Socialism - Science - Religion -Reply

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Mon Jun 12 13:33:43 MDT 1995

Lisa --
	When I say that "non-distorted social science" addresses totality
and internal relations, I believe that we can never address that totality
without placing it within the context of a specific vantage point or
level of generality.  Hence, in certain contexts, it is fine to use
quantitative or statistical methods to try to make a point.  Dialectical
thinkers are just less likely to disconnect the specific questions from
the wider totality.  In my own discipline, there is a lot to be learned
by the statistical methods used to say, analyze election returns.  But
there are too many political scientists that I know to whom election
returns are the only important issue in politics.  All I'm saying is,
that dialectics demands that we connect the micro issues to the big
picture.  And that while it is OK to use the methods of statistical
inference, they are not the only methods by which we can learn about
social reality.

As for my use of the phrase, "modern positivism"... I am using it very
broadly to refer to all of those methods that are "factual,"
"quantitative," "statisical," and in general, unconcerned with the
broader questions of political legitimacy, class analysis, psychology,
anthropology, ethics... etc.  The positivists tend to reduced EVERYTHING
to a number, since anything else reeks of "abstractness" and
"metaphysics," in their view.  Econometricians come to mind.

				- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics

On Mon, 12 Jun 1995, Lisa Rogers wrote:

> Chris S,
> at first you seem to say that a non-distorted social science is one
> which encompasses or addresses totality and internal relations, but
> your last line is more reasonable (to me) to say that different
> methods are applicable to different questions.  Which is it?  And
> what is modern positivism?
> I think that specific examples would help me a lot.  I like abstract
> discussion to "get down to cases."
> Thanks,
> Lisa
> >>> Chris M. Sciabarra <sciabrrc at>  6/10/95, 07:19am >>>
> (snip) That modern positivists cannot even CONCEIVE of the totality
> and its internal relations is indicative of how deeply distorted
> their  own approach to social science is.  This is not to say that
> statistical  and quantitative approaches have NO value in certain
> circumstances.  But  such approaches often miss the forest for the
> trees.  Bertell Ollman  however, warns that dialectical thinking
> often misses the trees for the  forest.  There has to be a good
> balance between micro- and  macro-analysis, and different approaches
> can sometimes shed some needed  light on specific areas of
> investigation.
> - Chris
> Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
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