Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences: Philosophy of Science: Social Science

Finding Philosophy in Social Science Bunge This book includes what amounts to a precis of Bunge's monumental Treatise on Basic Philosophy as well as other chapters on topics specifically addressed to the social sciences. Particularly outrageously funny and serious at the same time is the appendix on "futility theory".
Knowledge From What? Theories and Methods in Social Research. Phillips A critique of certain sociological methods as of c. 1970, most noticably the interview and the survey. These criticisms seem to be on the money, though more than 30 years later, obvious. The author's recommended replacements are shaky, however. Phenomenological approaches are amongst them, and Phillips does not adequately explore the "superficiality" problem that results. He does, to his credit, recognize that verstehen requires psychological hypotheses, but does not discuss in any detail how they are to guide the sociologist. Phillips' welcome reminder that conceptual resources of social groups is tacit and must be learned patiently and in part through proper socialization is ignored by many sociologists of science. I suspect that criticisms like Phillips' have lead in some circles to overreaction.
Language of Social Research Lazarsfeld (ed.) A collection of methodological papers in the social sciences. Some even introduce the notion of a quality space, which is interesting in light of many other common uses of this notion. This is a fairly old collection, so updates on some of the issues is no doubt needed, though this volume suggests to me that the postmodern sociologists and others need to return to their roots!
Philosophy of the Social Sciences: 5 Questions Ríos and Schmidt-Petri (eds.) The editors compile the result on 5 questions of general metaphilosophical interest to leading philosophers of social science and social scientists. The answers are usually quite clear and emphasize deep splits as well as many commonalities between the thinkers: one of them being an interest in Marx's work. Editorially speaking the volume is a bit weak; there are a fairly large number of typos, and the price is outrageous. However, contentwise the student of this field would learn a lot of motivation and background about "the greats" (which, as in my use of "great texts", does not entail correctness, merely influence) from this little volume.
Social Causation

MacIver (alas, not this guy)

While this book is more than 60 years old, it still should be read by all those who think that social science ought to be descriptive, or worse, narrative only. It illustrates well why Bunge says that those who refuse social science (in the full, rigorous explanatory and mechanistic sense) are to that degree conservatives. (No mechanisms -> no explanations -> no understanding of social processes -> no ability to change them effectively -> social conservativism)
Social Science Under Debate: a Philosophical Perspective Bunge The companion volume to Finding Philosophy in Social Science. The single most important aspect of the book is the distinction between normative and positive economics. In my view this distinction should be extended to political science and likely also to sociology. (Normative history, on the other hand, is nonsensical, since it would involve changing the past.)
The Scientific Study of Society Steuer The author of this volume (an economist) claims to have been motivated by all those who would deny the importance and possibility of social science). Most of the book is taken up by illustrating (alas without much discussion of modelling, statistics, etc.) what he means by examples and referencing the literature that does. While this is is a useful tactic, especially when taken along with the few analytical chapters, the result can be a bit overwhelming. Worse, however, is the quality of the editing - there are many, many typos and incomplete sentences, etc. I wonder what happened? Also, somewhat debatably, is the claim (not surprising) that economics is in many respects the most successful of the social sciences. It is certainly, for better or for worse, the most listened to policywise and similiarly. I would have preferred a bit more discussion of the social pseudosciences and less of the "positive" illustrations. It is, to be fair, eventually clear that Steuer does not mean that economics has the greatest body of truth: just better systematicity, consilience (of a sort), etc. Finally, also strange are his selection of social sciences. Political science, economics and sociology make sense, but anthropology is a bit odd, especially when he says that physical anthropology is also a social science. He also includes social psychology, which he says should be more social. In my view it should be both more social and more physiological, but that's another story. The author is correct to say that disciplinary boundaries are artificial and should be, carefully, overcome. I do wish also he'd talked a bit more about mixed sciences or why linguistics has no social science component. Over all, a good book, but a bit of a let down.

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