The social sciences aim to put human social behaviour under the microscope, including issues as diverse as fashion trends, criminality, and family life. However, they are often described as 'soft' sciences, in contrast to 'hard' sciences such as physics or chemistry, implying that they have less of a claim to be genuinely 'scientific'. In this module, we'll look at a number of ideas about how exactly the social sciences are different from the natural sciences, and at where they leave the idea of a 'science of the social'.
Along the way, we'll consider questions such as the following: In so far as recognizing humans as humans (in contrast, say, to treating them as biological mechanism, as medicine does) means taking more than just an intellectual interest in them, does that mean that research in the social sciences is always tainted by the researchers' own personal interests and values? What exactly is the picture of human nature that the social sciences paint, and can we recognize ourselves in that picture? And might work in the social science actually end up undermining our faith in human autonomy, by revealing laws that our behaviour follows?
Timing and CATS
This module will run in the Spring Term and is worth 15 CATS.