Natural Sciences and Human Sciences.


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Natural and Human Sciences : 

Natural and Human Sciences

Natural Sciences and Human Sciences : 

Natural Sciences and Human Sciences Is there a sharp division between human and natural sciences in terms of methods, concerns and status? Where does psychology fit? The answers depend on your philosophical position: two schools of thought

No difference in kind between Natural and Social Sciences : 

No difference in kind between Natural and Social Sciences Traditional empiricists would argue that there is no difference and both natural and human sciences, to be legitimate, must use the same (natural science) methodology – founding and guaranteeing their knowledge through observation and experiment.

Difference in kind between Natural and Social Sciences : 

Difference in kind between Natural and Social Sciences Human sciences are essentially different on account of the meaningfulness of human behaviour. Human sciences yield legitimate knowledge but must use different methods to the natural sciences.

Causal Explanation of Human Behaviour : 

Causal Explanation of Human Behaviour J S Mill in the 19C argued that any phenomena displaying regular patterns were a fit subject for science and all natural phenomena, including human behaviour displayed regularities. The same methodological strategies must be employed in both cases to establish by inductive processes the true causal explanations of observed regularities. Human behaviour is to be explained by recourse to the same principles as are used to explain complex physical systems.

Some problems : 

Some problems In what sense can psychological processes of thinking, feeling etc. be reduced to physiological processes? – Different logical category. But if mental events are not physical events how can they influence the physical world? Causes of human behaviour are reasons not mechanical causes Free will?

Relative lack of success in human sciences? : 

Relative lack of success in human sciences? By which measure – Empiricists explain lack of success by Immense complexity Moral and practical problems in setting up controlled experiments Phenomena rarely occur in the same form – human behaviour subject to change – reflexive: behaviour may be changed by understandings in the human sciences themselves

Overcome problems by : 

Overcome problems by Describe the facts more minutely Experiment where possible Quantify and use statistical techniques Put forward theoretical frameworks and test them according to the hypothetico-deductive model

Peter Winch : 

Peter Winch There is a difference in kind between the natural and the social sciences; it is not just a matter of increased complexity. The phenomena of the natural sciences do not endow themselves with meaning; humans, however, do endow their behaviour with meaning.

Slide 10: 

Analysis and explanation of human action must involve concepts of purpose and intention Human action is rule-following behaviour not causally regular behaviour as in natural sciences “Verstehen”: imaginative understanding of the agent’s point of view

Psychology a Human or a Natural Science? : 

Psychology a Human or a Natural Science? Vote now

Consequences in psychology : 

Consequences in psychology “Cartesian anxiety” (Obsession with METHOD and the need for justification) has lead psychologists to impose inappropriate, limiting “paradigms” – behaviourism – cognitivism – psychology bound by the injunctions of classical empiricism The following is based on Harre, R “The rediscovery of the human mind”

Basic ontology : 

Basic ontology

Concept of Person : 

Concept of Person

Methodology : 


Concept of Mind : 

Concept of Mind

Neural Processes : 

Neural Processes

Brain : 


Conclusions : 

Conclusions Impossible reduction of the social and psychological to the merely physical. Psychology has been diverted when attempting to impose faulty notions of “scientific methodology of the natural sciences” to become scientific. The naïve conception of the scientific methodology leading to true representation of the natural world is in any case mistaken.

References : 

References Nagel, Thomas. What is it like to be a bat? Parker, I. (1992) Discourse Dynamics: Critical Analysis for Social and Individual Psychology. London: Routledge. Chapter 5 Power: an ecological model of text-life. Social Constructionism, Discourse and Realism 1998, Ian Parker (ed.), London, Sage. Lodge, D Sense and sensibility:,,823955,00.html Harre, R “The rediscovery of the human mind”

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