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Philosophy of Science in Social Research

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The philosophical study of social research is an important dimension of social science which has been placed to analyze the problems of social science description and its relationships. Philosophy of social science deals with the generalized meaning of the thing & centered on the sharing of experience about the social world in which people’s perspective differs from one another. The various approaches analyze the social research on the basis of three grounds: Thematic analysis, meta-narratives and mini-narratives and lastly, cause-effect analysis. The changing pattern of the philosophical foundations continuously enriches itself with new dimensions and views about social world.
Approaches of philosophy of science in social research
There are certain approaches of philosophy of science in social research- * Realism * Empiricism * Positivism * Post positivism * Idealism * Rationalism * Functionalism * Structuralism * Utilitarianism * Instrumentalism * Feminism * Materialism * Skepticism * Nomothetic and Ideographic * Solipsism * Atomism * Holism * Perspectivism * Relativism

These are described below- * Realism: Realism is a perspective of social research which represents itself as a dominant indicator on International politics. Context makes the situation. * Ontology: Social reality is stratified into three domains: * the empirical observations are made up of experiences and events through observations; * the real events whether observed or not and the reality consists of the existing processes, powers * Power and causal mechanism that generate events * Epistemology
Social reality can be viewed as a socially constructed world in which social elements are the products of social actors. The main aspects of realism are: * constructive realism; * entity realism; * aesthetic realism; * scientific realism; * moderate realism; * modal realism; * mystical realism; * organic realism
Empiricism: Empiricism is the doctrine that sense experience is the only basis of knowledge, and that therefore all hypotheses and theories should be tested by a process of observation and experience. Empiricism entails ontology of an ordered universe made up of atomistic, discrete and observed events which can be represented by universal prepositions, constant conjunctions or regular patterns of events. All forms of empiricism draw a clear distinction between facts and propositions that have been verified by experience and experiment, and values which as subjective beliefs or opinions are always to be distrusted.
Positivism: Positivism is a philosophy that states the only authentic knowledge is knowledge that is based on actual sense of experience as well as holds monopoly of knowledge in science. For positivism, social science is an attempt to gain predictive and explanatory knowledge of the external world and to do this; the researcher must construct theories that consist of highly general statements, expressing the regular relationships.
Post-positivism: It is a logical reasoning process. Post-positivism is the neo positivist’s view to social research process in using new techniques or tools where the philosophers used the logical reasoning process. To ensure the quality of the research process, it takes on two different but interrelated instruments: validity and reliability. Validity, mainly, is just something abstract and philosophical which is the principle of post positivism and reality.
Idealism: Idealism is understood in one of two senses, metaphysical and political, metaphysical idealism is the belief that, in the final analysis, only ideas exist. * Criticism: Idealism fails to acknowledge the role of institutional structures, particularly division of interest and relations of power, moreover, not able to deal with the conditions which give rise to the meaning, interpretations, the actions, rules and beliefs.
Rationalism: Rationalism makes the proper use of axiomatic presuppositions in order to analyze social reality, which approaches research data with logical and mathematical modeling and also believes that everything has a rational structure. * Criticism: Rationalism does not make any difference between observational and theoretical statements whereas all observations are theory dependent.
Functionalism: Functionalism is the metaphysical theory of mind and human behaviorism which suggests that mental status is constructed solely through their functional role. Functionalism is the doctrine that social institutions and practices can be understood in term of functions they carry out in sustaining the larger social system. * Criticism: Functionalism has been criticized in two major ways: first, it has been accused of reductionism; secondly, functionalism is implicitly conservative.
Structuralism: Structuralism has emerged in the second half of the twentieth century in academic arena which concerned with the analysis of language, culture and society from structural perspective. The basic principles of structuralism consist of analyzing social events to discover the synchronic structures which makes possible hierarchical pattern and these are typically broken down into various units such as codes, rules of combinations etc. Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy that suggests that the rightness of action, policy or institution can be established by its tendency to promote happiness. * Criticism: Utilitarianism has been criticized for endorsing acts that are widely considered wrong.
Instrumentalism: The instrumentalism approach views that concepts and theories are merely useful equipments whose worth is measured not by whether the concepts. Instrumentalism is related closely with pragmatism which sometimes contrasts with scientific realism in which theories are to be proved more or less true.
Feminism: Feminist ideology is therefore characterized by two basic beliefs: * first, Women and men are treated differently because of their sex; * Secondly, the unequal treatment can and should be overturned.
Materialism: Materialism was the trend of the early twentieth century which explains social, historical and cultural development in terms of material and class factor. It has emerged with considerable significance of philosophical foundations of Marxism and therefore as the basis of social and political analysis.
Phenomenological approach: Phenomenological approach has been analyzed from three different grounds in the philosophy of social research: * dialectical phenomenology; * transcendental phenomenology; * And subjective and objective phenomenology.
Skepticism: Skepticism, as an epistemological argument, poses the question of whether knowledge is possible or not within the fold of social research. Philosophical skepticism begins with the claim that it has no foundation of knowledge though some theorists believe that knowledge is possible as well as it can be analyzed from either total view or particular areas.
Nomothetic and Ideographic: Nomothetic and ideographic are two basic philosophical ideas to describe two different approaches to knowledge where each is responsible for different intellectual tendency as well as corresponding to a different branch of academic world. The ideographic is based on a tendency to specify and express in humanities that describes the effort to understand the meaning of contingent, accidental and sometimes subjective phenomena.
Solipsism: Solipsism (literally one-self-ism) is the doctrine of individualistic perspectives where its general philosophical position can be viewed as one can know only about oneself. Solipsism believes that one doesn’t know nothing except one’ own experiences, states and acts.
Atomism: The atomism approach states that the primary units of social world are self reliable, self contained, independent and separate entities. It describes that person’s experiences are his own unique states of consciousness in which he has optimum privilege to access.
Holism: Holism is the doctrine that properties of individuals are solely a function of their place in society or some broad system of meanings; specially, it is the doctrine that people’s identities are determined by their group membership because identity is produced by social and cultural forces.
Perspectivism: Perspectivism approach has a great influence in present social scientific research where knowledge is perspectival in character. According to perspectivism, knower never view reality directly as it is in itself; rather they approach it from their own slant, with their own assumptions and preconceptions.
Relativism: Relativism is the latest doctrine in philosophy of science which uses either experiences or reality within a particular conceptual scheme. According to epistemological relativism, the content, meaning, truth, rightness, ethical and aesthetical beliefs can be determined in specific scheme and no cross-framework judgments are permissible.
Changing Pattern of Philosophy of Science to Social Research: The philosophical pattern of social research has been changing through historical antecedents and exploring the advent of new approaches of methodological analysis. * Modernity and modernism are interdependent as well as interconnected where optimism, reason and progress became the dominant discourses and establishes the foundation of knowledge in an era of modernity. * Post modernity literally means the time following modernity or the modern era, while postmodernism is the identifiable ideological position that developed from modernism, * In structuralism, individual objects are clearly viewed as a part a greater whole and language is an important device in the creation of meaning. Post structuralism encompasses the intellectual developments of continental philosophers and critical theorists that wrote with the tendencies of twentieth century philosophy.

Reference: * Hughes, John, The Philosophy of Social Research, Longman Singapore Publishers (Pte) Ltd, Singapore,1987:pp-5-26

* Heywood, Andrew, Key Concepts in Politics, Blackwell Publishers Inc, U.S.A., 2000: pp-55-115. * Uddin,M,Nasir and M, Hamiduzzaman, The Philosophy of Science in Social Research, The Journal of International Research, volume 2/6 winter 2009.

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