Social science and philosophy of social science are two branches of academia that deal with the study of human society. Although these fields share some common ground, they are fundamentally different in their approaches, methodologies, and objectives. In this article, we will explore the differences between social science and philosophy of social science.
What is Social Science?
Social science is a broad field that encompasses the study of various aspects of human society, including economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, and history. The primary objective of social science is to understand how societies function and how individuals interact within them. Social scientists use empirical research methods such as surveys, experiments, case studies, and statistical analysis to gather data that can be analyzed to develop theories about human behavior.
Examples of Social Science
- Economics: The study of how individuals and societies allocate resources
- Psychology: The study of human behavior and mental processes
- Sociology: The study of social interaction and organization
- Anthropology: The study of human culture and society
- Political Science: The study of government and political systems
- History: The study of past events in human society
What is Philosophy of Social Science?
Philosophy of social science is a more specialized field that focuses on the underlying assumptions, concepts, and methods used in social scientific inquiry. It examines the philosophical foundations upon which social scientific theories are built.
Philosophers of social science ask critical questions about how we define concepts like “society,” “culture,” “power,” “gender,” and “race.” They also examine the ethical implications of conducting research on human subjects.
Examples of Philosophy of Social Science
- Epistemology: The study of knowledge and how it is acquired
- Ontology: The study of the nature of reality and existence
- Methodology: The study of research methods and their validity
- Ethics: The study of moral principles and values that guide social scientific research
The Differences Between Social Science and Philosophy of Social Science
The primary difference between social science and philosophy of social science is their focus. Social science aims to gather empirical data to develop theories about human behavior, whereas philosophy of social science focuses on the underlying assumptions, concepts, and methods used in social scientific inquiry.
Another difference is their methodologies. Social scientists use empirical research methods such as surveys, experiments, case studies, and statistical analysis to gather data. In contrast, philosophers of social science use conceptual analysis, logical reasoning, and critical reflection to examine the philosophical foundations of social scientific theories.
Finally, while both fields share an interest in studying human society, they have different objectives. Social scientists aim to provide explanations for human behavior in society, whereas philosophers of social science aim to critically evaluate the assumptions underlying these explanations.
In summary, social science and philosophy of social science are two distinct fields that both contribute to our understanding of human society. While they share some common ground in terms of their subject matter, they differ in their approaches, methodologies, and objectives. Understanding these differences can help us appreciate the complexity and diversity of academic inquiry into human behavior.