A New Framework for Evaluation in the Social Sciences

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Terry LEAHY, University of Newcastle. Australia, Australia
Social scientists tend to believe that evaluative statements express a personal and socially constructed set of values. They struggle to reconcile this with the equally forceful belief that they should intervene politically to make a difference through their social analysis. Ultimately, this conundrum comes out of the writings of Weber on values and, before this, the Scottish philosopher, David Hume. Weber's program is to purge social science of evaluative statements, which he takes to be statements of preference and not part of the empirical description of society. I will show why this program is completely impossible to carry out in practice. I will go on to explain how sociologists routinely convey ethical judgments through their factual descriptions. A humanist conception of ethics and evaluative statements can make more sense of what sociologists actually do.