Realism and Antirealism

Authored by: Randall Harp , Kareem Khalifa

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Social Science

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138825758
eBook ISBN: 9781315410098
Adobe ISBN: 9781315410081

10.4324/9781315410098.ch22

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Abstract

Our best social scientific theories try to tell us something about the social world. But is talk of a “social world” a metaphor that we ought not take too seriously? In particular, do the denizens of the social world—cultural values like the Protestant work ethic, firms like ExxonMobil, norms like standards of dress and behavior, institutions like the legal system, teams like FC Barcelona, conventions like marriages—exist? The question is not merely academic. Social scientists use these different social entities to explain social phenomena such as the rise of capitalism, the decline in oil prices, or the effect of unions on the sports labor market. But how could these explanations possibly work if social entities don’t exist?

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