Explanation in Social Science by Robert Brown

By Robert Brown

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Thus in his short book entitled India, C. H. Philips, the historian, devotes a chapter, written in 1947, to the partition of India which took place in that year. '2 The chapter goes on to sketch the policies of the Muslim League and Indian Congress, the failure of bi-partisan government, and the success of the British plan for partition. 3 Thus the partition of India was in 1947, a current event for which Philips tried to give an historical explanation. Occasionally, an historian may wish to connect his interest in past actions with his interest in the likely consequence of those actions in the future.

Their claim is that the work of social investigators is a form of current history. The investigators themselves, far from being scientists, are merely sophisticated commentators on topical events. They have at their command a large mass of established propositions about the details of their subject matter, and in some senses of 'explain' they can sometimes be said to offer sound and effective explanations. These are not, however, scientific explanations; they are the kinds of explanations given by historians.

Indeed, the contrary has been both suggested and assumed. The case for this view will be stated in succeeding chapters. ' We have already touched upon the answer in comparing social science with history. If what we have said is correct, social observers are typically interested in establishing statements about particular events and the operation of particular causes. On the other hand, social scientists proper attempt to do more than this; they try to establish sound generalizations about classes of events.

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