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6/04/2018 4:10 pm  #1

Social sciences and supernatural

That's more or less questions for people who have enough interest for the methodology of social sciences.

The social sciences are decidedly not my cup of tea. The more I try to read about them, the more I am skeptic about either their methodology, their ontological assumptions, or both. So, here some questions that I'd like to ask:

1) It seems to me that social scientist don't merely assume methodological naturalism, but clearly accept ontological naturalism. It's particulary problematic for sociology of religion/psychology of religion/ whatever humanities of religion, for how could you clearly study the reasons for someone's belief if you don't first show that his belief is true and if he had or not some perception or evidence for it?
Take for example the rural peoples' belief about the little people: personally, I'm agnostic about their existence. But is it the case for the sociologist/anthropologist? Wouldn't he basically explain with maybe a cultural pression, the sake of preserving their culture? Or a tendancy to see intelligence and finality when there is none?

Isn't there here a tendancy to bulverism?
At best, I think that we could only have conditionnal knowledge.

2) Doesn't social scientist assume mechanistic philosophy? It's like the intentionality and beliefs are not explanatory relevant, or that they can simply be reducted to structure that are causally determined by evolution in fine.

3) Does they undermine justification of belief in general? If you can explain by psycholocial means why someone belief X, does X is not to be believed anymore? Or does those methods can't exhaust justification?


6/04/2018 4:41 pm  #2

Re: Social sciences and supernatural

How are you defining social science?


6/04/2018 4:47 pm  #3

Re: Social sciences and supernatural

What psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and historians are doing.

     Thread Starter

6/09/2018 9:57 am  #4

Re: Social sciences and supernatural

I tend to agree with you about a lot of social science. As C. S. Lewis described an obvious case, secular biblical historians often state certain books of the New Testament must have been written after the destruction of the temple, because they predict it's ruin. They take it for granted there can be no genuine prophecy.

Still, there are social scientists and humanities scholars who do give room for the immaterial. Parapsychologists and conservative Christian scholars (like Christopher Dawson in a previous generation) are obvious examples. There are psychologists, a minority to be sure, who take the evidence, philosophical and empirical, for an immaterial mind seriously - I'm thinking of scholars from William James and W. F. H. Myers to Ian Stevenson,  the Kellys, and Alan Gauld. There are even anthropologists prepared to take seriously the persistent experience of paranormal phenomena amongst both subjects and even anthropologists. The journal Paranthropology is dedicated to this subject.


6/11/2018 6:31 am  #5

Re: Social sciences and supernatural

I've already heared about this idea of bias for the prophecy of temple destruction, but do you have some source for it? It doesn't have to be an explicit attack on the mere idea of foreseeing events though.

And thank you for all those names, I will look them.

Do you have some books/papers/whatever readings for the "bulverism problem" in social sciences? Do some of them directly treat this?
Or, on the methodological assumptions of psychology, for example.

     Thread Starter

6/17/2018 12:55 am  #6

Re: Social sciences and supernatural

Ouros wrote:

I've already heared about this idea of bias for the prophecy of temple destruction, but do you have some source for it? It doesn't have to be an explicit attack on the mere idea of foreseeing events though.

There is a little Wikipedia page about it (as there are pages about a host of other related stuff) but it does not cite any names.

In my perception, the so-called "liberal" biblical scholarship (as opposed to perhaps literal/dogmatic/Jesuit) took off with Schleiermacher. Schleiermacher foreshadowed the Q-source theory for the synoptic gospels, for example. Ernest Renan, a French historian, had a profound "liberal" and secularising impact on the popular perception of the Bible and the church, with his view of Christ as a human character reflected in historical documents rather than son of God on a mission of sacrifice and redemption, a divine event that would necessitate scriptural artefacts.

From these names on, almost entire European biblical scholarship has held to mainstream historical presuppositions, treating scripture first and foremost as history, and where that's impossible, as mythology or pious fiction. This probably includes pretty much all the names of "higher criticism" - and partly for this reason I don't read any of them. I prefer to read theology. Divorced from a solid view of scripture as scripture, there can be no theology worth the name. Schleiermacher and Ernest Renan are secular enough for me.

When someone tells you that e.g. Matthew 24 must have been written post-destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (AD 70), ask why NT books do not refer to the Jewish uprising that preceded it or to Nero's persecutions (AD 64). Of the latter, Renan suggests that it was the early Christians' ideology to paint Jewish religious authorities as bad and Romans as either good or at least neutral, that's why the narrative of Acts ends short in order to avoid telling about evil Nero...

But I disagree that social sciences are methodologically materialistic ("naturalistic"). They are methodologically as analytic as all sciences. It's a bit different matter how the analysis is ontologically construed by any particular scientist. For example, all mathematicians posit numbers, geometric shapes, etc. as a matter of analytical/conceptual necessity, but their views about the ontological nature or ontological implications of these positums differ wildly with no way to reconcile them.

Similarly, every historical document presupposes an author. If you dispute this, you cannot be a historian (while you can still be a geologist or some other scientist). However, historians can sincerely debate whether a particular author is an objective observer or a fraud and whether scripture is a legitimate genre distinct from both history and mythology or not.

Last edited by seigneur (6/17/2018 1:06 am)


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