Reaction paper: Introductory readings in the philosophy of science / edited by E.D. Klemke, Robert Hollinger, David Wÿss Rudge with A. David Kline
What a theory looks like? Many different opinions. The easiest one should be Hempel’s a scientific explanation should be explained by a D-N model. But just as Cartwright said, the covering law is scare. Sometimes, the explanation doesn’t derive from a Ceteris paribus law nor a covering law. For instance, why people should follow government’s rules? From a folk’s wisdom it may be, if you don’t follow it, you will go to jail. But from scholars, it’s a delegation problem. John Rawls use the concept of the veil of ignorance to explain that people should follow just rules. However, this concept of the veil of ignorance is not an observable term.
Even we put it in the theoretical category, it’s hard to say it can be tested or observed by using some tools. It’s a setting to makes people understand the world. And this is what the main goal of social science. Truly, as a social scientist, we face the problem of providing a theory which can explain some incidence very clearly but couldn’t provide a good predict. Just like Marxism. But that should be fine, cause as long as we accept that all the knowledge we knew is temporary true, these covering law is only temporary accurate.
Unlike natural science, one goal in social science is to develop the normative theory. It’s like the common goal of social science, what are we aiming for. This type of theory is a creation, we believe if our institution follows and fits this normative theory, then our society will be prospering and full of joy. But for this type of theory, there is no accurate law, only of what you are believing for. For instance, the veil of ignorance could help us deduct a just society. Under the situation that people have no knowledge of what their position, condition in the society might be, under the assumption that people will pursue their greatest interest, they will set up just laws in a case that they become the minority. This deduction is logical, but every item is uncertain. But we couldn’t explain this theory cause it’s not really possible to experience.
I agree that what we have to bear in mind is the question that leads us to find the answer and observe. From my point of view, researchers have a perspective way beyond the research. This perspective is subjective, but without it, there is no observation. Without the theory, it’s hard to say what should we observe. Theory is a set of assumptions, and we tried to prove it by empirical evidence. Theory could be wrong, but the resulting empirical data still useful and it’s the only way to accumulate knowledge. Cause without a category system, there is no knowledge. Right now, the disclosure of data is become a huge trend in government, but without a theory to organize and tailor the data, this data is just number which makes no meaning to other people.