Rational Choice, Scientific Method and Social Scientism

19 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2005

See all articles by A.B. C. Adi

A.B. C. Adi

Lagos Business School; University of Tsukuba

Kenneth Amaeshi

University of Edinburgh Business School; Cranfield University - School of Management

Sumimori Tokunaga

University of Tsukuba

Abstract

The eighteenth-century introduction of the scientific method of the natural sciences to the study of social phenomena draws a line between moral philosophy - that aspect of ancient and medieval philosophy that dealt with social issues - and the social sciences as known today. From the onset, the emerging social science, or rather, its epistemological orientation to 'social scientism,' was vigorously challenged by many critics who see it as a reductionist and mechanistic understanding of human beings and their society. In recent times, this criticism has narrowed down to the critique of the rationalist assumptions or rational choice theory on which much of social scientism is built. Critics of the natural science ideal in the social sciences argue that the subject matter of the social sciences - human beings, their society and interactions - is so complex and different a system that subjecting it to the crucible of the scientific method of the natural, positivist sciences not only limits its understanding but leaves it with an abrasive and distorting impact. In the same manner, critiques of rational choice theory argue that it is a reductionism that does not account for a significant proportion of human actions and motives. What seems to be advocated for is a sort of social science method that addresses the shortcomings of the scientific method applied to social phenomena and employs a more robust model of human action that supersedes the rational choice model. This paper however posits that rationalist assumptions or rational choice theory is not peculiar to social scientism but lies at the foundation of modern and contemporary science and its method. We trace out the centrality of individual rationality assumptions in the general epistemology of the scientific method and social scienticism within the context of the centuries-old debate on the limitations of the scientific method in the social sciences. Our thesis hints at the impossibility of a modern and contemporary scientific model of either nature (physics) or society that does not assume individualist or subjective rationality.

Keywords: scientific method, social scientism, rational choice

JEL Classification: B10, B50, N00

Suggested Citation

Adi, Bongo C. and Amaeshi, Kenneth and Tokunaga, Sumimori, Rational Choice, Scientific Method and Social Scientism. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=799584 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.799584

Bongo C. Adi (Contact Author)

Lagos Business School ( email )

Pan-Atlantic University
KM 22, Lekki-Epe Expressway
Lagos, Lagos State
Nigeria

HOME PAGE: http://www.lbs.edu.ng

University of Tsukuba ( email )

Tsukuba University , Ibaraki Ken
Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8573, Ibaraki 3050006
Japan

Kenneth Amaeshi

University of Edinburgh Business School ( email )

29 Buccleuch Place
Central Area
Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.business-school.ed.ac.uk/about/people/738/Kenneth/Amaeshi

Cranfield University - School of Management ( email )

Bedfordshire, MK43 0AL
United Kingdom

Sumimori Tokunaga

University of Tsukuba ( email )

Tsukuba University , Ibaraki Ken
Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8573, Ibaraki 3050006
Japan

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
261
Abstract Views
2,209
rank
162,544
PlumX Metrics