Socialism - Science - Religion -Reply -Reply

Mon Jun 12 16:06:45 MDT 1995

I guess we agree that the method should be matched to the question
addressed, there are "many methods by which we can learn about social
reality", "totality" is relative, as each one is divideable, but each
is part of a still larger totality.

But I think of positivism as a philosophy, and you describe it as
methods, although perhaps you mean that they go together.

My question is, what do you think are the "broader issues" in
anthropology? (for an example in my own field.)

>>> Chris M. Sciabarra <sciabrrc at>  6/12/95, 01:33pm >>>
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

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
> 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
> can sometimes shed some needed  light on specific areas of
> investigation.   >  > - Chris
> Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
>  >  >  >  >      --- from list marxism at

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