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Transcript of Grand Scheme
Value-Judgments in Social Science
The Concept of 'Following a Rule'
1. Interpreting Ink Blots and Works of Art
2. Overview of the Interpretivist Paradigm
3. Comparison of Positivism, Critical Theory, and Interpretivism
4. Max Weber: Intellectual influences, Viewpoint, & Methodology
5. The Concept of 'Following a Rule'
6. Value Judgments in Social Science
7. Concluding Remarks
Perception of Ink Blots: What do you see?
Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez, 1656
Las Meninas, Pablo Picasso, 1957
Las Meninas, Pablo Picasso, 1957
Introduction to the Interpretivist School of Thought
Comparing the Paradigms: Positivism,
Interpretivism & Critical Theory
Weber on Sociology
Intellectual Influences on His Viewpoint and Work
Freedom of thought. Student should be free from oppressive views of the professor. Not interested in imposing his views on anyone except that everyone should have a right to their own viewpoints (pg. 72).
“In the area of the irrational, emotional or affective aspects of our mental lives, an increase in the number of possible types of behaviour may be called, in a purely value-free way, progress in mental differentiation…progress in differentiation is identical with an increase in value only in the intellectualistic sense of an enlargement of an increasingly conscious experience or of an increasing ability to express and communicate feelings” (pg. 93-94).
“Forty years ago, the belief was widespread among scholars in our discipline that, where practical political value-judgments were concerned, one of the possible positions must ultimately be the only morally correct one” (pg. 71).
“[The teacher] He runs the risk at this point of, for example, trying to 'explain' something as the result of a 'fault' or of 'decadence' , when it was really perhaps an expression of the agent's ideals, which are simply different from his own: in this way he fails in his essential task of 'understanding'” (pg. 97).
‘Truth’ can be used by those in power. Common sense/self-evident ‘truths’ are not to be counted as adequate scientific proof. “The specific function of science seems to me to be exactly the opposite: for science, what is conventionally ‘self-evident’ becomes a problem” (pg. 80).
Truth is currently seen as valuable in the sense that it is logically and factually correct [empirical facts do exist]; yet only in the view of those producing the knowledge or wishing to use it to further their prescribed value-judgement [but can be manipulated and are therefor dangerous] (pg. 78)
The term 'value-judgment' is to be understood as referring to' practical' evaluations of a phenomenon which is“ capable of being influenced by our actions as worthy of either condemnation or approval” (pg. 69).
“…Value-judgment introduced a possible element of distortion into his statements and so to do for himself what the teacher, because of his emotions, remained incapable of doing. In this way, the influence exercised on the minds of young students would continue to retain the genuine depth of feeling which, I assume, those who support the making of value-judgments in academic teaching would want to ensure, without the audience's being led by misguided teaching into confusing the different domains with each other, as is bound to happen when the statement of empirical facts and the challenge to take up a practical position on the great problems of life are both submerged in the same sea of cool, dispassionate analysis” (pg. 70).
“Which of his statements on that occasion is an assertion of fact, either logically demonstrable or empirically observable, and which a practical value-judgment” (pg. 70).
“What is at issue, however, is exclusively the requirement, utterly trivial in itself, that anyone engaged in research or in presenting its results should keep two things absolutely separate, because they involve different kinds of problem: first, the statement of empirical facts (including facts established by him about the evaluative behaviour of the empirical human beings whom he is studying); and secondly, his own practical value-position, that is, his judgment and, in this sense, 'evaluation' of these facts (including possible 'value-judgments' made by empirical human beings, which have themselves become an object of investigation) as satisfactory or unsatisfactory” (pg. 78).
Role of Sociology
“…nowadays the really valuable influence of academic teaching consists in the imparting of specialized training by instructors with specialist qualifications, and hence that the only specific virtue which they need to inculcate is that of 'intellectual integrity'…It might rather be for precisely the opposite reason, namely that one does not wish to see the deepest and most intimately personal decisions in life, the ones in which a man must rely on his own resources, jumbled up with specialist training, and that one wishes to see them solved by the student in the light of his own conscience, not on the basis of any suggestions from his teachers” (pg. 71).
An education is for developing self-discipline and moral formation. When one is clear about their own value-judgements, new value-axioms and causes for particular phenomena are discoverable (pg. 87).
In light of Socialist or syndicalist supporters, the role of science is that “Once the syndicalist view has been reduced in this way to as rational and internally consistent a form as possible, and once the empirical conditions of its realization, its chances of success and empirically predictable practical consequences have been stated, the task of value-free science, at any rate in relation to it, is complete” (pg. 90).
“Admittedly, attempts have been made to set certain limits on purely 'logical' grounds. One of our leading jurists explained on one occasion, when he was declaring himself against the exclusion of Socialists from university posts, that even he could at least not accept an 'anarchist' as a teacher of law, since an anarchist would deny the validity of law as such; and he clearly thought this argument conclusive. I am of exactly the opposite opinion. An anarchist can certainly be a good legal scholar. And if he is, then it may be precisely that Archimedean point, as it were, outside the conventions and assumptions which seem to us so self-evident… (pg. 75). If one believed in one ‘truth’ or one ‘fact’ or value-system, that allows for people in power to use this truth to convince the masses that their ‘methods’ are best all while ‘stealing’ or executing their will.
“The one and only result which can ever be achieved by empirical psychological and historical investigation of a particular value-system, as influenced by individual, social and historical causes, is its interpretative explanation” (pg. 80).
“For neither is it the case that ‘to understand all' means ‘to forgive all', nor is there in general any path leading from mere understanding of someone else's point of view to approval of it. Rather, it leads, at least as easily and often with much greater reliability, to an awareness of the impossibility of agreement, and of the reasons why and the respects in which this is so. This very awareness, however, is the recognition of a truth and it is just this recognition which is advanced by 'discussion of values'” (pg. 81).
Role of the State
“For instance, from von Schmoller's personal point of view, it was quite consistent for him to argue that 'Marxists and members of the Manchester School' were disqualified from occupying academic chairs, although he in particular was never guilty of the injustice of discounting the scientific achievements for which these very groups were responsible. But these are just the respects in which I could never follow our revered Master. Obviously, one cannot in the same breath argue for the admissibility of value-judgments in teaching and then, when the logical consequences of this position are pointed out, refer to the fact that the university is a state institution for the training of officials who are ‘loyal to the state’ in their thinking” (pg 74).
Role of the Teacher
“… the 'lecture' ought to be something different from a 'public address' : that the disinterested rigour, objectivity and reasonableness of discussions among professional colleagues may suffer if the public, for instance in the form of the press, intrude, to the detriment of education… But the teacher should not as such lay claim to carrying the baton of the statesman or the cultural reformer in his knapsack, as he does when he exploits the unassailability of his position as an academic in order to express his views on matters of state or of cultural policy. In the press, in congresses and associations, in essays - in short, in any form which is available equally to every other citizen - he may (and ought to) do whatever his god or his demon calls him to do. But what the present-day student should learn from his teachers above all, at least in the lecture hall, is, first, to be able to content himself with the humble fulfilment of a given task; secondly, to first recognize facts-even, and especially, those which he finds personally inconvenient - and then distinguish between stating those facts and taking up an evaluative position towards them; and thirdly, to subordinate his own personality to the matter in hand and so, above all, to suppress the need to display his personal tastes and other feelings where that is not called for” (pg. 72-73).
Role of the Church
Inserting value-judgements in teaching would enmesh academia with religion and “This would make the university not just a technical school' (which seems to many lecturers so degrading) but a priests' seminary - except that it could not be given the latter's religious dignity” (pg. 75).
Freedom of Thought
"Precisely the most decisive and important questions of practical value in the political sphere are today excluded from academic discussion in German universities by the nature of the political situation. Anyone who considers the interests of the nation to be more important than any of its concrete institutions, without exception, will, for example, consider it to be a question of central importance whether the interpretation of the position of the monarch in Germany which is at present generally accepted is compatible with the world interests of the nation and with the use of the instruments of war and diplomacy to defend these interests” (pg. 75). "Everyone knows, however, that these vital national questions cannot be discussed in complete freedom in German universities. In view of the fact that the really decisive issues from the practical political point of view are permanently removed in this way from free academic discussion, however, it seems to me that the only course of action which befits the dignity of a representative of science is to be silent even about those value-problems which he is graciously permitted to discuss” (pg. 75-76).
Conclusion of Value Judgements in Social Science
"An empirical discipline with the means at its disposal can show is (i) the unavoidable means; (ii) the unavoidable side-effects; (iii) the resulting conflict of several possible value-judgments with each other in their practical consequences. Philosophical disciplines can go further, determining by means of reasoning the 'meaning' of the value-judgments, and so their ultimate structure and consequences from the point of view of meaning: in this way they can assign them their 'place' within the totality of possible 'ultimate' values and mark out their spheres of application from the point of view of meaning. Even such simple questions as: how far should the end justify the necessary means? Or again, how far should unintended consequences be taken into account? Or finally, how are conflicts between a number of intended or obligatory ends which clash in a particular case to be resolved? - All are entirely matters of choice or of compromise. There is no scientific procedure, either rational or empirical, of any kind which could provide a decision in such cases. Least of all can our strictly empirical science presume to spare the individual the necessity of making this choice, and so it should not even give the impression of being able to do so” (pg. 85).
Interpretivism emerged in Europe at the turn of the 20th century as an intellectual reaction to positivism.
Rejection of the positivist notion that the scientific methods used in the investigation of the natural world are also appropriate methods for the investigation of the social world.
Argues that the social world should be investigated through interpretive methods that allow sociologists to gain an understanding of the subjective meanings and values that social actors attach to their interactions.
The crisis of the Enlightenment project in Europe at the turn of the 19th century.
Dominant mode of thought: German Historicism.
The philosophical movement of German Idealism (18th-19th century).
Weber's epistemological position was influenced by the Baden School of Neo-Kantians.
Specifically, Weber's viewpoint was shaped by his understanding of the Neo-Kantian perspective on reality, perception, concept formation, and value-relations.
Weber's ethical worldview was influenced by both Kantian ethics and Nietzschean critique.
Kantian ethics influence: Subjective individualism and the instrumental transformation of the self.
Nietzschean influence: 'death of god', the lack of a system of social values in secularized modernity, as well as his philosophical viewpoint of perspectivism.
Sociology is defined by Weber as:
A science concerning itself with the interpretive understanding of social action and thereby with a causal explanation of its course and consequences. We shall speak of "action" insofar as the acting individual attaches a subjective meaning to his behavior-be it overt or covert, omission or acquiescence. Action is "social" insofar as its subjective meaning takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby oriented in its courses. ~ Max Weber, Economy and Society, p. 4
Weber on Methodology:
Importance of 'Meaning' for Social Science
‘Imagine two men who in other respects stand outside any “social relationship” – say, two savages of different tribes, or a European coming across a savage in darkest Africa...’ (Weber 1978: 106)
These two men ‘exchange’ two objects, as evidenced by certain physical movements.
Following just the physical events would not be to grasp the ‘essence’ of what happened, for this ‘essence’ consists in the ‘meaning’ which the two men attach to this external behavior and this ‘meaning’ attached to their present behavior in turn represents the ‘following of a rule’ in their future behavior.
Without this ‘meaning’ an ‘exchange’ would be neither possible in reality nor conceivable as a concept.
Characterization of Social Action
The characterization of social action is necessary for the social scientist to make sense of the physical events he observes.
Weber maintains that this procedure of assigning ‘meaning’ to individuals is objective and is cautious to stress what he means by ‘objectivity.’
He does not mean that there is a single ‘correct’ meaning, something which the person ought to have meant by their actions.
The objectivity of the characterization of social action does not consist in assigning ‘meaning’ that is 'true' in some metaphysical sense nor in ‘what dogmatically ought to be’ (Weber 1978: 110).
Rather, social science is ‘objective’ in the sense that the meaning assigned should not be arbitrary. It must be true for all ‘those who seek the truth’ (Weber 1978: 110).
Concept of ‘Following a Rule’ as
Problematic for Objectivity
Assignment of meaning is inherently evaluative.
First, a methodological problem: the scientist is the external observer who can assign a different meaning to that which an individual attaches to his particular action.
Secondly, there is an epistemological problem, i.e. the question of whether there can be any ‘real’ meaning or belief an agent should hold.
The scientist who observes the working class individual from outside has to judge what ‘belief’ or ‘meaning’ is real and when, in contrast, it is only acted or insignificant to the analysis.
Additional Difficulties in 'Following a Rule'
What is real, accurate, or ‘adequate’ for the external observer is determined by the social theory the scientist happens to hold.
For example, when someone defines ‘power’ as the ability of X to shape the interests and desires of Y, we have to explain what the latter’s interests were before the exercise of power by the former.
Such an explanation entails a reference to what the ‘real’ interests of Y are, which, in turn, is inherently bound up with a specific theory about human wants. Here, value-judgments necessarily intrude into research.
The fundamental difficulty for objectivity in social science is the fact that the observer can see what is going on as the agent sees it ‘only if the observer holds the same social theory as the agent does.’
It follows that social science cannot be as objective as natural science, if it can be objective at all, precisely because the characterization of social action involves value-judgments concerning what constitutes the ‘meaning’ of an action.
Argument based upon Rudolf Stammler’s conception of ‘social life’ being ‘rule-governed.’
What is meant by 'rule'?
‘General assertions about causal connections, or “laws of nature.”
Or ‘norms’ ‘against which present, past or future events may be ‘measured’ in the sense of value-judgment.’
Neo-Kantianism & Nietzsche
rather than "Erklaren" or
In Weber's view social action must be studied in terms of understanding the meanings and values that social actors attach to their actions.
Objectivity versus subjectivity in the social sciences.
The role of value-judgments in the social sciences.