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Partial fallibilist social rationality and the social sciences today

9 giugno 2011
Ex Boccherini - Piazza S. Ponziano 6 (Conference Room )
Popper’s theory of progress in science was originally a simple theory about the logic of all research. It merely said that scientific progress was then possible and only then possible when theories were put to serious tests and at times refuted. This idea led to the discovery that science needed specific methodological rules, which prevented scientists from avoiding such refutations and which encouraged them to put forth daring conjectures. This in turn led to the generalized theory that all rationality, whether in science or outside of science, is critical. And this discovery led to the realization that all rationality is social, that it depends on differing individuals engaging in critical discussions. This development has been quite impressive. During this process it led as well to the desire to apply these results to both social theory and the methodology of the social sciences. In social theory it led to the quite desirable defense of an open society, in which free thinking and free criticism are defending by law and by governments. This theory was, however, combined with the endorsement of the social scientific methods of economists. These methods seemed to be tied to that of the defense of an open society, as Hayek so strongly maintained. But the core of this approach in economics is the use of the rationality principle as the core of the framework for social scientific research. But this principle makes assumptions which conflict with the new theory of ratioanlity as the pursuit of truth, which says that rationality is partial, social and critical. It needs, then, to be replaced as the foundation of the intellectual research program which has by far the most influence on social scientific research today. The new program views the study of rationality as beginning with the study of rules and then the study of how these rules effect the critical appraisal of alternatives. The consequences which follow from such a change in the philosophical research program in the social sciences are enormous. In sociology new possibilities for studying how social rules, especially those employed by institutions, affect the rationality of social actions by looking at the critical responses to problems they encourage and/or hinder. In anthropology the study of social rules need not be placed beyond the study of rationality, but made part of it. In cognitive psychology new studies of the social aspects of individual thought processes seem possible. In political science new studies about how established views of rationality further or hinder good or bad political developments. In economics more realistic studies about developments and risks and oppurtunities seem possible, when the artificial separation of the studies of social structures from economic well-being or economic difficulties are removed. And in ethics one may switch from the rather primitive utilitarian views to a more humane and general view of that which is morally good and bad as products of the ability of individuals to solve, or not solve, the problems they pose as individuals.
Wettersten, John