Table of Contents

The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics

The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics

Elgar original reference

Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

This authoritative and comprehensive reference work introduces the reader to the major concepts and leading contributors in the field of law and economics. The Companion features accessible, informative and provocative entries on all the significant areas and breaks new ground by bringing together widely dispersed but theoretically congruent ideas for the first time.

Chapter 20: Social science as a source of the law

Peter R. Senn

Subjects: economics and finance, law and economics, public choice theory, law - academic, law and economics, politics and public policy, public choice


Peter R. Senn The social sciences are, and long have been, a source of the law. The processes involved are unlike those of the sciences that study things or animals. Many of the same qualities that separate the different sciences lie behind the differences in processes. The most important of these scientific differences stem from their subjects and, secondarily, their methods. The roles of technology, indeed its definition, are special for each kind of science. Social science studies human interactions. The other sciences study things or animals. For these sciences, the ultimate test of truth comes from the technology which is developed from the knowledge the science provides. If the knowledge can be shown to work, it is judged to be correct. If the knowledge does not survive empirical verification, something about it is thought to be lacking. The case is very different for the study of mankind. There is no ultimate test of truth. The time, the place, the circumstances and, above all, man’s free will determine the outcome of events. Knowledge that stands up to empirical verification in one situation does not do so in another. Social scientific knowledge is contingent in ways that the knowledge of things is not. Even cultural universals, such as music and exchange, change with time and are socially conditioned. Few social science generalizations are verifiable for all times and all cultures. Those that are universally true, such as ‘all men die’, are attributes more of his physical body rather than of behaviour....

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