Saturday, August 3, 2019

Interpretivism in the Social Sciences: A 21st Century Bibliography

I am compiling a bibliography about "interpretivist" approaches in the social sciences and their critics. Loosely stated, these approaches claim that social-scientific methodology differs profoundly from natural-scientific methodology. 

I largely restrict my focus to 21st-century sources in anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, sociology, and philosophy of the social sciences. It should be noted that the term "interpretivism" is used in other disciplines such as nursing, international relations, philosophy of mind, information systems, organizational studies, business, and law. To keep this bibliography manageable, I'm omitting these more "applied" fields.

I'll be building this bibliography as follows: owing to prior research, I have a very uneven selection of works on this topic already in my personal bibliography. That's the starting point. As time permits, I'll build it up by looking at individual years, starting with 2000 and making my way to the present. I will update incrementally. Currently, I would only deem my bibliographical information up through 2001 to be "complete."

If I've overlooked something (especially your own work!), please let me know, though please also note that if most of an edited book is pertinent, then I do not include its individual chapters as separate entries. 


2000
  • Alexander, J. (2000). Theorizing the Good Society: Hermeneutic, Normative and Empirical Discourses. The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie, 25(3), 271-309. doi:10.2307/3341644
  • Aronowitz, S., & Robert, A. (2000). A Critique of Methodological Reason. The Sociological Quarterly, 41(4), 699-719.
  • Bryant, J. M. (2000). On sources and narratives in historical social science: a realist critique of positivist and postmodernist epistemologies*. The British Journal of Sociology, 51(3), 489-523. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4446.2000.00489.x
  • Gadamer, H.-G. (2000). Subjectivity and intersubjectivity, subject and person. Continental Philosophy Review, 33(3), 275-287. 
  • Gomm, R., Hammersley, M., & Foster, P. (2000). Case study method: Key issues, key texts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Groeben, N., & Scheele, B. (2000). Dialogue-hermeneutic Method and the "Research Program Subjective Theories. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(2). doi:10.17169/fqs-1.2.1079
  • Harrington, A. (2000a). In Defence of Verstehen and Erklären  Wilhelm Dilthey's Ideas Concerning a Descriptive and Analytical Psychology. Theory & Psychology, 10(4), 435-451. doi:10.1177/0959354300104001
  • Harrington, A. (2000b). Objectivism in Hermeneutics?: Gadamer, Habermas, Dilthey. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 30(4), 491-507. doi:10.1177/004839310003000401
  • Harrington, A. (2000c). Alfred Schutz and the ‘Objectifying Attitude’. Sociology, 34(4), 727-740.
  • Kleining, G., & Witt, H. (2000). The Qualitative Heuristic Approach: A Methodology for Discovery in Psychology and the Social Sciences. Rediscovering the Method of Introspection as an Example. 2000, 1(1). doi:10.17169/fqs-1.1.1123
  • Kögler, H. H., & Stueber, K. R. (Eds.). (2000). Empathy and agency: the problem of understanding in the human sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Lapadat, J. C. (2000). Problematizing transcription: purpose, paradigm and quality. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 3(3), 203-219. 
  • Lewandowski, J. D. (2000). Thematizing Embeddedness:Reflexive Sociology as Interpretation. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 30(1), 49-66. doi:10.1177/004839310003000103
  • Madill, A., Jordan, A., & Shirley, C. (2000). Objectivity and reliability in qualitative analysis: Realist, contextualist and radical constructionist epistemologies. British Journal of Psychology, 91(1), 1-20. doi:10.1348/000712600161646
  • Madison, G. B. (2000). Critical Theory and hermeneutics: Some outstanding issues in the debate. In L. E. Hahn (Ed.), Perspectives on Habermas (pp. 463-482). Chicago: Open Court Publishing.
  • Martin, M. (2000). Verstehen: the uses of understanding in social science. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Orbe, M. P. (2000). Centralizing diverse racial/ethnic voices in scholarly research: the value of phenomenological inquiry. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 24(5), 603-621. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0147-1767(00)00019-5
  • Pettit, P. (2000). Winch’s double-edged idea of a social science. History of the Human Sciences, 13(1), 63-77. 
  • Phillips, D. C. (2000). The expanded social scientist's bestiary : a guide to fabled threats to, and defenses of, naturalistic social science. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Polkinghoime, D. E. (2000). Psychological Inquiry and the Pragmatic and Hermeneutic Traditions. Theory & Psychology, 10(4), 453-479. doi:10.1177/0959354300104002
  • Rennie, D. L. (2000). Grounded Theory Methodology as Methodical Hermeneutics: Reconciling Realism and Relativism. Theory & Psychology, 10(4), 481-502. doi:10.1177/0959354300104003
  • Richardson, F. C. (2000). Overcoming Fragmentation in Psychology: A Hermeneutic Approach. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 21(3), 289-304. 
  • Risjord, M. (2000). Woodcutters and witchcraft: rationality and interpretive change in the social sciences. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Schwandt, T. A. (2000). Three epistemological stances for qualitative inquiry: Interpretivism, hermeneutics, and social constructionism. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 189–213). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Smaling, A. (2000). What kind of dialogue should paradigm-dialogues be? Quality and Quantity, 34(1), 51-63. 
  • Topper, K. (2000). In Defense of Disunity: Pragmatism, Hermeneutics, and the Social Sciences. Political Theory, 28(4), 509-539.
  • Williams, M. (2000). Interpretivism and Generalisation. Sociology, 34(2), 209-224.

2001

  • Alexander, J., & Smith, P. (2001). The Strong Program in Cultural Theory: Elements of a Structural Hermeneutics. In J. H. Turner (Ed.), Handbook of Sociological Theory (pp. 135-150). Boston, MA: Springer US.
  • Andersen, H. (2001). Gender inequality and paradigms in the social sciences. Social Science Information, 40(2), 265-289. doi:10.1177/053901801040002004
  • Anderson, K., & Smith, S. J. (2001). Editorial: Emotional Geographies. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 26(1), 7-10.
  • Atkinson, P. (Ed.) (2001). Handbook of ethnography. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publications.
  • Attride-Stirling, J. (2001). Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 1(3), 385-405. doi:10.1177/146879410100100307
  • Baptiste, I. (2001). Qualitative data analysis: Common phases, strategic differences. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2(3). doi:10.17169/fqs-2.3.917
  • Beeman, W., & Peterson, M. A. (2001). Situations and interpretations: Explorations in interpretive practice. Anthropological Quarterly, 74(4), 159-162. 
  • Boettke, P., & Koppl, R. (Eds.). (2001). Special Issue on Alfred Schütz Centennial, Review of Austrian Economics, 14 (2/3).
  • Bonner, K. M. (2001). Reflexivity and Interpretive Sociology: The Case of Analysis and the Problem of Nihilism. Human Studies, 24(4), 267-292. doi:10.1023/a:1012214826614
  • Bransen, J. (2001). Verstehen and Erklären, Philosophy of. In N. J. Smelser & P. B. Baltes (Eds.), International encyclopedia of the social and behavioural Sciences (pp. 16165-16170). Oxford: Elsevier Science.
  • Buzzoni, M. (2001). The Operationalistic and Hermeneutic Status of Psychoanalysis. Journal for General Philosophy of Science, 32(1), 131-165. doi:10.1023/a:1011204208271
  • Caplan, B. (2001). Probability, Common Sense, and realism: A reply to Hülsmann and Block. Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, 4(2), 69-86. 
  • Crinson, I. (2001). A realist approach to the analysis of focus group data. Paper presented at the 5th Annual IACR Conference, Roskilde University, Denmark.
  • Crossley, N. (2001). The Phenomenological Habitus and Its Construction. Theory and Society, 30(1), 81-120.
  • Cupchik, G. (2001). Constructivist Realism: An Ontology That Encompasses Positivist and Constructivist Approaches to the Social Sciences. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2(1). doi:10.17169/fqs-2.1.968
  • Dennett, D. C. (2001). The Evolution of Culture. The Monist, 84(3), 305-324. 
  • Dobres, M.-A. (2001). Meaning in the making: agency and the social embodiment of technology and art. In M. B. Schiffer (Ed.), Anthropological perspectives on technology (pp. 47-76). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Flyvbjerg, B. (2001). Making social science matter : why social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again. Oxford, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Follesdal, D. (2001). Hermeneutics. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 82(2), 375-379. doi:10.1516/1d08-f6v9-yvpj-a79w
  • Forstater, M. (2001). Phenomenological and Interpretive-Structural Approaches to Economics and Sociology: Schutzian Themes in Adolph Lowe's Political Economics. The Review of Austrian Economics, 14(2), 209-218. doi:10.1023/a:1011164201386
  • Geertz, C. (2001). Empowering Aristotle. [Making Social Science Matter Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again. Bent Flyvbjerg. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001.]. Science, 293(5527), 53. doi:10.1126/science.1062054
  • Gordon, R. M. (2001). Simulation and Reason Explanation: The Radical View. Philosophical Topics, 29(1/2), 175-192.
  • Harrington, A. (2001a). Hermeneutic dialogue and social science : a critique of Gadamer and Habermas. London: Routledge.
  • Harrington, A. (2001b). Dilthey, Empathy and Verstehen: A Contemporary Reappraisal. European Journal of Social Theory, 4(3), 311-329. doi:10.1177/13684310122225145
  • Harrison, J., MacGibbon, L., & Morton, M. (2001). Regimes of trustworthiness in qualitative research: The rigors of reciprocity. Qualitative inquiry, 7(3), 323-345. 
  • Hein, S. F., & Austin, W. J. (2001). Empirical and hermeneutic approaches to phenomenological research in psychology: A comparison. Psychological methods, 6(1), 3-17. 
  • Kleining, G., & Witt, H. (2001). Discovery as basic methodology of qualitative and quantitative research. Paper presented at the Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research.
  • Lewandowski, J. D. (2001). Interpreting culture : rethinking method and truth in social theory. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Marsh, D., & Smith, M. J. (2001). There is More than One Way to Do Political Science: on Different Ways to Study Policy Networks. Political Studies, 49(3), 528-541. doi:10.1111/1467-9248.00325
  • Martin, J., & Sugarman, J. (2001). Interpreting Human Kinds:Beginnings of a Hermeneutic Psychology. Theory & Psychology, 11(2), 193-207. doi:10.1177/0959354301112003
  • Meyer, C. B. (2001). A case in case study methodology. Field methods, 13(4), 329-352.
  • Morse, J. M., Swanson, J. M., & Kuzel, A. J. (Eds.). (2000). The nature of qualitative evidence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Nentwich, J. C. (2001). The process of understanding in qualitative social research. In M. Kiegelmann (Ed.), Qualitative research in psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 240-245). Schwangau: Ingeborg Huber Verlag.
  • Outhwaite, W. (2001). History of hermeneutics. In N. J. Smelser & P. B. Baltes (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. (pp. 6661-6665). London: Elsevier.
  • Rantala, K., & Hellstrom, E. (2001). Qualitative comparative analysis and a hermeneutic approach to interview data. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 4(2), 87-100. doi:10.1080/13645570118545
  • Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (2001). Handbook of action research : participative inquiry and practice. London ; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Reason, P., & Torbert, W. R. (2001). The action turn: Toward a transformational social science. Concepts and Transformation, 6(1), 1-37. doi:10.1075/cat.6.1.02rea
  • Reckling, F. (2001). Interpreted Modernity: Weber and Taylor on Values and Modernity. European Journal of Social Theory, 4(2), 153-176. doi:10.1177/13684310122225055
  • Roberts, J. (2001). Dialogue, Positionality and the Legal Framing of Ethnographic Research. Sociological Research Online, 5(4), 1-14. doi:10.5153/sro.542
  • Schreier, M. and Fielding, N. (Eds.) (2001). Qualitative and Quantitative Research: Conjunctions and Divergences A New FQS-Volume. Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung, 26(1 (95)), 187-218.
  • Schneider, K. J., Bugental, J. F. T., & Pierson, J. F. (2001). The handbook of humanistic psychology : leading edges in theory, research, and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Scott, J. W., & Keates, D. (2001). Schools of thought : twenty-five years of interpretive social science. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Sharkey, P. (2001). Hermeneutic phenomenology. In R. Barnacle (Ed.), Phenomenology (pp. 16-37). Melbourne: RMIT University Press.
  • Travers, M. (2001). Qualitative research through case studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Valsiner, J. (2001). The First Six Years: Culture’s Adventures in Psychology. Culture & Psychology, 7(1), 5-48. doi:10.1177/1354067x0171002
  • Walker, G. (2001). Society and culture in sociological and anthropological tradition. History of the Human Sciences, 14(3), 30-55.
2002

  • Baert, P. (2002). Pragmatism versus sociological hermeneutics. In J. Lehmann (Ed.), Critical theory: Diverse objects, diverse subjects (pp. 349-365). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Barbalet, J. M. (2002). Emotions and sociology. Oxford ; Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub./Socological Review.
  • Bevir, M., & Rhodes, R. A. W. (2002). Interpretive Theory. In D. Marsh & G. Stoker (Eds.), Theory and methods in political science (2nd ed., pp. 131–152). London: Palgrave.
  • Boettke, P. J., & Storr, V. H. (2002). Post-classical political economy: Polity, society and economy in Weber, Mises and Hayek. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 61(1), 161-191. 
  • Breckner, R., & Rupp, S. (2002). Discovering biographies in changing social worlds: the biographical-interpretive method. In P. Chamberlayne, M. Rustin, & T. Wengraf (Eds.), Biography and social exclusion in Europe-experiences and life journeys (pp. 289-308). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
  • Carver, T. (2002). Discourse analysis and the ‘linguistic turn’. European Political Science, 2(1), 50-53. 
  • Clarke, S. (2002). Learning from experience: psycho-social research methods in the social sciences. Qualitative Research, 2(2), 173-194. doi:10.1177/146879410200200203
  • Davis, J. B., & Schwandt, T. A. (2002). [Verstehen: The Uses of Understanding in Social Science, Michael Martin]. Contemporary Sociology, 31(2), 236-237. doi:10.2307/3089546
  • Dostal, R. J. (2002). The Cambridge companion to Gadamer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fairclough, N., Jessop, B., & Sayer, A. (2002). Critical Realism and Semiosis. Aletheia, 5(1), 2-10. 
  • Finch, J. H., & McMaster, R. (2002). On categorical variables and non‐parametric statistical inference in the pursuit of causal explanations. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 26(6), 753-772. doi:10.1093/cje/26.6.753
  • Flick, U. (2002). Qualitative research-state of the art. Social Science Information, 41(1), 5-24. 
  • Gadamer, H.-G., Malpas, J., Arnswald, U., & Kertscher, J. (2002). Gadamer's century : essays in honor of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Green, P. (Ed.) (2002). Slices of Life: Qualitative Research Snapshots. Melbourne: RMIT University Press.
  • Greenhouse, C. J. (2002). Introduction: Altered states, altered lives. In C. J. Greenhouse, E. Mertz, & K. B. Warren (Eds.), Ethnography in unstable places: everyday lives in contexts of dramatic political change (pp. 1-34). Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Guignon, C. (2002). Hermeneutics, authenticity and the aims of psychology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 22(2), 83-102. doi:10.1037/h0091216
  • Habermas, J. (2002). On the pragmatics of social interaction: Preliminary studies in the theory of communicative action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Halas, E. (2002). Ethical Dilemmas of 'Verstehen' in Sociology: Theodore Abel's Encounter with Nazism. Polish Sociological Review(138), 173-187. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41274815
  • Hałas, E. (2002). Symbolism and Social Phenomena: Toward the Integration of Past and Current Theoretical Approaches. European Journal of Social Theory, 5(3), 351-366. doi:10.1177/136843102760513947
  • Hitzler, R. (2002). The Reconstruction of Meaning. The State of the Art in German Interpretive Sociology. 2002, 3(2). doi:10.17169/fqs-3.2.867
  • Huberman, A. M., & Miles, M. B. (2002). The qualitative researcher's companion. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Kim, K.-M. (2002). On the Failure of Habermas's Hermeneutic Objectivism. Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, 2(2), 270-298. doi:10.1177/153270860200200216
  • Lerner, B. D., & Winch, P. (2002). Rules, magic and instrumental reason : a critical interpretation of Peter Winch's philosophy of the social sciences. London New York: Routledge.
  • Marsh, D., & Furlong, P. (2002). A skin not a sweater: ontology and epistemology in political science. In V. Lowndes, D. Marsh, & G. Stoker (Eds.), Theory and methods in political science (pp. 17-41). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Martin, J. (2002). Hermeneutic psychology: Understandings and practices. In S. P. Shohov (Ed.), Advances in Psychology Research (pp. 14--97): Nova Science Publishers.
  • May, T. (2002). Qualitative research in action. London: Sage.
  • McAllister, J. W. (2002). Historical and Structural Approaches in the Natural and Human Sciences. In P. Tindemans, A. Verrijn-Stuart, & R. Visser (Eds.), The Future of the Sciences and Humanities (pp. 19-62). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • Moules, N. J. (2002). Hermeneutic Inquiry: Paying Heed to History and Hermes An Ancestral, Substantive, and Methodological Tale. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1(3), 1-21. doi:10.1177/160940690200100301
  • Pleasants, N. (2002). Wittgenstein and the idea of a critical social theory: A critique of Giddens, Habermas and Bhaskar. London: Routledge.
  • Ratner, C. (2002). Subjectivity and Objectivity in Qualitative Methodology. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(3). doi:10.17169/fqs-3.3.829
  • Rennie, D. L., Watson, K. D., & Monteiro, A. M. (2002). The rise of qualitative research in psychology. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 43(3), 179-189. 
  • Roth, W. D., & Mehta, J. D. (2002). The Rashomon Effect:Combining Positivist and Interpretivist Approaches in the Analysis of Contested Events. Sociological Methods & Research, 31(2), 131-173. doi:10.1177/0049124102031002002
  • Rubaie, T. A. (2002). The rehabilitation of the case-study method. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 5(1), 31-47. doi:10.1080/13642530210159198
  • Schatzki, T. (2002). Social Science in Society. Inquiry, 45(1), 119-138. doi:10.1080/002017402753556652
  • Smith, D. G. (2002). Hermeneutic Scholar. Counterpoints, 183, 183-200. 
  • Strauss, D. F. M. (2002). Understanding in the humanities: Gadamer’s thought at the intersection of rationality, historicity, and linguisticality–with special reference to the dialectics of causality and history. South African journal of philosophy, 21(4), 291-305. 
  • Toulmin, S. (2002). The Hermeneutics of the Natural Sciences. In B. E. Babich (Ed.), Hermeneutic Philosophy of Science, Van Gogh’s Eyes, and God: Essays in Honor of Patrick A. Heelan, S.J. (pp. 25-29). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
2003

2004
  • Millar, A. (2004). Understanding people: normativity and rationalizing explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2005
  • Risjord, M. (2005). Reasons, Causes, and Action Explanation. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 35(3), 294-306. doi:10.1177/0048393105277987
2006
  • Stueber, K. R. (2006). Rediscovering empathy: agency, folk psychology, and the human sciences. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
2007

2008

  • Hollan, D. (2008). Being There: On the Imaginative Aspects of Understanding Others and Being Understood. Ethos, 36(4), 475-489. 
  • Hollan, D., & Throop, C. J. (2008). Whatever happened to empathy?: Introduction. Ethos, 36(4), 385-401. 
  • Reed, I. (2008). Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation. Sociological Theory, 26(2), 101-129. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9558.2008.00321.x
  • Stueber, K. R. (2008). Reasons, generalizations, empathy, and narratives: the epistemic structure of action explanation. History and Theory, 47(1), 31-43. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2303.2008.00434.x
2009

2010

  • Beatty, A. (2010). How Did It Feel for You? Emotion, Narrative, and the Limits of Ethnography. American Anthropologist, 112(3), 430-443. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01250.x
  • Feest, U. (2010). Historical Perspectives on Erklären and Verstehen: Springer.

2011

  • Martin, J. L. (2011). The explanation of social action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Reed, I. (2011). Interpretation and social knowledge : on the use of theory in the human sciences. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
2012
  • Mantzavinos, C. (2012). Explanations of meaningful actions. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 42(2), 224-238. 
  • Stueber, K. R. (2012). Understanding versus explanation? How to think about the distinction between the human and the natural sciences. Inquiry, 55(1), 17-32. doi:10.1080/0020174X.2012.643621
2013
  • Stueber, K. R. (2013). The causal autonomy of reason explanations and how not to worry about causal deviance. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 43(1), 24-45. 
  • Turner, S. P. (2013). Where explanation ends: understanding as the place the spade turns in the social sciences. Studies in history and philosophy of science part A, 44(3), 532-538. doi:10.1016/j.shpsa.2012.12.001
2014
  • Beatty, A. (2014). Anthropology and emotion. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 20(3), 545-563. doi:10.1111/1467-9655.12114
  • Turner, S. P. (2014). Evidenz: The Strength of Weak Empathy. In S. P. Turner (Ed.), Understanding the Tacit (pp. 184-200). London: Routledge.
  • Watts, D. J. (2014). Common Sense and Sociological Explanations. American Journal of Sociology, 120(2), 313-351. doi:10.1086/678271
2015
  • Lichterman, P., & Reed, I. A. (2015). Theory and contrastive explanation in ethnography. Sociological Methods & Research, 44(4), 585-635. 
  • Matta, C. (2015). Interpretivism and Causal Explanations: A case from educational research. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 45(6), 543-567. 
2016
  • Fay, B. (2016). Verstehen and the Reaction against Positivism. In L. McIntyre & A. Rosenberg (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Social Science (pp. 49-60). London: Routledge.
  • Grimm, S. R. (2016). How Understanding People Differs from Understanding the Natural World. Philosophical issues, 26(1), 209-225. doi:10.1111/phis.12068
2017
  • Grimm, S. R. (2017). Why Study History? On Its Epistemic Benefits and Its Relation to the Sciences. Philosophy, 92(3), 399-420. doi:10.1017/S003181911700002X
  • Turco, C. J., & Zuckerman, E. W. (2017). Verstehen for Sociology: Comment on Watts. American Journal of Sociology, 122(4), 1272-1291. doi:10.1086/690762
  • Watts, D. J. (2017). Response to Turco and Zuckerman’s “Verstehen for Sociology”. American Journal of Sociology, 122(4), 1292-1299. doi:10.1086/690763
2018

2019

  • Khalifa, K. (2019). Is Verstehen Scientific Understanding? Philosophy of the Social Sciences. doi:10.1177/0048393119847104
  • Mantzavinos, C. (2019). A Dialogue on Understanding. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 49(4), 307-322. doi:10.1177/0048393119847106
  • Stueber, K. R. (2019). Empathy. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 ed.). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2019/entries/empathy/.
  • Stueber, K. R. (2019). The Ubiquity of Understanding: Dimensions of Understanding in the Social and Natural Sciences. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 49(4), 265-281. doi:10.1177/0048393119847103
  • Turner, S. (2019). Verstehen Naturalized. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 49(4), 243-264. doi:10.1177/0048393119847102

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Book's Debunking Move

Petri Ylikoski has very kindly reviewed my book. His review raises three interesting questions that I address here.

1. The relevance of epistemology to philosophy of science
Here is Ylikoski’s overarching assessment of the book:
I confess that I have always been doubtful of the relevance of analytical epistemology for philosophy of science. I think Khalifa's book demonstrates this with respect to theories of understanding. (I don't know if he himself would agree with this.) However, I am happy that somebody has worked through the literature.
To be honest, I don’t know if I agree with this either. I mean this quite literally: I have insufficient information to tell you whether I agree with Ylikoski’s claim that epistemology is irrelevant to philosophical theories of scientific understanding. 

Allow me to explain. Give or take a few niceties, what I hoped to “demonstrate” in my book is that understanding is scientific knowledge of an explanation. Objections to that thesis come from both epistemologists and philosophers of science. I would have thought that objections are relevant to a thesis. That would entail the exact opposite of what Ylikoski claims: if successful, the book would have shown that epistemology is relevant to theories of scientific understanding. 

Perhaps Ylikoski meant that none of the answers to these objections required extensive appeal to epistemology. However, as I argue in Chapter 2, an epistemological concept—safety—most sharply distinguishes my view from that of our fellow philosopher of science, Henk de Regt. It’s also difficult for me to see how my discussions of luck (in Chapter 7) and epistemic value (in Chapter 8) don’t involve some epistemological theorizing. So, I think that epistemology is relevant in this sense, too.

What can be gleaned from my book is that philosophers interested in what explanations are and what makes one explanation better than another ought not find understanding especially "deep." Alternatively stated: 
  • Philosophers would be better served by constructing a theory of understanding out of our best theories of explanation and explanatory power than the other way around. 

Call this the (book’s main) debunking move. I stand by that claim, and if Ylikoski thinks that I’ve demonstrated that, then I’ve succeeded in the book’s overarching mission.

There is a certain sense in which the debunking move shows that epistemology is irrelevant to philosophy of science. In the philosophical division of labor, theories of explanation and of explanatory power fall mainly under the purview of philosophers of science. So, if the debunking move is sound, then there would be little left for epistemologists to contribute to a theory of understanding. I suspect that Ylikoski would welcome this result.

2. How much abstraction is too much?
Ylikoski’s main misgiving with my book is that my account of understanding is “too abstract… to consider things like (theoretical or practical) trade-offs between different dimensions of explanatory goodness, or various relations between explanations.” I am puzzled by this assessment. Ylikoski does not indicate how any of my arguments requires a story about these tradeoffs. Indeed, he voices no misgivings about any of the book’s arguments. This suggests that my account of explanation is not too abstract to perform the tasks to which I set it.  Indeed, not only do these tradeoffs play no role in establishing a theory of understanding, the debunking move suggests that understanding should play no role in accounting for these tradeoffs. So, I fail to see why Ylikoski thinks that I should be addressing this issue.

3. The sense and varieties of understanding
The debunking move’s targets are not just epistemologists working on understanding—it also includes philosophers of science working on understanding. Since this seems to include some of Ylikoski's work, I suspect that he thinks this is a bridge too far. This suspicion is confirmed by the two issues he raises as loci for further philosophical theorizing about understanding: 

(a) “It seems that some kind of sense (or feeling) of understanding has an important regulative role in our cognitive lives. It tells us when we need acquire more knowledge and when we have enough understanding to provide an explanation.” 

(b) “We understand both scientific representations (theories, models, graphs, etc.) and phenomena with the help of those representations.” I only address the second of these kinds of understanding.

Ylikoski and I are just going to have disagree about how interesting these issues are. I admit that these probably signal differences in taste more than anything else.

Regarding (a): my view is that the most interesting way of determining whether we have enough understanding isn’t from the sense of understanding; it’s from the conversational context. That may have more to do with agents’ social statuses (as experts communicating to laypersons, for example) than anything going on in their heads. Because none of the book’s arguments hinged on developing these ideas, they were mentioned only in passing (especially in Chapters 1 and 6.) Furthermore, contra Ylikoski, I don’t see why the (philosophically interesting) sense of understanding isn’t reducible to beliefs about what one understands. 

Regarding (b): When it comes to understanding, I can easily see why the explanations and predictions to which scientific representations contribute are of philosophical interest. By contrast, I do not see what’s philosophically interesting about scientific representations’ “legibility” or “user-friendliness.” Emily Sullivan and I briefly discuss our skepticism about legibility's epistemic value in our recent paper.

Despite these disagreements, I am grateful to Ylikoski for prompting me to state the debunking move a bit more explicitly than I did in the book.