SAGE Publications (London)


General Editors:

Ian Jarvie (York University, Toronto)

Jesús Zamora Bonilla (UNED, Madrid)


(To be published in 2009)


Provisional list of contents and confirmed contributors.

Advisory Board




The editors.



Provisional list of contents and confirmed contributors.



Philosophical problems in the social sciences. Ontology, paradigms, and methodology. (Ian Jarvie – Jesús Zamora Bonilla )



1. The philosophy of social science from Mandeville to Mannheim. (Joseph Agassi)

2. The philosophy of social science in the twentieth century: continental traditions. (Yvonne Sherratt  )

3. The philosophy of social science in the twentieth century: analytic traditions. (Paul Roth)

4. Philosophy of social science within general philosophy of science. (Harold Kincaid )



5. Naturalism: the place of society in nature. (Don Ross)

6. Language and society (to be decided)

7. Social minds. (Laurence Kaufmann )

8. Rational agency. (Fred D’Agostino )

9. Individualism, collective agency, and the micro-macro relation. (Alban Bouvier ).

10. Rules, norms, and commitments. (Fabienne Peter  )

11. Institutions. (Chrysostomos Mantzavinos  )

12. Culture and identity. (Angel Díaz de Rada )

13. Power and social classes. (Daniel Little)

14. Reflexivity and objectivity. (Uskali Mäki )



15. Rational choice and its alternatives. (James Johnson  )

16. Game theory. (Giacomo Bonanno  )

17. Evolutionary approaches. (Geoffrey Hodgson  )

18. Networks. (Yves Zenou  )

19. Analytical Sociology (Peter Hedström & Petri Ylikoski  )

20. Functionalism and Structuralism (Anthony King).

21. Pragmatism and symbolic interactionism (Alex Dennis).

22. Phenomenology, hermeneutics, and ethnomethodology (Hans-Herbert Koegler)

23. Communicative action and critical theory (Martin Morris)

24. Constructivism, postmodernism, and deconstruction. (Patrick Baert  )

25. Standpoint social theories. (Sun-Ki Chai  )

26. Normative criteria of social choice (to be decided)

27. Systems theory. (Andrea Pickel)




28. Facts, values, and objectivity. (Heather Douglas )

29. Local models versus global theories, and their assessment. (Tarja Knuutila  )

30. Empirical evidence: its nature and sources. (Julian Reiss )

31. Experiments. (Francesco Guala )

32. Artificial worlds and simulation. (Till Grüne-Yanoff  )

33. Prediction. (Gregor Betz  )

34. Mathematics and statistics in the social sciences. (Stephan Hartmann )

35. Causality, causal models, and social mechanisms. (Daniel Steel  )

36. Social epistemology and science studies. (Steve Fuller).

37. Expert judgment. (María Jiménez & David Teira  )

38. Technology and social science (Anne Beaulieu & Maarten Derksen  )



Scientific social knowledge: use it with care. (Ian Jarvie - Jesús Zamora-Bonilla)




Confirmed members


Anna Alexandrova

J. Francisco Álvarez

Patrick Baert

Cristina Bicchieri

Alban Bouvier

Nancy Cartwright

Franz Dietrich

Juan Carlos García-Bermejo

Margaret Gilbert

Stephan Hartmann

Peter Hedström

Todd Jones

Harold Kincaid

Stanley Lieberson

Uskali Mäki

Caterina Marcchioni

Philip Pettit

Julian Reiss

Mark Risjord

Michael Root



            The Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Science attempts to offer a comprehensive view of the fundamental philosophical and methodological problems characteristic of the social sciences, as well as of the main approaches and schools of thought that have constituted the discipline. It is conceived as a work of reference for present and future specialists, one that can guide and help to structure the map of the field that researchers and teachers will employ in their investigations and lectures. As a systematic map of the discipline, the Handbook cannot be based on any single perspective, but is obliged to respond to the interaction (and some times the lack of communication) between the diverse theoretical points of view and academic interests that have determined the development of the philosophy of the social sciences. Furthermore, the basic landscape of this field has been heavily influenced by its problematic relation both to the ‘general’ philosophy of science, and to the diverse and often conflicting intellectual and scientific approaches developed within the social disciplines themselves, whose central theoretical positions have usually been constructed, defended or criticised through ‘philosophical’ argumentation, and in many cases it is difficult to discern where philosophy ends and science begins, if the notion of a limit makes any sense in a case like this.

Regarding the relation between the philosophy of the social sciences and general philosophy of science, one traditional way of doing the former has been to take ‘from the shelf’ some standing conception of ‘how science works’ and try to apply its concepts, questions, and procedures to the specificities of some social discipline. Of course this strategy has produced some interesting and valuable contributions, but most authors recognise nowadays that it tends to miss many of the most central aspects of social science.  Basically such ‘general’ approaches have been conceived with both eyes fixed on some fascinating examples drawn from the history of natural science, usually physics. The development of a philosophy of social science which is not blindly steered by the shadow of such a Big Brother has been the goal of most of the more prominent researchers in the field during the last two or three decades, and the conception and the structure of this Handbook is deeply in debt to that endeavour. This does not mean that we conceive of the philosophy of social science as a completely autonomous field, but we have preferred to present the basic problems of our discipline as philosophical puzzles that cannot be solved simply by applying some ‘all-purpose’ paradigm and by assuming that social sciences are something like the defective little sisters of physics, chemistry or biology. Rather to the contrary, the truth is that many of the attempted solutions to these problems can be powerful tools for the understanding of other topics in the natural sciences, and hence we want our Handbook to be a reference not only for the specialists in the philosophy of the social sciences, but for philosophers of science and epistemologists in general.

            On the other hand, the positivist dream of the unity of science faded away a long time ago, and now it is clear that not even the natural sciences have a unified conceptual structure, nor do they follow more than a minimum  canon of ‘scientific method’, and this is even truer of the social sciences. Another way to put this is that scientific endeavours share a very bare minimum: they are empirical and they are rational.  Natural science finds its problems in the empirical world and tries to reconcile its solutions with the empirical evidence.  It does this obedient to the normal canons of deductive logic, especially the demand for consistency.  The metaphysical view that we live in a single world is found implicitly in the fact that in the natural sciences it is at least considered a virtue and a goal that the discoveries made in an area be consistent with those of other fields, and even applicable and helpful outside their original domain. By contrast, the social disciplines seem to be more much more reluctant to converge, and the history of the philosophy of social science, no less than the history of social science itself, is the history of a permanent conflict between approaches that tend to deny the validity of the concepts and methods employed by their rivals, and even to consider irrelevant most of the questions posed by them. Empiricism, logic, and metaphysics are all under dispute in this difference. In these circumstances, it is impossible to take an absolutely unbiased point of view from which to delineate the structure of our Handbook, but we have tried to be as impartial as the balance between coherence and completeness allows. We also want our Handbook to be a paving stone on the way not towards a more unified approach in the philosophy of the social sciences, but at least towards a situation where a constructive dialogue between the conflicting schools is the norm rather than the exception. Basically, what we try to offer is a work of reference where sympathisers of each paradigm can find the clearest presentations of their conflicting views, can honestly weigh the pros and cons of each, and can discover how to use the concepts of other approaches to solve the problems they are dealing with, or vice versa.



            Taking into account all these tensions, we have structured the Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Science into four major divisions. After an introductory survey, we include in the first place a brief historical section, which also serves as a reference point for the rest of the book; the contributions up to the beginning of the 20th century are analysed in the first chapter of this section, whereas the following two chapters are devoted to describe the continental and the analytical traditions that have been the main actors in the discipline since the interwar period. This division between continental and analytical traditions unquestionably influences the structure of the following sections, but, when it has been possible, in these we have rather tried to show how the recent developments in the philosophy of social sciences are superseding that old divide.

The next three sections are broadly devoted to problems of ontology, theory, and method, respectively, though we acknowledge that in many cases it is not easy to draw a definite limit between these topics. Section II, ‘Central issues in social ontology’, deals with problems concerning the kinds of things that populate the social world and can be used to explain it. Whether these are pre-theoretical or theoretical, assumptions about ontology affect method and research. Regarding this question, the main debates have been between holism and individualism, but also between the view of men as rational and autonomous actors or as constrained and compelled by the norms of their societies, and between the view of society as a natural phenomenon or as having some kind of independence (and even conceptual primacy) from nature. This section tries to offer a balanced description of these debates.

Section III, ‘A philosopher’s guide to social science paradigms’, surveys the most important approaches that have inspired theoretical research in the social sciences. The richness of this section make it clearer what we have just said about the divide between analytical and continental philosophies: the variety of theoretical approaches developed in the social sciences in the last decades is increasingly complex, as it is its relation to their philosophical and scientific backgrounds. On the other hand, we have tried in this section to give not just a precis of the main paradigms in the social science, but one that concentrates on the philosophical issues that serve as a rationale for them, both from the point of view of epistemology and of ethics or political philosophy, and which serves to critically examine and compare the strengths and weaknesses of those paradigms. Finally, we have explicitly included a chapter which tries to illuminate the conceptual and methodological differences existing between the social sciences, and the bridges that may be emerging in order to connect them.

Section IV focuses on methodological problems, not only understood in the traditional sense of how can scientific hypotheses be confirmed or disconfirmed, but paying more attention to what social scientists themselves view as ‘methodology’: all kind of strategies in the elaboration, justification, or criticism of models or theories. Of course, all these questions are addressed from an essentially philosophical point of view, and are also organised around a central problem, namely, the problem of what are the fundamental sources of the validity claims that social science theories may make. We conceive of this problem not just as an epistemological one, but as a very practical concern of those people that have to use the knowledge (or the presumed knowledge) generated by the social sciences. So, the question about the interweaving of facts and values, of knowledge and ideology, of cognitive and practical goals, etc., is addressed explicitly at the beginning and the end of the section from several different perspectives, and also informs the rest of the chapters in essential ways.

Of course, in spite of the Handbook having a clear sense of conceptual unity and disciplinary completeness, each chapter will be an independent article that can be read as a separate work, and we shall edit to avoid duplication and blatant inconsistencies, and guarantee stylistic coherence through the full book.



            The Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Science is intended to be used as a basic reference work for researchers, lecturers, and advanced students over a long period of time, and to be a necessary asset for academic libraries all over the world. Obviously, researchers in the philosophy of the social sciences in general, and in the philosophy of particular social sciences (sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, game theory, cultural studies, etc.), will be the most natural users of the work, but researchers in these social disciplines themselves (and not particularly in their philosophical aspects) will find the book extremely useful, due to the fact that in these areas foundational problems, either conceptual or methodological, are often very close to day-to-day research. Furthermore, as we said in the previous section, specialists in ‘general’ philosophy of science are increasingly interested in the diversity of scientific disciplines, and will have in our Handbook an accessible introduction not only to the philosophical problems specific to the social sciences, but of the main paradigms existing in these disciplines; so, the Handbook will also become a reference work within the general field of philosophy of science.

            Lecturers in charge of courses in the philosophy of social sciences (as a full course or as a part of a wider course) will find in the Handbook an extremely useful tool for mapping the basic structure, divisions, and problems of the field, and so for organising their lectures (of course, without attempting to supplant a textbook for the use of students). Finally, graduate students facing advanced seminars directly or indirectly dealing with specific problems of the philosophy of social sciences, or starting the first stages of their own research, will also have in the Handbook a compact way of grasping the essentials of the discipline.

            We also conceive of the Handbook as a truly international work. The social sciences and their philosophy are surely more dependent on national or regional traditions than the natural sciences, and we try to respect in a fair way this diversity, not only for producing a work as unbiased as possible, but to be really useful for researchers, lecturers and students all over the world.

            This wide spectrum of users entails that the contents of the Handbook must be accessible to a very diverse range of readers, and so not too technical. Furthermore, in order to be a valid work for a long period of time it must avoid excessive concentration on problems and debates which just happen to have been in fashion during recent years. Though we recognise that it is sometimes very difficult to discern mere fashions from really durable ‘paradigm shifts’, we attempt to offer a map of the field that shows not only the classical topics and questions, but also the most stable emergent approaches and problems.


The editors.


            Ian Jarvie.

            He was educated at the London School of Economics where he studied with Sir Karl Popper between 1955 and 1961, receiving a Ph.D. in Scientific Method.  After a junior post at LSE 1960-1961, appointed to a Lectureship in Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in 1962.  In 1967 took up an Associate Professorship in Philosophy at York University, Toronto. Promoted Professor in 1971, and Distinguished Research Professor in 1994.  Also taught at Tufts University, Boston University, the University of Southern California, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, Umea University and Lund University (Helsingborg Campus).

            He is Managing Editor of the scholarly journal Philosophy of the Social Sciences, as well as a member of the Editorial Boards of Philosophical Forum; Film and History; Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

            His principal publications include a study of the methodology of the social sciences, The Revolution in Anthropology, 1964; a work on social ontology, Concepts and Society 1972; Rationality and Relativism, 1984; selected essays Thinking About Society, 1985; Philosophy of the Film, 1987; and The Republic of Science, 2001.

            Regarding his research interests, besides the influence of Popper, he has deep intellectual debts to Ernest Gellner, F. A. Hayek, and to Sir Ernst Gombrich.  The work of the first three informs his continuing contributions to the philosophy of the social sciences, on the one hand, and the work of the latter informs his efforts in the philosophy of the arts, especially film, on the other.  Ian Jarvie’s philosophy of the social sciences is enriched by his first order work in social science, especially regarding the effects of the mass media.  He is currently finishing new work in all these areas.


            Jesús Zamora-Bonilla.

            He graduated and received a Ph.D. both in philosophy of science (1993) and in economics (2001) in Madrid, where he currently is professor at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, in the department of Philosophy. Formerly, he taught at Universidad Carlos III, in the department of Economics. His doctoral dissertation in philosophy was about realism and truth approximation, and his dissertation in economics was about the economics of scientific research.      He is academic co-ordinator of the Urrutia Elejalde Foundation for Economics and Philosophy (a private foundation from the Basque country), and in this position he has been responsible from 1999 of the regular organisation of its international Summer School and Winter Workshop, always concentrating on tansdisciplinary and avant-garde topics.

            Jesús Zamora-Bonilla has published numerous papers in first order scholarly journals, as Economics and Philosophy, Episteme, Erkenntnis, Perspectives on Science, Philosophy of Science, Synthese, The Journal of Economic Methodology, or Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie. He has prepared the edition of monograph issues for Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Social Epistemology, and The Journal of Economic Methodology. He is also author of five books on philosophy of science and economics of science in Spanish, amongst them a student’s textbook on philosophy of social science.           His main current research interests are the application of game theoretic models to the philosophy of science, as well as the development of an inferentialist conception of rationality for understanding both scientific research and the epistemological and ontological foundations of the social sciences.