Science essays on science and society

Furthermore, again despite Portis' claims to the contrary, part of the power and allure of Weber lies in the dual legacy that he handed down: He succeeded, at least in the totality of his work, in being overtly political while remaining true to his integrity as a social scientist. At least one work by Weber -- his short essay titled "The President of the Reich" -- directly bears this out. And even if, as Portis argues, Weber did become psychologically tormented by the tension he felt between his need to voice his political views and his need to feel integrity as a social scientist, what allowed him, in the end, to succeed in being both political and scientific was his two-tiered approach to value-free social science.

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For Tylor, Anthropology was a “science of culture,” a system for analyzing existing elements of human civilization that are socially created rather than biologically inherited. His work was critical to the recognition of anthropology as a distinct branch of science in 1884, when the British Association for the Advancement of Science admitted it as a major branch, or section, of the society, rather than a subset of biology, as had previously been the case. Tyler was the first president of the section, and in 1896 became Professor of Anthropology at Oxford, the first academic chair in the new discipline (Stocking, Victorian Anthropology 156-64).

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While a foundational figure in cultural anthropology, Tylor thought about culture in radically different terms than we do today. He accepted the premise that all societies develop in the same way and insisted on the universal progression of human civilization from savage to barbarian to civilized. Nowhere in his writing does the plural “cultures” appear. In his view, culture is synonymous with civilization, rather than something particular to unique societies, and, so, his definition refers to “Culture or civilization.” In part, his universalist view stemmed from his Quaker upbringing, which upheld the value of a universal humanity, and indeed Tylor’s refusal to accept the concept of race as scientifically significant in the study of culture was unusual in Victorian science.

Tylor's Primitive Culture articulates one of two major theories of culture to emerge around 1870
Max Weber's View of Objectivity in Social Science

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Furthermore, Weber believed that value orientations could not be eliminated from social scientific work. They necessarily determine the analyst's perspective. Portis writes that Weber, in his Freiburg inaugural address, said "political economy was a `political science,' in the sense that it must proceed from a value perspective." More crucially, Portis goes on to quote Weber as writing that "`there is no "objective" scientific analysis of culture ... or "social phenomena" independent of special and "one-sided" viewpoints -- expressly or tacitly, consciously or unconsciously -- they are selected, analyzed, and organized for expository purposes.'"

An essay on Max Weber's view of objectivity in social science, by Steve Hoenisch.

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In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, authors from newlyemerging scientific disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, andpsychology, examined the purported naturalistic roots of religiousbelief. They did so with a broad brush, trying to explain what unifiesdiverse religious beliefs across cultures, rather than accounting forcultural variations. In anthropology, the idea that all culturesevolve and progress along the same lines (cultural evolutionism) waswidespread. Cultures with differing religious views were explained asbeing in an early stage of development. For example, Tylor (1871)regarded animism, the belief that spirits animate the world, as theearliest form of religious belief. Comte (1841) proposed that allsocieties, in their attempts to make sense of the world, go throughthe same stages of development: the theological (religious) stage isthe earliest phase, where religious explanations predominate, followedby the metaphysical stage (a non-intervening God), and culminating inthe positive or scientific stage, marked by scientific explanationsand empirical observations.

Many intractable controversies in today’s culture wars relate to issues of sex and gender

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Max Weber thought that "statements of fact are one thing, statements of value another, and any confusing of the two is impermissible," Ralf Dahrendorf writes in his essay "Max Weber and Modern Social Science," acknowledging that Weber clarified the difference between pronouncements of fact and of value. Although Dahrendorf goes on to note the ambiguities in Weber's writings between factual analysis and value-influenced pronouncements, he stops short of offering an explanation for them other than to say that Weber, being human, could not always live with his own demands for objectivity. Indeed, Dahrendorf leaves unclear exactly what Weber's view of objectivity was. More specifically, Dahrendorf does not venture to lay out a detailed explanation of whether Weber believed that the social scientist could eliminate the influence of values from the analysis of facts.