts or ideas.


A third criticism is that social sciences tend to be compromised more frequently by politics, since results from social science may threaten certain centers of power in a society, particularly ones which fund the research institutions. (For example, in the US, corporations and the state are frequently cited as these centers of power.) Further, complexity exacerbates the problems, since observed social data may be the result of factors which are hard to evaluate in isolation.


References

The beginnings of the social sciences in the eighteenth century are reflected in the grand encyclopedia of Diderot, with articles from Rousseau and other pioneers. The growth of the social sciences is also reflected in its specialised encyclopedias. The older editions are therefore of strong historical interest while the newest reflects current discussions, methodologies and ideologies. Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon, 1902 An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia, also (rarely) encyclopædia,[1] is a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge. ... Denis Diderot Denis Diderot (October 5, 1713 - July 31, 1784) was a French writer and philosopher. ... Rousseau is a French surname. ...

  • 1934, Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
  • 1968, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
  • 2001, International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences / ed.-in-chief Neil J. Smelser; Paul B. Baltes, Amsterdam [etc.] : Elsevier, 2001-

See also

This is a list of academic disciplines (and academic fields). ... The history of science investigates the historical record of human events that are pertinent to the cultural context and the secular development of what is currently called science, namely, a body of empirical and theoretical knowledge, produced by a global community of researchers, making use of specific techniques for the... The wheel was invented circa 4000 BC, and has become one of the worlds most famous and most useful technologies. ...

External links


General subfields of the Social sciences
Anthropology | Economics | Education | History | Human geography
Linguistics | Management | Political science | Psychology | Sociology

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