ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Explanation and Meaning in Social Sciences

Explanation and Meaning in Social Sciences Sarah Joseph Individualism In Social Science by Rajeev Bhargava; Clarendon Press, Oxford,
THIS book is for those interested in issues of philosophy and methodology in the social sciences. Lucidly written and closely argued, it explores various versions of methodological individualism (MI) and arrives at certain propositions regarding explanation and meaning in the social sciences. A certain stamina is required from the reader to follow the author through an intricate set of arguments and definitions which explore the fine points of difference between different theories and concepts. The method which is followed is to attempt to clarify and order the different entangled versions of MI, explore their strengths and weaknesses, eliminate those which cannot stand up to critical examination and put forward an alternative account of explanation which incorporates some of the elements of individualist modes of explanation but grounds them in a wider theory which takes into account what Bhargava considers to be the irreducibly social character of meaning and explanation in the social sciences. This is of course the style of the language game called analytical philosophy, a tradition of inquiry which is less commonly adopted by social scientists in India than many others. Probably the American and European influence is stron- ger on Indian social scientists today than the British. This mode of argumentation imposes on its practitioners a certain rigour and precision but there is the danger that it may become merely a formal exercise which relies on logic and definition but says little about the world as we know it Bhargava appears to be sensitive to this possibility, almost defensive in tone at times. Hence he reiterates that since MI is neither trivial nor obviously true it is a worthwhile exercise to analyse its forms and to try and clarify the confusions which often exist in the arguments of both its defenders and its critics. He also maintains that methodology defends a particular interpretation of human beings and their capacities, a particular philosophical anthropology and therefore the study of methodology is of more than formal interest. This is no doubt true though the book on the whole focuses mainly on issues of logic and the structure of different arguments, However, some of the examples which are given do draw our attention to the wider implications of different theories. One wishes that this aspect had been developed more fully.

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