Social Theorizing and Human Cognition: Challenges to Integrative Strategies

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Jordi MUNDÓ, University of Barcelona, Spain
I A common way of tackling the issues of theorizing in the social sciences is by assuming that they seek to understand human actions and their consequences. Accordingly, in the social sciences there has been a broad agreement on the basis that the descriptive categories that common sense has used since the dawn of history are the right ones. Folk psychology tells us that people do the things they do roughly because they want certain ends and believe these acts will help attain them. However, beliefs and desires may be understood as causes, but we can never find descriptions of them independent enough from one another to enable us to frame laws about them that do justice to the demand for improvements in predictive power. Problems of rational choice as a formalization of folk psychology are a good example of this. II On the other hand, the behaviourist program tried to deal with the problems of folk psychology by avoiding intentionality. It was a theoretical attempt that left an imprint in significant areas of the social sciences, but in the end was unable to overcome the explanatory and predictive limitations of folk psychology. III The hypothesis that new evidences in human cognition research could provide relevant answers to these unsolved problems deserves to be explored. We need to clarify how evolutionary psychology and social neurosciences, whether by focusing on the evolved information-processing mechanisms that comprise the human mind or by directing how biological systems implement social processes and behaviour, would supply the necessary causal connection between human cognition and the complex, irreducible social and cultural phenomena studied by sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and historians. IV We must take into account every serious attempt to overcome causal isolation in social theorizing. This also implies to integrate and reconstruct classical sociological works’ understandings.