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of Social
Problems of Indeterminacy

James Bohman

The MIT Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Pr e face

various institutions and individuais. I would like to thank the

Alexander von Humboídt-Stiftung for a research grant that helped
bring the work to completion. I would also like to thank St. Louis
University both for several summer research grants and for a
course reduction to give me time to complete the work. A Summer Introduction
Institute sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humani-
ties entitled "Interpretation and the Human Sciences" helped to Post-Empiricism, Indeterminacy,
clarify many of the issues discussed here. I would like to thank its
directors, Bert Dreyfus and David Hoy, as well as ali the partici-
and the Social Sciences
pants for their lively discussion. Many people too numerous to
mention have helped as well. I would especially like to thank
Júrgen Habermas and Thomas McCarthy for their criticisms and In sociology we have, up until now, no clear trend of hypotheses.
advice. I would also like to thank Michael Barber for reading Otto Neurath, Foundations of the Social Sciences
several drafts, William Charron for his assistance in the sections
on rational choice theory, Paul Roth for his criticisms of the When these philosophers and their principies each had their day, and
the íatter were found inadequate to generate the nature of things, it was
section on interpretation, and Bill Caspary for reading parts of the once again necessary to inquire into the next kínd of cause.
manuscript. Ali of them made many helpful suggestions. Aristotle, Metaphysics
Most of ali, I want to thank Gretchen Arnold for her support,
companionship, criticism, editorial advice and just about everything
The quotations above represent two different reactions to a certain
else. I dedicate the book to her.
type of discipíinary perplexity. In the first statement, Neurath was
waiting for a unifying trend in sociology that would end its imma-
turity and put it on the secure path of cumulative growth. In the
second passage, Aristotle described the development of natural
philosophy in his day as discontinuous; his lesson was not to seek
unity but instead to multiply the meanings of the explanatory
term, "cause," which provides the answer to any "why" question.
Neurath was, of course, a member of the Vienna Circle and a
positivist. Aristotle opppsed the Platonic unification of the sciences
and wasjnjy[fejí_a_r^
^passage. In this book, I will follow the second rather than the first
strategy and argue thatjnejl:^^ should
tice oFThe social sciences. ~ *"
IrTthè begínning of that history, the social sciences were not as
epistemologically perpíexing to philosophers as they were to
Neurath. In_j^y_mode£mty^,^hjm^ and engineers
hoped that the social sciences .could, spjye.,emerging,_spciãl^problenB;
few~dõuÍ5te3~tríe character of knowledge they produced. The
_ , . .
day: Hpbbes,
_^ —J——•*"•"- , ,._,^rr>,
saw classicaf
"' — -i—*-,^^--..
v,^_ *= -.-«=•—•"* •""
as supplyine
i i j u
the .r/prooer
ir ~
rabstractive" method, wnile nu^heim preferred the holistic fea-
tures of biology. This assumptíon óf a unity of method in the
Introduction Introduction

sciences, however, later proved to be the source of both hope and like those of TaylQi and Dje^vius, have_rnore t£___d_0MWÍth
despair about the social sciences. Pri_jçhe__pne1^hand,...-refonriers moral and politicai issiSTt^n^^KLe.riisteiiioiagirfil ?ind-.sdfi.Qt.ific,
p|aced , hope in .the ..ability... qf technical knowledge to—aolxie qnès?JSgar3Tess of how much such attempts contribute to our
rjrpWerns. Critiçs,^ pn, the..othe_r__hand, saw such knowledge__as understanding of politics and morais, they do not contribute much
turning people into objects qf control by experts and arguedjpr to a post-empiricist understanding of the social sciences, or to
a model of social science that vieweH beings as self-interpreting, clarifying the moral and poíitical purposes of natural science.
autòhomqus subjects. This dispute about the methods and pur- In many respects, post^ejrnpiricisin.hás jemoved the social
poses of social science gave rise to nineteenth century debates scien^êT^frarrríKelF contentíous and peripheral^ status an3 placed
about some essential distinction between the natural and human tííeín^ífectí^in^tHè "center of some new epistemological debates.
sciences, the Natur- and the Geisteswissenschaften. Frpjna,,lhis_disc In òné súcH "defcate, theJ2IÔld_l^icJ!_^jQi£^sj;jenc£^^_^^
Jj£.5CÍejice,followed a host of other in HempePs deductive-nomoíogicai reconstruction of ali adequate
subject matter el^ãliâííolnsTTrrTight" of this' re^constructiÔn^^Hempel tEougííf he
in method, between explana- "coul3"sKow why some expíanations Ín the social sciences, sucli as
tipjtt^andjunderstanding; in domam, between objects ajid subjects, functionalism, fail and why other cases are successfuí, including
or namre.,,.and,,,culture; in purppsç, between technical contrpl™ãnd "rational explanations" using "laws" of utility maximization (dis-
increased^ understanding. Even the opponents ofTKe naturaTistic cussed in chapter l below). In_place of such highly idealized..and
conception of social science accepted it as accurate for the parts of ahistprical reconstructions, post-empiricism hás turned to the ac-
science they rejected as models for the human sciences. In any tual practices aní histories . qf yaripus sciences. TEis " histÓficãl
case, both sides of the debate - the approacE"has íed to an anti^essentialistjview_pf __what counts^ as
approacKes on tKe rjife"riand_antl the hennejieutic_apprqaghej_gn scientific know]^dge^on^_tjiat_denies,jhjtma
|tf^pJ^f^^fíou1asKè^~irr"the (heydayj of methods. Each was sure riecessary set of features^gualifies a practice to be scientific^^qr an
that its metho^s"Tíãd"TrTe"""dístÍfíc"tivé 'feãtufeTlriat were to define explarTátion to be ^ae^uate^^íhis historicisjn^and anti-essentialism
their privileged place in producing the proper knowledge for the dírects^post-empiricism to local and situational features of scientific
study of human beings. practices. Such features are often sociological, as can be seen by
Though the philqsqphical debate continued ali the while natural- the first _rn.aJOT j>pst-empincist_wqrk, Thomas Kuhn's Stmcture of
Scientific E^olutions^ ---^..^.. . «i.._,.^-,-
ism prevaiíed in scientific institutíoris, itjoÕk on new Hf e in the
lafe~T9fTOs and early"T?7Us~as™frTe~swqng and essentialistic distinc- In-this^woTk; "Xuhn described the history pf science Ín terms of
*> (•• tirínT''berwe^^K:pna:n"ãjI3 natural science began to "BfeaTc^dowrTror long peripds of "'normal... science".._at .wprk pn probíem^golying
different reasons.1 Surprisin~gly7'pèTha^^^^^ wíthin a "paradigm," punctuated py revplutipnary peripds pf theory
from""'the'""side^of the natural sciences, in the challenges to the charígeTÃs opposed to HempePs account of singfe explanations or
"received vie^""'''ÒT"nã"ruralisnT~by 'põst-empiricist philosophers of tKe empiricist appeal to privileged representations,-pgst^em£Íricisrn
science like Thomas Kuhn^Mary Hesse and Paul Feyera bend.2 The places_thepries and disciplines in larger ^oçial.^and^^jn^orical con-
Standard list of^"Ò1ntHsts"betweên tEi^natural ancrhumanT sciences texts Ín wKícn tíiey are appíied, change.and^deyelgp^ Imre Lakatõs
had ali derived from a positiyíst and empiricist view oJLs_cJejitific cã^lled" tHeseTarger units "research programmes" and judged their
success pragmaticaíly, in terms of whether or not they were
perience; the idejl^pfj^niypcjilj.a^ "fruitfully" solving problems or "degenerating" into ad boc defenses
'data "ffom theoretical interpretatipji; the belief in the universality of core hypotheses. Such a contrast Between ^degenerating;_ and
Tríowledge and criteria fõr~tHêqry cHciíce.^fter fruitfuí research programs signaled one of the first post-empiricist"
riese vièws;"and""the cíistinctions that upheld them "atfémpt?T6"reiritroclucé' nòrmàtive and rational criteria for deciding
collapsed. With the rejection pf pqsitivism and its__thesis__QLthe be~tween ÔÕmpêting" fHèories and visions of scientific practice. Still,
"unity of mefrlõcí^" many of the historie reasons for defending^_the it^is' fíofaltògètKér clear that science ever developed in this way,
n "'between the"sciences have simply dísappeared. raising questíons about "rationality and reíatiyism" that have raged
Newer versions"õf"the mèfHòdõlõgicardrstinctiveness of the humari oF science since Kuhn.4
Introduction íntroduction

In these debates, two problems emerged that were related to his- of rational and social acfiQp.., Then, I will attempt to reconstruct
toricism and anti-essentialism. First, with larger units like theories the forms of explanation that are typical in specific research
and paradigms, the problem of incommensurability concerns just programs and compare them on amsjgiLÍfiç
how local and contextuai our descriptions of scientific practice theory:_the,..esplana.toj.y lmp,Qr.tançeJ,oL.,r.ules,,and...norrns.
should be; if they are too local, then no comparison and evaluation Hempei-and..Pai:spns _did not^succeed. in_,discpvering universal
seem possible. Does^tjjjE^umJ^^ features and law^ ofjiU _socjal__agtiqn,. Jj:, is possible, to. do _a _ more
mological jujdgments jnerelyJgcalPJSecond, anti-essentialism further KSto^any^oriented rational reconstruction of a specific research
undermines the possibility of rethinking the normative component program; in doing só, it becpmes possible to assess the structurè
of rational reconstruction. Does the lack of a definhe list of uni- an'â scope of explanations within it. The rèsúlt òf such a recon-
versal^ features of explanatiori Ó r ~ scientific knowledge malceTt struction is what I wiíí call ari gxplanatpry ^pattern: a Hst__gf
ímpossiBle to^disfiríguish 'berween better^and wõrs_e explanatións? statements that^rejoecessary^^s^^^S^^^^^^^^^^^^^~
Thé~ main um-esblved" píoBlem of post-empiricism hás therefòre tioíT"wTtrIm a certain research program. These conditions can be
been how"'to"Hefive jta^ Jar^s for Jhe comparison and evaluation used as a Standard or norm: explanations which lack one or more
of compéTmg^j^anati9^âMj^ of such statements or premises are incomplete and hence inadequate.
back" irifo an 'ãhistorical and essentialist epistemology. iSá^JKB^-^íáL^ 4i?c9.Y?r^ Í/
In the "old" philosophy of science, such questions concerned éxamining; ngt_only, the_.w_ritings jof_m^or^eprists_in^each_ program,
claims about the objectivity of science and could be settled by sure b'úT""ãlso by looking at paradigmatic cases of goqd expíanation
appeals to methodological standards of deductive reasoning and tãken ff oiti i¥s research practice. I view these patterns not só much
empirical proof. Under post-empiricist_assumptions, obiectivíty now as~ngÕrÕuTTÕgicãl mferences but more as Kuhnian exemplars: they
concerns the choice^oif a j:e^ea^cj^_progr_ajn^n^_ ofj.ts standards are "paradigmatic" ..cases^that, exhibit^the^general.. features of an
of eyaluatíon, _which can be^ je^efi__Qnly_Jiy_ap^e_alingTõ^^Eí^r adequate and complete explanation of a certain type (chapter 2).6
forras )f Hiejrêticj^ As Habermas Similar patterns can be reconstructed for functionalist and macro-
póints out, "The approval of a procedure or the acceptance of a structural explanations (chapter 4) and for criticai social science
norm can be supported or weakened by argument; it can at least (chapter 5), although exemplars of explanations of these latter
be rationally assessed.... This is precisely the task of criticai types are not confined to particular research programs. Asjexem-
theoretical thought."5 plars, these £attecns_repies,e,nt_-th.e d^stiJUation of successful cases
The analyses in this book attempt to fulfill the task of develop- w^cH_í,Jlc.oj£.".._o.f. jthe program a.nd can then be_extended
ing fornis of rational assessment for the explanatory power of to include^ other_sorts of cases, sp long as they have similar
theories produced by various ongoing research programs: jational fèatuféV.7 This process of extension can also show the limits of the
chpice, ethnomethodology, interpretiye spciaLscience, and the theory research program, as, for example, in the consistent application of
of communicatiye action. I have chosen these particular theories the core case of rational choice theory, maximizing behavior; while
becaúsé~òf tKeir continuing fruitfulness and the range of explanations many activities fit the pattern surprisingly well, many more obvi-
that have been produced by them; they also lend themselves to ous cases of rational action, such as voting, do not fit it at ali.
inter-theoretical comparison, sharing certain minimal assumptions OB£_J9Í^^-KJMary__benefits_ of these_ recon^rj^ion^_is_that_they
about knowledgeable social actors and their capacity to generate provide a form of reflection that is neither general nor local.
and maintain social life. Each^begins with the problem of actipn Accõfdihg to the view of explanation" developed in this book,
and tj.kes_the_intentional perspective of actors to be a necessary wherever there is such a_ reconstructible pattern, standards of
ingredient ofjjood social science explanation, while dijffering sig- adequacy can be established._Such a methQd^ of _ ^ddk-range
nifí£antly.^apgut what reajujnsjmd^bj^ reconstrctótiori is nonetheless post^enipiricist, since it sees tíTe role
an explanatory role. oFtEe philosophy.,pf social science to be reflection upon scientific
The book stárts~with problems of the theory of action as con- practice, which is itself varied, self-réflèctivè ãnS'normafíveJ?!^
ceived by the "old" logic of explanatíon. I will criticize HemgeTs "XTnè""sBFfeTlecfiveãspec£olànylsBem^
and Parsons' attempts to determine general and necessary dífferent explanations of the same phenomenon by rival theories.
Introduction Introduction

In the social sciences, this feature is _pjjticjj]ar[y_acc£ritualed, since non-determim'st^tr^tmg^henpmena that jire npt_ only_ diyerse ,arid
there are many~ competing theoretical orientaúons (djie_jnojCÊ_QÍtm irregular, but intentional and cprnplex^ The main problem of this
l| to fashiolTHãir^n7tning^else}7 If we accept with post-empiricism boolTírfoThow Eow explanatory rigor is possible without necessiry
thaf ^êr<PàTé~no invariant fêatures of explanations and theories, or determinacy.
how can we judge between them? Is this possible at ali, if the Since predictive success requires determinacy, empiricist phil-
theories do not agree even. about the goals of social science? Thç osophy of social science hás long tried to discover general laws
theories discussed here do agree that the social sciences shouldj^e and powerful formal models. After reconstructing Hempel's account
empirical in the broad sense of being verified_. pr falsified by_eyi- of rational explanation as a form of causal explanation, in chapter l
dence. But in the absence of neutral description., establishing the I the failurepf,._all. such attempts to, make reasons into
^iata and explaining triem often go hand in hand, as Dqnalc^ determinate causes, including notions of tKé"Tritèrhalizãtiõh" of
Dãvidsón rias põinted out for tnténttonãréxplanations.9 Rather than riòrnis" in Parsons'..thepry order and explanations of
implying a lack of critena,_s_uch circularity presents the problem pf sci'«iBfic_beliefs in the so-cailed "strong programme" in the sociòlogy
too many criteria, none of which are determining ,or.. definitive. In of science. Both try to overcome the indeterminate character of
íight of such problems of evidence, post-inodern skeptics abandon 'mtentiohs^and beliefs through various ideas of causality; social
the search for even weak standards ^s_"BeirTg só much fruitless causality becomes either pverfy.singular or ill-defined; it is either
metatKêõnztng""abÕut""locar "and indeterrninate^j)hencimenar10 the basic mechanism for the social integration of action ("inter-
~My"líf gumerir is* thãt" sucrTskepticism is unfounded, even if we nalized norms"), òf it is"seén as some""general iníluence of society
accept that there may not be a lot that we can say about "science" that operates independentíy from the content Õf tKé^actors' beliefs
in general that wilí resolve the problem. Theories can still__be ("interests"). With the failure of both these strategies to replace
judged in terms of the jariouspurppses^ tKéy_ aypw,3õííen__jn intentional determinacy, I will turn to explanations which take the
coTmn15n"~w]BriDtner theories. In chapter 5, í argue that any ex- indeterminacy of intentional social action as their starting point
planatory pãttern can be employecl for the purpose of~sõcjal and build into their patterns of explanation ways in which inde-
criticism. However, not a^l^íjherri are pltr^^^rlJIsmt^^JS terminacy is recognized and rigorously explained.
purpose, nor are the"y" ali sufficiently reíTectiye. Jon Elster hás The expíanation of social action is a convenient starting point
proposed two general criteria of theÓreticaí adequacy in the social for a post-empiricist philosophy of social science, not only because
sciences relative to the purpose of prediction: theories may be of íts indeterminacy but because it is the starting point for the
inadequate or indeterminate. Whereas a theory is inadequate when research programs examined in this book. Ali these programs hold
its theories fail, it is indeterminate "when and to the extent to that actions are doubly indeterminate: they are performed by re-
which it fails to yield unique predictions."11 Elster admits that a flective and khowledgeablejacfõrs in ínteraction with othèr reflec-
theory hás explanatory power even if it is not fully determinate; "tTve and knowledgeable social actors. If this is true, explanations
determinacy is, however, a proper evaluative feature of explanations. ofrãçti'on
^í***—" '---•-- do "not fail í.predictively
- - * r ,because
- —' -their
—^-..,- . -r theoretical
-,- .. _ _
L _._ .^. laws
_ . or
J i i§

But not ali theories can be evaluated relative to the purpose of models are weak, but for the opposite reaspn: the rigidity of their
prediction, even in the natural sciences. Like HempePs recon- explanatory premises fixes agents' purppses and goak, making
structions, Elster presupposes too strong a connection between tKemjnto "judgmental dopes", or "rational fools," to borrow apt
explanation and prediction, one which would fail to obtain for characterizations of the failures of Parsonian sociòlogy and rational
just about every theory in the social sciences. Even the weaker choice theories. Indeed, the very identification of an intentional
criterion of determinateness does not decide between very many action is indeterrmnate, ~as"cán~"be~séen irí "Ryle^s "discUssion of the
theories. The social sciences arejndeed "sciences ofjndeterminacyj5 oíííêrêncès between a twitch and a wink.12 Agents' own self-de-
whose theonês do_npXSu_cc^S..l>y.pxej^clmg..unique-and.,determinate scriptions enter in,_b_ut there are_^lsp acts tha_f"must be ícTentified"
õútcõrnesT^My hypothesís is that even on post-empiricist assump- ás such by others,^ like insults.._ànd.warnings. Whiie Dãvidsón hás
'nõnTTris possible to show how Jndeterminacy excludes neither argiied that this indeterminacy establishes that we must use the
rigorous fHeonzmg nor the search for evidence. Tlíe"prÕpef"form same means to interpret ourselves as we would the most distant
of'explanátiòri in"the" social sciences is both non-reductiõníst and culture, it surely also means that actions are open to multiple
-• -

8 Introduction Introduction 9

interpretations, contextuai variations andjforms_^o£^faijure. Each fulfill the requirements for adequate causal explanation in my two
research program tries to build in interpretive_and,, -.contextuai case studies in this chapter: (í) Durkheim's explanations of the
comgpn.ents,4ntegrating interpretive iníleterrninacy into a .the.or.gEÍÊal reíation between collective moral beliefs and suicide rates and (2)
framework tKât makes it comprehensible. In this sense, too^such the explanations of scientific beliefs in the strong programme,
t^iSsilS in particular Paul Forman's analysis of the influence of Weimar
planatory understanding"^3 and escape the old dichotomies of the culture on quantum physics. Once the assumption of causal
natuf aí" anH the human sciences^TCe Hybli^^ tHeõne,s...Jiince^EBí: determinacy is abandoned, successful explanations can appeal to
a^2Kd"ajtemrjteá. These explanations are evidence that the old mechanisms which specify how the context in which social action
dichotomies no longer serve any methodoíogical purpose but only occurs influences practices of belíef formation.
help to obscure the indeterminacy of social phenomena in two The various explanatory patterns developed in chapter 2 result
opposite ways: by denying it, as do the natural science models; or from abandoning the methodoíogical assumptions of determinacy
making it into an insuperable limit on explanation, as do traditional and generality; each theoretical approach develops core cases of
human sciences. explanations based on distinct features of social action: choice
Problems of indeterminacy arise in quite diverse contexts, and under constraint (rational choice theory), reílective accountability
the chapter headings denote one such context, each with its own to other actors (ethnomethodology), and communicative interaction
form of indeterminacy: causaíity, rules, interpretation, the micro- (the theory of communicative action}. In light of these patterns for
macro link, and social criticism. I regard these traditional catego- explaining action, different forms of indeterminacy with regard to
res _ _ _ _ rufes and rule following can be addressed: frequent exceptions and
^ to .solve: to Hiscoyer anH explaín regularíties in free rider problems in choice situations constrained by sanctions;
^^ to understand common frames^ofj^renc^aiic^ ^xpecta- •the indeterminacy in the elaborative and ad boc application and
tions, to understand trjongsjrom jm agentes £ojnt^pf yj6^ to g^Ilp employment of rules; and the failure of an action to fulfill norma-
phenomena. píj^a^e^sco^e^nH^scale, and to critkizj^._SeiLefs_and tive expectations. My yiewjsj:hatrule fQnowing,dQes,Apt..cpnstitute
structures_in a society. Because tlíe research programs examined the basis_for a distinct approach in the social sciences, but makes
rlere are aíl comprehensive, their styles of explanation have been séns<s only_ in^the ^
employed for ali of these purposes. Each chapter begins by devel- foÍlowing_and ._use._ rules-,as-explanatory.._terms. _ By employing the
oping alternative theoretical approaches to these problems and rêsources of each pattern, this indeterminacy does not excíude the
then turns to case studies that illuminate the fundamental difficul- possibility of both explaining rules and using rules in adequate
ties in resolving each type of indeterminacy. As opposed to many explanations, despite the fact that they do not predict any unique
other books in the phiíosophy of social science, my case studies outcõmes or have a fixed reference in actual behavior.
are taken primarily from actual explanations, most of them from Chapter 3 deals with the source of much indeterminacy in the
sociology, and are meant to contrast successes with failures. While social sciences: the problem of interpretation. Many argue that
many of my discussions are criticai, each chapter includes a suc- post-empiricism and the end of the natural-human science dicho-
cess story of an actual explanation which is adequate to the tomy together imply that "everything is interpretation" or that, in
various purposes of social science. In the rest of the introduction, Stanley Fish's phrase, "interpretation is the oníy game in town."
I wiil give a general indication of the problems and results of Charles Taylor hás described this view as the "pleasing fantasy" of
each chapter. If the reader does not wish a summary without the "old guard Diltheyeans," their shoulders hunched from years-long
accompanying argumentation, she may go ahead to the discussion resistance to positivism, who now "suddenly pitch forward on
of the concept of indeterminacy that closes the introduction. their faces as ali opposition ceases to the reign of universal
Chapter l takes up problems of causaíity related to explanations hermeneutics."14 I will argue that the claim that "everything is
of social action. No causal account offered só far yields anythirig interpretation" arises only because of the holistic character of cur-
like predictions: causal theories are neither adequate with respect rent theories of interpretation. On this account, interpretation aíways
to the diversity of social actions, nor true with respect to their takes place within a certain background or context of relations
general laws. Reasons cannot be determinate causes that would (such as the webs of beliefs or the practices of a form of life).
10 Introduction Introduction 11

Moreover, ínterpretation is circular and hence can be evaluated

only in light of other Ínterpretation; there is no escape from the structuresmustbe trajisJjte4Jji1^^^ .^c-
hermeneutic circle. While such holistic constraints on determinate Tntêrãctions . Without such linkages, both micro- and
Ínterpretation do hoíd~fÕFthe social sciences, I areue that skeptical
\- - ,_,, , - - "-• ---- —M-fr^-IO^^^^^^i^^.-H_^ explanations remain incomplete and inadequate, with
concítistõ^^ljgt^^^^HgnonlHc^ ng^jallgw fronx .them. My case little explanatory power. Case studies in this chapter deal with
stucties in this chapter focus on the role of Ínterpretation in debates successful and unsuccessful micro-macro íinks, including debates
engendered by two skeptical social scientific analyses of "represen- about functionalism, Marxist base-superstructure explanations, and
tation": James Clifford's analysis of cultural anthropology and Steve Habermas's system-lifeworld reformulations.
Woolgar's sociology of science. Even if Ínterpretation is unavoid- In chapter 5, I argue that any valid pattern of explanation can
ably indeterminate, it follows only that there is no unique best be put to use in criticai social science. Even interpretations may be
Ínterpretation, not that there is no way to distinguish better from employed by social critics, só long as they depart sufficiently from
worse interpreta ti ons. Such comparative distinctions can be made generally accepted ones. Desrjite^JjsJarge^resources, criticai social
in two ways: in light of available evidence, but also in light of the science shares^jh^in^ejtexmjnaçy^c^^l^ the for^^_exr>lanation
moral responsibility to the other in the dialogical situation that d^cusse^greviously, including problems of interpretive correctness
characterizes acts of Ínterpretation. 'Ilie_a£rjiejJ_to eyjdence_jmd ^ ^ a n d Hesires. B u t by_ attempting .fcTBe ^criti-
responsibility imply that qu£stions^^]ntej^e^tiojL,e^lDe^set^d cai, explanations ..açcept the- burden _of, normative-practical criteria
without semantic theory. Social theories inform our Ínterpretation of adequacy, as well as further burdens of the indeterminacy of
by puttihg them in larger contexts"ò7J'^idence and respqnsipility., critiçism _itseíf,..Criticism raises fundamental questions about the
not by avoiding interpretive indeterminacy altogetfier. pragmatic character of social scientific knowíedge; if the descrip-
In chapter 4, I cónsidèr what" tHesè larger contexts might be by tion given in this book is correct, then it is a decidedly practical
discussing the problem of explanation in macrosociology. In general, and reflective form of knowíedge, rather than a technical and an
debates between individualists and holists are angtherjljgãgy^of objective one. Indeed, one. pf. the ,putmpded _diçho.tomies_of_the
trTè~~dêmãjcation pTõ^Hn~TrrtEê™sociáT sciences. Indlvidualistsiave natural-human science controversy - namely, that between .."facts"
tÕ^sTlíafuraI scientific moHels and" holists and/^values^'. - is blurred and is^np-longer the logical distinction
hás also demarcated the sqciajjsciences modern^philospphers tp be. What is "fact" and
from psychoiogy and hás been 'úsed^f^^fêsísTIré^^tiom^ni^^ití1 what is "value" is itself indeterminate, dependent upon the re-
rêlgaTd to"s"òciarfa"cts. Irídéêd, "classicãr'sòciàí theory" often clairned flective status oí norms and bí knowíedge cláims in tfie theory
tò~"bé""1;iHH:~tõ"^fo^ of employécl by ~trí<T cfltic/ Once social science begins to explain and
individual actions and" 6eIiêH™in'"'tèrm¥ of~properties of~society as intérpref norms and practices, there is no theory-neutral' ' way to
a wrlolêTTurfcfiõrrdisr explanatiunsrf õT^éxãífíprè^ "expiam'" a plrâc- ássign~~stat:enierits_ to_either side pf the distinction. "But rather jhan
tice'or a set of beliefs in terms of some social purpose or benefit being a threat to the possibility of criticai social science, the
for society as a whole, as in the case of the integrating effects cõHapse of this stm^n]]jm^^i^ÍI^£ãri^
of rituais. Objections to such explanations typically trade on ex- òFjectiqns to it^jt undermines cláims to ethical neutrality as in
planatory indeterminacy: many different practices, actions or beliefs Weber's .account of values, as well as the-force.of the,-naturalistic
could have fulfilled the same purpose in a different way; conversely, faílacy (that is, that critica] scjence_con^sj^is_a.nd_,Qught).
any practice or belief can be said to provide some benefit or another. ^ Even without the comfort of the distinction between facts and
This indeterminacy hás led some to argue that holistic explanations values, criticai social science must not simply assume its standards
tend to be vacuous and that whatever explanatory force they have of critiçism but must instead develop them out of its successful
is carried by the actions or interactions of individuais which they forms of explanation. Nor can it clairh the status òf "objective"
imply. However, t^e-^esx^^_urrent,-.macr£tl.e^.d..^£^na_tio^_iare knowíedge typícàl Òf some forms of orthodòx Marxism. There are
neither collective nor individualist; rather, they seek to integrate prablems ò^ferrninacy related to the act of critiçism itself:
micro- anel macro-Tevels of explanation. I wilí argue that such problerns^reíated to the appli^bihty^pf the critíc's stancíards, of
líiõkages can go ih^eifhêrdirecfiõrirmicrb-level explanations can be the direction and.cpnsequences of. the,.çntic's a"cts^T~c6rnmunication
12 Introduction Introduction 13

íhosecntiazecL, and^of the can be consistem with ali the avaiíable evidence and inconsistent
necessary for etfecfíve^cfiticism. In this chapter, I will with each other.16 But social^scienceJ.s not like radical translation:
as an exemplar of and_ spurces__^oT
criticai social science, and my case studies will concern various there is no
attempts to reformulate its theoretical basis: Elster's conception of they are similar
social irrationality; "Woolgar and Latour's criticism of the "ideol-
ogy of representation" in science; and Habermas's idea of ideology ^ecide the njatter between competing alternatives
as distorted communication, or communication distorted by power in advance. Rather than having any of these- meanings, the variety
and domination. As in the micro_^macro _ . ^ ^ òTfòrms of indeterminacy in the social sciences discussed above ali
are the ^ derive from special problems concerning the role of agency in;
Kãsed i _ . ,, . - explanations. D^^e^^ajl^the^the^qr^^jto^l^ contrary, social actorsí
directin a n d p r o r ^ d í Í L i t s ,
16 _ are not simrjly the passiye bearers of social forces of"~judgêrnéntal^
restrictions^o^rative^jii J:hdr^ liyes; and they ar^ejgractical in that dopes within a cultural order. Èquipped^ j^ha carjacities ifof
_ gractices_ which^they
^ negatively jna^^Ke^^
evaluate^ It is clear from these case studies that certain criticai this is the case, then the ._sociaí
theori_e_sj:an^ scences .ace..e,epex.prQems.__Qindetermina£y,_^ thei? ,%ilu^
make slimTar criticisms, feminist criticisms of science are more to yield unique_|>_redictions^like the TnaturaL.s._cie.n_ces (as Elster hás
adequate qua criticai social science than current "ethnographies of arguedj. If jigents pecome ^^^^gí^^à^^ãJ^^^^^^J^ííS^S^
science." They not only develop a more adequate criticai frame- under which they act, no factor or j_et. of^ factors can . fully or
work, but suggest persuasive alternatives to current concepts and • dêterminiteTjrêxpíain a soclaj eyent or action^By_hecjaniing_j;ware
practices and give indications of how such social realities might be ÓjFsociaí influences on them, agents^ may^undermine..jheir^ causal
changed and who might change them. Hence, the theoretical goals .efficacy. Causal explanations in the social sciences, then, cannot be
and practical purposes of social critics establish the characteristics expressed in terms of universal, and hence determinate, laws. Or,
of theories that help to change people's beliefs and attitudes, to to use an example from the cultural order, a rule or norm never
transform existing practices and to formulate alternativa ones. fuíly_implie_s how ií_must be carried out or can be apj>lied in_ various
For ali these reasons, the concept of mdeterminaçy can serve^a situations. Nor d^^micti£naj^r^£rj^to£aj^ Heter-
nurnb^r,.,Qf,different purposes Jn^hisJx>pTk: it can serve as a_o:itÍQgl .nn"natel'y""descn5é recurrent patterns of action, since the samè
foi^,£ori..oJjle£^ritêHa^õí:;;ãdequacy, iljustratc the_.ha_sic problems_of stmclu1Fl^"~íunction^ma7^b"é""malntained"^by an inâeKnite number
a post-empiricist philosp_r^y_^l.j,Q,cial_tjclen,ç.e and revea]___a_new oT^fKêT*"ãcttorTs^F 'beHaviours^ Thus, the protean character of
lô^iF"foFJ^rãnonal . r£construction of actual expianatory^ractice^ rêfiectívè7""social agency evades ali attempts to Bíscover..some .de-
Given its organizing role in*tKis BoõE, pernapíTTFls important to fêlmiHaK"tKèorèticaÍ use of alí such explanatory terms in the social
distinguish the use of the term here from other current ones. sciences.
Indeterminacy_ here..has__nothing to do with "indetorninism," the m i ;B"uf íhis recognition of the inevitability of indeterminacy in so-
doctrine that free actions musT^5ê~uncau"sêd;' "TF also is not directly cial scientifíc explanations does not, I will argue, exclude the
r el ate3^tB"clíali^^^mfóm possibility of constructing adequate and fruitful explanations that
with the specTãl~cõn3itiOTÍs of knowhd^^^ov^Tmr^ c^uântumjn£- can fulfill a variety of purposes. How the social sciences can
c^^^^T^m^^mo^^uín^^ã^ument ÍOT the_"mcfeterminac^ of operate within the constraints of indeterminacy and still offer a
translation" rnakes a strong_er case for the undecidabiíity between whole range of explanations is one of the basic themes of this
alternatives than í want to make here, again tecause of the special book. In each chapter, I will begin by developing the problem
conditions. govermng" "rSHícál 'translation and tHeõries''of'meamHg of indeterminacy for each type of explanation; I wiíl then state as
that are not applicable here. In order to make the indeterminacy precisely as possible its scope and criteria of adequacy. These
of translation more than a case of the underdetermination of reconstructions of various types of explanations will take the form
empirical theories, Quine argues that competing translation manuais of the full statement of a "pattern" or scheme for the use of
? • - • :"•• '

14 Introductton Introduction 15

various indeterminate, yet explanatory, terms. The statemerits of position to deveíop a new logic of social scientific practice. The
the pattern make up the conditions of application of ^the.±ermJn new approaches in the social sciences are now the proper context
anjt4ejguate^xplanatipn. I will also try to show that itJs-precjsely to ask some of the important philosophical questions about rea-
by reco^nizing^ sucH indeterminacy that thejsqdal sciences can 'son, action, and the good life, as they emerge in attempts to
ftefíqrm their practical tasícs, sucfí ""ãs~intèrpreting pjtherr.,cuitures ,
explaining scientific knowledge, or criticizing social._ instjjEutions,.
m interpret, explain and criticize the social-cultural world. At least
from the side of phiíosophy, the first step toward such a coopera-
ÃíftEese last rémarks 'reveal, for ali its emphasis on indeter-
minacy and its post-empirical prientation, this book is profoundly
m tive relation will have been taken when it sees social scientific
research and theorizing for what it already is. T^main contribu-
anti-skep tical. I take both indeterminacy and post-empiricism to be -tipn of r^pst-empirici§m_is_to get^us started:,Íaces .N_éuratES
primarily negative theses: the íbrmer criticizes inadequate_.a_çço.uats exjectatiqn_qf sdej:errninacy, and unity with Aristqtle's recognition
of expÍanafionLJnrithe ; .sociar sciences , while the, Jatterjindermines of indeterminacy and muitiplicity.
olde£ç_p^^pJ_an^a_tion. Both simply serve __as_
starting ppints5,J,n, th_at-.the,y,ido= not contributé mucfiTinliKé way of
positive proposals pther than that the social sciences must recognize
agençy^and that. epistemoÍQgy,,,,must he.sQciaiized and historicized.
Instead of skepticism, they only require that we change what
norma tive questions we ask and that we '"broactén" wKat counts as
science or explanation. Under post-empiricist " àssumptions, the
phiíosophy of any science must at least understand its current
practice and past history. It cannot be in the busmess__o.f .deciding
once and for _3\\. js : scientuic.. and what .is. , npt; suçh consid-
erátions are_^generally irreleyant to actual practice.18 Since the
pracfice_of a science^_^mte_j^j|ed,_philosophicaj_self-reflection
should not tãke upon itself the authority to eliminate aítefrmfivè
,.._.,_ __ ___, ___ JT _. t v ._____. . . l L , J , , _ _ _ _ ^ . ,,. ^-^^,ltf.r. --- ,•*«£*•—É»—m-—"*" "•-*.- . - ; — _ . . - _____:^.^- -- -'-í — •— -

directions and itheories. Instead, it should take up a comparative

but no less normative role, ]udging'"^s^£ch^,ir
typical explanations to be better in some respects_ and worse in
such còmpãràtive™críteria of

toLÍ^^J^13^-?0^^^ ^at t^e3{_w,⣣iílt-

They may also provide solutions to the problems of inHeterminacy,
to the extent that they can be resolved.
With the turn to history and practice, post-empiricism places the
phiíosophy of social science at the center of epistemology. I hope
that this book can help to define its new normative role in de-
veloping a logic for making comparative judgments of adequacy
between competing ciaims and approaches according to practical
criteria. Certainly, there are unresolved problems with the theories
and research programs examined here. But philosophical reflection
on them will succeed if it is íike the theories it studies,, that is, if
it is criticai, practical and self-reflective in its understanding of
knowledge as a social-historical endeavor. Its success depends upon
the extent to which new forms of explanation are now in a