Science from Observation: On The Importance of a Qualitative Approach for Social Sciences

   Dunnell observes the approaches to science from a more analytical standpoint.  He states that “observation is Theory laden” and proceeds to address the many questions that had been being asked in the concept of science.  Up to 1970 he prescribes the techniques of theory to Archaeology.  He explains that there are different observations such as quantitative and qualitative and that up to a certain point science was only interested with the quantitative observations.  Quantitative is the approach to understanding things in accord with numbers such as in statistics.  Qualitative is firsthand accounts or words, video, places etc.  He is so bold as to state that there are scientists more concerned with asking “how” than asking “why”.  He considers common sense a form of ethnocentricity and that it contributes to more of the human understanding than does science.  In this sense common sense cannot be quantified because it is immeasurable.  In this sense he claims that there are some scientists which would deem it unscientific at all under these means.   He also states that one of the problems with social science is that theory is seen as the result of empirical research and not as the foundation of intellect.  He explains that there should be a more broad approach to the analytic methods used by social scientists.

Rorty, like Dunnell,  also criticizes the methods used by scientists for empirical testing and analysis. He refers to Scientists as those that throw jargon around and create vocabulary to explain the world. The invention of a higher vocabulary gives them authority over explanations.  Rorty goes further to criticize the scientific method.  In this sense I agree with him, the scientific (objective) method should not be the only method adopted by social sciences because it narrows the field down to a pinpoint.  If you open yourself up to the scientific method you essentially allow your fears and inquiries to correlate with your research not to mention the bulk of the scientific community. In this sense he expresses that rationality and method are neither “clear nor useful”.   He says that social scientists cannot utilize the scientific method and thus cannot be scientific in their endeavors unless they remain true to the Galilean model.  Galilean model in itself that “nature is numbers” holds a more quantitative approach to science.  As with Dunnell this is a highly controversial topic.  He explains that there should be a push for social scientists to adopt the hermeneutical method which is the interpretation of theory.  Objectivity being theory laden means that hermeneutics would bypass vocabulary to reach an understanding or interpretation. There should be a more qualitative approach to Social science.  The problem would be that the ontological difference would dictate a methodological difference.  The problem with X=Y is that you could not say you knew something about Y unless you understood X.  Things become stringed together, these form generalizations about ones environment and become subject to systematic empiricism.  Where did the fossils come from? The ground. Therefore they must be rock formations. What else comes from the ground? Rock, sand, dust, plants etc.  Therefore fossils must be one of these things. Then again one must construct interpretative means about ones environment.  What he mainly criticizes is the use of Vocabulary and Jargon by scientists to explain the universe and the closely knit community of scientist projecting their own theories and influence.

Sellers refers to the same concept as Dunnell but he uses a little bit of different vocabulary to describe the use of science and philosophy.  Basically there are those that look at the “how” and the “that”.  Ducks know how to swim or ducks know that water supports them.  These two generally differences are the basis to what scientific knowledge and philosophy embody. The philosophers however point toward analysis of analytic topics or things people already know about.  Sellers emphasizes the manifest image which is mans image of himself as in-the-world which is different than the scientific image in a sense that the manifest image was around before science.  He also refers to the classic philosophies which encompass the image of Man.  Basically this means that whatever we see or encounter in the world we must assume that the only reality we prescribe is reality in itself or self-awareness.  Like Plato said “I think therefore I am”.  In this sense we assume that the intrinsic principals governing the scientific method are only plausible under these circumstances I.E. by being aware of something you initially influence it.  Therefore analysis of a topic affects it and therefore strengthens it.  It is the observance of the “that” and not the “how”.  The “how” would be the observer.  However there is also an opposite of this image which he deems the “scientific-image”.  This “image” terms from the behaviorist approach to mankind to explain the world.  It still resonates with the man-in-world ideal however it is much more observable than the manifest image. 

   All of these methods correlate with practices in social science yet all seem to point to one another.  In my conclusion one should attempt to stray away from scientific however it is alright to study empiricism as long as there is an attempt to not fill ones head with direct ideas about something by this I mean to correlate vocabulary or to explain things on a field of study that already exists.  We must constantly assume that things are changing and never remain the same. 


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