Philosophy of Social Science

Alexander Rosenberg

Fifth Edition • July 28, 2015 • 348 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813349732 • $42.00 USD$54.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813349909 • $25.99 USD$25.99 CAN


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Philosophy of Social Science provides a tightly argued yet accessible introduction to the philosophical foundations of the human sciences, including economics, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, history, and the disciplines emerging at the intersections of these subjects with biology.

The fifth edition retains from previous editions an illuminating interpretation of the enduring relations between the social sciences and philosophy, and reflects on developments in social research over the past two decades that have informed and renewed debate in the philosophy of social science. New material for this edition includes a revised chapter on European philosophy of social science, an expanded discussion of modern and postmodern critical theory, a fuller treatment of feminist philosophy of sciences, and an added discussion on the ethics of care.


Alexander Rosenberg is R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke University. He is author of many books and papers in the philosophy of science, including The Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Approach, The Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Approach, and Economics—Mathematical Politics or Science of Diminishing Returns (winner of the prestigious Lakatos Prize). In 2007, he was the national Phi Beta Kappa Romanell lecturer in philosophy.


1. What Is the Philosophy of Social Science?
2. The Methodological Divide: Naturalism Versus Interpretation
3. The Explanation of Human Action
4. Actions, Intentionality and the Mind/Body Problem
5. Behaviorism in the Behavioral Sciences
6. Problems of Rational Choice Theory
7. Social Psychology and the Construction of Society
8. Continental Philosophy of Social Science
9. Holism and Antireductionism in Sociology and Psychology
10. Functionalism as a Research Program
11. Sociobiology or the Standard Social Science Model?
12. Theories of Cultural Evolution
13. Research Ethics in Social Inquiry
14. Facts and Values in the Human Sciences
15. Social Science and the Enduring Questions of Philosophy


Praise for previous editions:

“Once again, Alexander Rosenberg has set the bar for books on the philosophy of social science. An outstanding introduction, even for those who are already in the discipline.”
—James Bohman, Saint Louis University

“This was already a very useful book for teaching philosophy of social science. It covers many important topics in an engaging way. This edition is even better, with interesting new material and a reorganization with pedagogy in mind. It will make for a great course in philosophy of social science.”
—Harold Kincaid, University of Cape Town

“Ever since the first edition of Alexander Rosenberg’s Philosophy of Social Science appeared in 1988, it has been indispensable for anyone teaching the subject at all levels from absolute beginners on. Each new edition has been still more indispensable as a teaching aid, but also as a source of new ideas and insights about changes in the philosophy of science and in the social sciences themselves. This new edition preserves the freshness and liveliness of the first edition, and has added new depths of reflectiveness and a wider range of reference without any loss of the sprightliness and lucidity that readers have treasured for twenty-four years. It is a very considerable achievement.”
—Alan Ryan, Princeton University

“What is social science? Study of causes or of interpretation? Holistic or reductionistic? Morally neutral or morally engaged? Rosenberg’s text provides a thorough, clear and remarkably evenhanded exposition and examination of these fascinating, important, and loaded issues.”
—Paul Teller, University of California, Davis

“A model of clarity, scope, and analytical precision, this book is both a superb introductory text and a work of outstanding scholarship.”
—Lee McIntyre, Colgate University; coeditor of Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science

“A splendid introduction to the subject. It addresses in a marvelously coherent and engaging way virtually all the major philosophical issues to which the social sciences give rise. Philosophy of Social Science is both a pedagogical masterpiece and a work of serious philosophical interest.”
—Daniel M. Hausman, University Wisconsin

“Will become the standard text for philosophy courses on social science and social science courses on foundations and method. This remarkably compact book maintains an admirably objective stance on contending views on all the really outstanding problems. There is no other book in the field that I can recommend so highly.”
—Alan Nelson, University of California at Irvine.

“Rosenberg’s book succeeds nicely in conveying … a sense of the current state of the social sciences. His analytical structure works well for that purpose.”
—Economics and Philosophy

“Significant in covering all the major themes discussed in this complex field.”
—Canadian Philosophical Review

“Rosenberg … has boldly surpassed all previous attempts to stake out this difficult area …. This book clearly lays out the role that philosophy plays in elucidating the scientific status of specific social sciences.”

“Rosenberg’s book succeeds nicely in conveying … a sense of the current state of the social sciences. His analytical structure works well for that purpose.”
—Economics and Philosophy

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