Cause, the Persistence of Teleology, and the Origins of the Philosophy of Social Science

In Stephen P. Turner and Paul Roth (ed.), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences. pp. 21-42 (2003)
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The subject of this chapter is the complex and confusing course of the discussion of cause and teleology before and during the period of Mill and Comte, and its aftermath up to the early years of the twentieth century in the thinking of several of the major founding figures of disciplinary social science. The discussion focused on the problem of the sufficiency of causal explanations, and particularly the question of whether some particular fact could be explained without appeal to purpose. In response to such questions, the defenders of the new conception attempted to replace older terminology with new (“function” for “purpose,” for example), sometimes muddling the issues, sometimes turning them into terminological disputes, and sometimes making the different positions difficult to distinguish. The problem of methodological unity in the social sciences is rooted in the discussions of the time.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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