Popper, Rationality and the Possibility of Social Science

Danny Frederick

Abstract


Social science employs teleological explanations which depend upon the rationality principle, according to which people exhibit instrumental rationality. Popper points out that people also exhibit critical rationality, the tendency to stand back from, and to question or criticise, their views. I explain how our critical rationality impugns the explanatory value of the rationality principle and thereby threatens the very possibility of social science. I discuss the relationship between instrumental and critical rationality and show how we can reconcile our critical rationality with the possibility of social science if we invoke Popper’s conception of limited rationality and his indeterminism.


Keywords


human action; explanation; indeterminism; Popper; rationality; rationality principle; situational logic; social science.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1387/theoria.1879