The Continued Relevance of Weber's Philosophy of Social Science

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Normativity, Reason, Social sciences, Typification, Rationality, A priori knowledge, Rational choice theory, Decision theory, Causality, Empiricism


Only a few writers have attempted to construct a comprehensive philosophy of social science, and of these Weber is the most relevant to the present. The structure of his conception places him in a close relationship to Donald Davidson. The basic reasoning of Davidson on action explanation, anomalous monism, and the impossibility of a 'serious science' of psychology is paralleled in Weber. There are apparent differences with respect to their treatment of the status of the model of rational action and the problem of other cultures, as well as the problem of the objectivity of values, but on examination, these turn out to be modest but, nevertheless, interesting. Weber's use of the notion of ideal-types, though it is not paralleled directly in Davidson, allows him to make parallel conclusions about the relation of truth and interpretation: both make the problem of intelligibility rather than correspondence with some sort of external reality central, and each addresses, though in different ways, the dependence of considerations of intelligibility on normativity and the impossibility of a theory of meaning without idealization.

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Max Weber Studies, v. 7, issue 1, p. 37-62