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Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati

Philosophical Foundations of Social Research

Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati and NPTEL via Swayam


This course is concerned with the nature of social science inquiry. It is intended for students in all disciplines and those early in their masters and doctoral research programmes. The course travels through philosophy of science, epistemology, ontology and specific applications to the major disciplinary areas. The main objectives of the course are to: (a) introduce the philosophy of science and its application to social sciences, (b) outline major differing classes of theory in social sciences and to explicate their metatheoretical foundations, (c) familiarize students with the plurality of views on these issues in the intellectual community, (d) provide students with an opportunity to apply these concepts to the analysis of issues in social sciences, and (e) provide students with an opportunity to practise scholarly discourses.
UG and PG students of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sciences and EngineeringPREREQUISITES : NoneINDUSTRIES SUPPORT :None



Week 1:Introduction
History of philosophy of social sciences
Empiricism and rationalism
Auguste Comte and positivism
Epistemology and ontology Week 2:Emile Durkheim
Rules of sociological method
Influence of sciences on sociology
Objectivity in social sciences
Social facts, autonomy of knowledge and the necessity of science
Commonsense and science
Comparative social sciences Organic analogy and precursor to functionalism Week 3:Max Weber – I
Positivism and neo Kantianism
Methodology of social sciences Week 4:Max Weber – II
Methodological individualism
(Meaningful) social action
Interpretative understanding (verstehen) of social action: observatory and explanatory understanding
Ideal types
Week 5:Karl Marx
Idealism versus materialism
Materialist conception of history
Principles of dialectic
Understanding nature
Ideology and science: methodological implications Week 6:Karl Popper: Principle of falsification
Context of discovery and context of justification
Hypothetico-deductive model
Thomas Kuhn:Consensus-driven paradigm
Normal science: tradition-bound activity
Crisis within normal scientific tradition
Revolutionary science: tradition-shattering activity Week 7:Positivism versus hermeneutics: conflicting traditions
Natural sciences versus social sciences
Objectivity and subjectivity in social sciences
Quantitative and qualitative research traditionsWeek 8:Conclusion
Beginning of the end of philosophy of social sciences
Overview of the course

Taught by

Prof. Sambit Mallick

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