In my paper I will be examining the following question: Can we have a science of society, i.e. does it make good sense to assume we can study, understand, and manipulate the phenomena of the social world using the same scientific methods we use to study, understand, and manipulate the phenomena of the physical world? To answer this question I will look at the ontology and epistemology of social and physical phenomena though the lens of my field, ethnomethodology, in order to examine the way in which the things of the social and physical worlds appear to exist. It seems clear to me that this question has not satisfactorily been answered in either the social sciences or the humanities, and that further argument and clarification of the relevant issues needs to be done insofar as the majority of published books and articles about the social world read as if it were as valid to use scientific method to research social phenomena as it is to research physical phenomena. Certainly, the general public seems ready to accept that the results of any particular "scientific" opinion poll is accurate within 3 percentage points 19 times out of 20. Clearly, it's time for a rigorous and more cogent investigation of the arguments and evidence for and against the scientific study of the social world.
|Keywords:||Ontology, Epistemology, Ethnomethodology, Social World, Knowledge, Science|
Professor, Graduate Division of Educational Research, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada