9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN29 Social Theory

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Philosophy of Social Science: Are there Limits of Social Constructions? Building AA, AA.326

Unstable Borders: On the Limits of Social Science

In this presentation we would like to deal with the boundaries and the limits between scientific and non - scientific forms of knowledge, especially in social science. The main issue here is scientific discourse and its other, whether this might be called common sense or ideology or even a naive empiricism which identifies being and appearance in the social world (e.g. society is what you see). Therefore although we admit there is a distinctive social scientific discourse we will argue all social scientific discourses can never be «clean» and radically «different» from other discourses; in fact they are constantly contaminated by and overlap with categories of common-sense discourse - but also those of ideology. Thus our approach to social epistemology is not so much a question of what is social science but rather what is not, an attempt to question the foundations of social sciences´ scientificity (scientific - truth claims) by means of detecting their limits and borders; in this sense, the conditions of its possibility (theoretically, empirically, methodologically) are based primarily on what it attempts to exclude. We will argue that social scientific discourse is always inherently open and divided, never clearly and finally demarcated (but only in a relative and unstable sense) from its other(s) because it is always determined by the other of science; thus by definition it cannot be completely closed and consolidated (i.e. cannot completely exclude its other). Its borders and limits are always unstable and historically defined and in social science at least, we cannot have simple oppositions between e.g. knowledge / ignorance, science / common sense, science / ideology, rationalism / irrationalism, truth / misrepresentation but rather over-determinations, cross-contaminations, complex borders (borders: places of division and passage), delimitations, inclusions and exclusions. We will argue that social science works at the same time on the basis of, with, beyond and against common-sense discourses or ideology (but never without them). We would like to argue that these distinctions and delimitations constitute historically relevant conventions but at the same time their epistemological validity may exceed their historical origins (i.e rationalism in modern science).