Beyond Sociology's Tower of Babel: Reconstructing the Scientific Method

Front Cover
Transaction Publishers, 2001 - Social Science - 245 pages
To look outside the discipline of sociology is to find little credibility given to the field as science. Bernard Phillips argues that we are learning to see ever more clearly the contradiction between scientific standards and what in fact has been achieved by sociology. Instead of knowledge based on the full range of our findings, we have separate pieces of knowledge located within the diverse areas of the discipline, and fads and fashions in the ideas and terms we use with relatively little cumulative development. This has led many to question whether any "scientific method" can be applied to human behavior.

If the arguments and alternative interpretations in this book on the problematic nature of sociology's use of scientific method prove to be credible and fruitful, then the implications are profound. For example, the conclusions drawn for every single social science study that has ever been conducted would be open to reinterpretation, because they fail to take into account systematically the enormous complexity involved within any given instance of human behavior. Our present approach assumes implicitly that the pieces of the human jigsaw puzzle can at some point be put together so as to yield a coherent picture. Yet, as Phillips shows, if each piece is itself deficient, then no coherent picture emerges when we attempt to put the pieces together.

Refusing to take the current fragmentation of sociology as inevitable, Phillips offers a clear vision, through a series of heuristic "web" images, of how sociologists might achieve the cumulative development and credibility that are the hallmarks of any science. His research draws heavily on the works of classical and contemporary theorists, philosophers, and historians of science, as well as on postmodernist critiques and responses to postmodernism. This reconstruction will be useful for courses in method in the study of the classical tradition of sociology.

Bernard Phillips was introduced to sociology at Columbia University by C. Wright Mills. A former professor of sociology at Boston University, cofounder of the ASA Section on Sociological Practice and founder of the Sociological Imagination Group, his publications emphasize methodology and theory.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Sociology and the Scientific Method
Cultural and Sociological Paradigms
Language and Emotions

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 47 - ... as if there were sought in knowledge a couch, whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate.
Page 82 - The most trifling actions that affect a man's credit are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or nine at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer...
Page 94 - Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart,- this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.
Page 94 - The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order.
Page 140 - It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope that there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me and, in the act of disobeying the Salt Act, to lay themselves open to the penalties of a law that should never have disfigured the Statute Book.
Page 132 - Revolutions are most likely to occur when a prolonged period of objective economic and social development is followed by a short period of sharp...
Page 84 - It is only when a system of cultural values extols, virtually above all else, certain common success-goals for the population at large while the social structure rigorously restricts or completely closes access to approved modes of reaching these goals for a considerable part of the same population, that deviant behavior ensues on a large scale.
Page 83 - God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. :"God blessed them, saying to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.
Page 89 - This fact simply implies that the object produced by labour, its product, now stands opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labour is labour which has been embodied in an object and turned into a physical thing; this product is an objectification of labour.

Bibliographic information