Foundations of the Social Sciences

     The foundations of the social sciences came from several different areas of study. The ancient Greeks of the fifth and sixth century were the first to develop the basic notions of social convention, causal relations and hypothetical knowledge. These, in turn, had a direct effect on the methodologists of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

     The concept of social institution was developed during Solon’s law reforms of the sixth century. The very fact of creating new laws showed that laws were a matter of convention, not of mystical origin. Solon’s constitution, apart from freeing many people from slavery, yielded a crucial understanding in the social sciences. (Mcdonald, 1996, p. 20)

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     Pythagorean methodologies are important as they the mind/body distinction for the first time. They delved more into religion and politics than science and believed the mind took precedence over the body. “The Pythagoreans’ mathematical conceptualization of the world had the universe as a kind of musical scale with all parts in harmony.” (Mcdonald, 1996, p. 34)

    The sophists, while given a bad image, were instrumental in offering skepticism to the social sciences. They taught phenomenalism-that the world is what it appears to be. Skepticism offered a healthy adversary to blind belief.

    Sociology had it’s beginnings in the writings of such people as Homer and Herodotus, who not only preserved the events in their epics but attempted to analyze and interpret the events as well. This gives us not only the history of a people but the ideals and impressions of the time.

     Socrates and others like him were responsible for the idea of a separate soul and body. Instead of the mind body connection used by the Parthagorians, Socrates insisted that the soul was the “seat of normal, waking intelligence and moral character.” (Mcdonald, 1996, p. 48)

     The Greeks offered much of the basis that current methodology is built upon and others have contributed to this foundation throughout time.

References

Mcdonald, L. (1996). The Early Origins of the Social Sciences. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.

 

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