An obstacle to unification in biological social science: Formal and compositional styles of science

Graduate Journal of Social Science 2 (2):40-100 (2005)
  Copy   BIBTEX


I motivate the concept of styles of scientific investigation, and differentiate two styles, formal and compositional. Styles are ways of doing scientific research. Radically different styles exist. I explore the possibility of the unification of biology and social science, as well as the possibility of unifying the two styles I identify. Recent attempts at unifying biology and social science have been premised almost exclusively on the formal style. Through the use of a historical example of defenders of compositional biological social science, the Ecology Group at the University of Chicago from, roughly, the 1930s to the 1950s, I attempt to show the coherence and possibility, if not utility, of employing the compositional style to effect the synthesis of biology and social science. I also relate the efforts of the Ecology Group to those of investigators in the Sociology Department of the University of Chicago. In my conclusion, I discuss the usefulness both of employing the category of styles of scientific investigation in historical and philosophical studies of science, as well as the concept of compositionality in scientific studies. I end the paper with some tentative suggestions regarding the importance of compositionality for an analysis of human society.

Author's Profile

Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz


Added to PP

826 (#17,931)

6 months
78 (#62,314)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?