Human Science

Human Science

Human science (also, moral science and human sciences as typical in the UK) is a term applied to the investigation of human life and activities by a rational, systematic and verifiable methodology that acknowledges the validity of both data derived by impartial observation of sensory experience (objective phenomena) and data derived by means of impartial observation of psychological experience (subjective phenomena). It includes but is not necessarily limited to fields of study commonly included within the social sciences and humanities, including history, sociology, anthropology, and economics. Its use of a empirical methodology that encompasses psychological experience contrasts to the purely positivistic approach typical of the natural sciences (which exclude all methods not based solely on external sensory observations). Thus the term is often used to distinguish not only the content of a field of study from those of the natural sciences, but also its methodology.Georg Henrik von Wright, "Explanation and Understanding", ISBN 0-8014-0644-7, pp. 4-7]

Early development

The term moral science was first used by Hume in his "Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals" to refer to the systematic study of human nature and relationships. Hume wished to establish a "science of human nature" based upon empirical phenomena, and excluding all that does not arise from observation. Rejecting teleological, theological and metaphysical explanations , Hume sought to develop an essentially descriptive methodology; phenomena were to be precisely characterized. He emphasized the necessity of carefully explicating the cognitive content of ideas and vocabulary, relating these to their empirical roots and real-world significance. [ [ "David Hume"] , Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

A variety of early thinkers in the humanistic sciences took up Hume's direction. Adam Smith, for example, conceived of economics as a moral science in the Humean sense. [ [ Book Review] of Jeffrey T. Young's "Economics As a Moral Science: The Political Economy of Adam Smith"]

Later development

Partly in reaction to the establishment of positivistic philosophy and the latter's Comtean intrusions into traditionally humanistic areas such as sociology, non-postivistic researchers in the humanistic sciences began to carefully but emphatically distinguish the methodological approach appropriate to these areas of study, for which the unique and distinguishing characteristics of phenomena are in the forefront (e.g. for the biographer), from that appropriate to the natural sciences, for which the ability to link phenomena into generalized groups is foremost. In this sense, Droysen contrasted the humanistic science's need to "comprehend" the phenomena under consideration with natural science's need to "explain" phenomena, while Windelband coined the terms idiographic for a descriptive study of the individual nature of phenomena, and nomothetic for sciences that aim to define the generalizing laws.

Dilthey brought nineteenth-century attempts to formulate a methodology appropriate to the humanistic sciences together with Hume's term "moral science", which he translated as - a term with no exact English equivalent. Dilthey attempted to articulate the entire range of the moral sciences in a comprehensive and systematic way.Wilhelm Dilthey, "An Introduction to the Human Sciences", Princeton Press, Chapter I] He characterized the scientific nature of a study as depending upon:Chapter XI]
*The conviction that perception gives access to reality
*The self-evident nature of logical reasoning
*The principle of sufficient reason

Husserl, a student of Dilthey's, articulated his phenomenological philosophy on a similar basis.

In recent years, "human science" has been used to refer to "a philosophy and approach to science that seeks to understand human experience in deeply subjective, personal, historical, contextual, cross-cultural, political, and spiritual terms. Human science is the science of qualities rather than of quantities and closes the subject-object split in science. In particular, it addresses the ways in which self-reflection, art, music, poetry, drama, language and imagery reveal the human condition. By being interpretive, reflective, and appreciative, human science re-opens the conversation among science, art, and philosophy." [ [ Saybrook Graduate School] ]

Meaning of "Science"

Ambiguity and confusion regarding usage of the terms science, empirical science and scientific method have complicated the usage of the term human science with respect to human activities. The term "science" is derived from the Latin "scientia" meaning 'knowledge'. Science may be appropriately used to refer to any branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws. However, according to the Positivists, the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge which comes from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method. As a result of the positivist influence, the term "science" is frequently employed as a synonym for "empirical science". Empirical science is knowledge based on the scientific method, a systematic approach to verification of knowledge first developed for dealing with natural physical phenomena and emphasizing the importance of experience based on sensory observation. However, even with regard to the natural sciences, significant difference exist among scientists and philosophers of science with regard to what constitutes valid scientific method. [Popper, Karl, "Logic of Scientific Discovery", Routledge, 2002.] More recently, usage of the term has been extended to the study of human social phenomena as well. Thus, the natural sciences and social sciences are commonly classified as science, whereas the study of classics, languages, literature, music, philosophy, history, religion, and the visual and performing arts are referred to as the humanities. Ambiguity with respect to the meaning of the term "science" is aggravated by the widespread use of the term formal science with reference to any one of several sciences that is predominantly concerned with abstract form that cannot be validated by physical experience through the senses, such as logic, mathematics, and the theoretical branches of computer science, information theory, and statistics.

Objective vs. Subjective Experience

Since Auguste Comte, the positivistic social sciences have sought to imitate the approach of the natural sciences by emphasizing the importance of objective external observations and searching for universal laws whose operation is predicated on external initial conditions that do not take into account differences in subjective human perception and attitude. Critics argue that subjective human experience and intention plays such a central role in determining human social behavior that the objectivist approach to the social sciences is too confining. Rejecting the positivist influence, they argue that the scientific method can rightly be applied to subjective as well objective experience. The term subjective is used in this context to refer to inner psychological experience rather than outer sensory experience. It is not used in the sense of being prejudiced by personal motives or beliefs.



Flew, A. (1986). "David Hume: Philosopher of Moral Science", Basil Blackwell, OxfordHume, David, "An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals"


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ee also

[ Ph.D. in Human Science at Saybrook Graduate School] [ | HumanScience Wiki] [,GGLD:2006-20,GGLD:en | Geisteswissenschaften]

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